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Defence ministry kept abuse secret

Iraqi prisoner abuse information was blacked out of a report to the Defence Committee.

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The Danish Defence Ministry received documentation in 2004 showing that prisoners were liable to abuse by Iraqi police, but Danish soldiers were allowed to continue to detain Iraqis and hand them over according to Information, which says the ministry withheld the documentation from Parliament.

It was during an inspection of the Al Makil prison in Basra in June 2004 that the Danish battalion saw the brutal methods used by the Iraqi police. Eight of 15 prisoners said they had been abused by officers, with several showing physical signs of abuse in the form of scars, burns and other physical injuries.

“My impression was that it was quite normal for them to be beaten by the police into confessions for something or other,” says Danish Battalion Legal Officer Kurt Borgkvist, who took part in the inspection.

While Denmark was not directly responsible for any of the eight prisoners, the Danish battalion had at that point handed over 113 prisoners to local police. The Defence Ministry knew that information about prisoner abuse was controversial, and had ordered Defence Command Denmark several weeks previously to report ‘any abuse of detainees, irrespective of whether they have been in Danish custody’.

Information on the abuse was written into an inspection report sent to the Defence Ministry. But when the Parliamentary Defence Committee asked then Liberal Defence Minister Søren Gade for the report, passages involving abuse were blacked out. The reason given was that the information could harm Danish-Iraqi cooperation.

“This information shifts the discussion about prisoner handovers. Up to now we have discussed whether the defence forces should have known that there was a risk of torture in Iraqi custody,” Amnesty International Legal Officer Claus Juul tells Information.

“Now we know for certain that they were aware of the risk early on. Nonetheless they did not act on the information and even kept the information from Parliament with a dubious excuse,” he adds.

Information has been unable to reach Søren Gade.

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