On November 25, 2004, Danish troops were much more heavily involved in the
Danish-Iraqi detention operation Green Desert, than has previously been
A hitherto secret report from Denmark’s battalion CO in November 2004 shows
that Danish soldiers were directly involved in operations south of Basra,
and, among other issues ‘became involved in the raid and arrest phase
Verified to Politiken by two of the 36 civilian Iraqis who were arrested
during the operation, the men said that Danish soldiers had arrested them.
“Everyone in the town was used to seeing soldiers. And the soldiers who
arrested me had a Danish flag on the shoulders of their uniforms and the
fact that they were from Denmark could be seen on the side of their
vehicles,” says one of the Iraqis.
The men say that they and the other arrestees were later handed over to the
Iraqi police, who abused and tortured them, using among other methods,
beatings, hanging them on hooks and using electric shocks. The men are to
demand compensation from Denmark.
The two Iraqis were examined last week by Medical Examiner Prof. Jørgen Lange
Thomsen, head of the Forensic Institute at the University of Southern
“My conclusion is that they in all probability have been subjected to torture.
Their descriptions are credible and I am convinced they are telling the
truth,” Prof. Thomsen says.
In December 2004 an Iraqi newspaper claimed that Danish soldiers had
taken part in arrests and were responsible for the men bring tortured. At
the time, Danish defence forces denied the claim saying that Iraqi soldiers
had carried out the arrests and were therefore responsible for the fate of
“It was an Iraqi operation which we assisted. They carried out the arrests and
afterwards we and the British searched for weapons. My men may have been in
the houses, but I am sure that they did not arrest anyone. Nor did we
interrogate anyone. The British did, before the Iraqi forces took over the
prisoners,” says Col. John Dalby, who at the time was CO for the Danish
Dalby says the Danish battalion itself had proposed that Iraqi forces should
carry out arrests in operations such as Green Desert.
The result was that Danish soldiers were not responsible for detained Iraqis
and their fates. As Iraq had the death penalty, Danes were not allowed to
hand Iraqis over to the Iraqi police.
Peter Vedel Kessing, an expert in international law at the Institute for
Human Rights says, however, that the Danish model may not be legally safe.
“(The 2001 UN convention) says that if a state controls and gives instructions
regarding the concrete detention of a person, that state can be held
responsible, even if another state carries out the physical arrest,” Kessing
Defence Minister Nick Hækkerup (SocDem) is not prepared to comment on the
case at hand as it is on its way to the courts, but in general says that one
of the reasons that the government has decided to set up a commission of
inquiry into the Iraq War is precisely to find out what took place in
connection with the handover of prisoners.
“Handing over prisoners, where there is a suspicion that they may be tortured,
contravenes the convention. And if you develop an arrangement under which
you place responsibility for an arrest in the hands, for example, of an
Iraqi soldier, it seems to be a technical circumvention of the rules,”
Five Iraqis to sue
Five Iraqis are now to sue the Danish Defence Ministry in the case,
including the two men Politiken has interviewed.
“We have proof that my clients were treated more than roughly when they were
detained by the Danish soldiers. My clients are Sunni Muslims, and we also
have proof that the Danish forces knew that the Shia militia the prisoners
were handed over to was infamous for torturing Sunnis,” says Lawyer
Christian Harlang, who is to represent the five men.
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