UK military report finds detainee treatment in compliance with domestic, international law

[JURIST] The UK military’s handling of detainees in overseas operations is “in compliance” with UK and international law, according to a report released Tuesday by the Ministry of Defense. According to British Army Inspector Brigadier Robert Purdy, a nine-month investigation of legal documents, army procedures and testimony from personnel showed that UK forces’ attitudes toward proper treatment of detainees have changed “significantly” in the two years since the 2008 release of the Aitken Report, which attributed responsibility for the deaths of six Iraqi detainees in 2003 and 2004 to the actions of “a small number of individuals.” According to the new report, proper handling of detainees “has been an issue that has received direct attention from commanders at all levels in the Army and MOD” since, and “soldiers clearly understand the basic procedures to follow” for the treatment of prisoners. Purdy did identify areas for improvement—primarily the need to more thoroughly ingrain standards for detainee treatment into the training of all soldiers, as opposed to just specialists. Ultimately, though, the assessment found little fault in UK military practices:

There is positive assurance that the UK facilities in Afghanistan are run in compliance with applicable international law, UK regulations and Defence policy. No evidence was seen or obtained to suggest that pre-deployment and in-theatre training are failing to prepare forces to carry out detainee handling in accordance with the law and policy. On operations in Afghanistan, commanders are clearly focused on this issue; governance mechanisms are in place to monitor and assure detainee handling processes, with any allegations of improper behaviour (including complaints by the detainees themselves) being formally investigated.

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