Army accused of allowing prisoner abuse

Army denies ever knowingly allowing local forces in Iraq torture and abuse prisoners despite new video evidence

A video has emerged that shows Danish soldiers failing to intervene as Iraqi forces hit and punch prisoners during the joint operation Green Desert in 2004.

Following the video’s release, the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) criticised the army for its inaction.

“It’s deeply troubling that Danish soldiers did not intervene during violent attacks on people who are on the ground and unable to defend themselves,” RCT spokesperson Karin Verland told Ekstra Bladet tabloid. “If soldiers are unable to stop attacks in these situations, they have to report them to their superior officers. But when a higher level officer refuses to do anything, which seems to be the case here, it shows something is very wrong.”

The video was released by former intelligence officer Anders Kærgaard, who says he showed the video to his superior officer at the time, Lieutenant-Colonel John Dalby. Dalby, however, denies ever having seen the video.

Denmark’s role in Iraq is to be uncovered by a new commission that was established this April by the government.

The three-person committee has two objectives to accomplish in the next five years. First they must examine whether Denmark legitimately joined the war, and then they will examine how prisoners held by Danish soldiers were treated.

The second objective is due to allegations that soldiers held by Danish forces were knowingly tortured after they were handed over to local forces. Ekstra Bladet’s video seems to support the claims that Danish soldiers were aware of, but did little to prevent, the abuse meted out by local forces.

The defence spokesperson for the Socialdemokraterne, Bjarne Laustesen, told Politiken newspaper that the new video would be investigated by the committee.

“I am shocked if the video turns out to be true and the allegations hold water,” Laustesen said. “So I’m happy that the government has chosen to establish a commission that will look at exactly what happened – both the basis for the Iraq War and also what actually happened down there.”

A second video shown today by the lawyer Christian Harlang at a press conference showed footage during the same 2004 operation during which 11 Iraqis claim they were tortured while Danish forces stood idly by.

The Iraqis are all represented by Harlang and are now suing the government. None of the Iraqis were featured in the video, however, though it did show a Danish solider with another video camera that Harlang believes captured the abuse.

Dalby, the officer responsible for the mission, has denied both that his officers made any arrests during the mission and that any of his officers wore cameras during the mission though there are documents that contradict his claim.

In a press release, the Army denied lying about not knowing about the assaults.

“The Army has no interest in hiding the truth, why would we? It’s strange that the video has suddenly appeared now, despite the fact that we have on several occasions, on national television, on the internet and in interviews, asked Danish soldiers and others to come forward if they have relevant information,” the press release stated.

It added that the Army established a 24-hour hotline so that people could leave anonymous information, but that no-one had yet come forward.