UK soldiers condemned over 2003 drowning of Iraqi boy
A British judge has condemned four UK soldiers who forced an Iraqi boy into a canal and let him drown during the Iraq War.
Judicial investigations by Sir George Newman, a former High Court judge, indicated that 15-year-old Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali was along with three other men who had been detained on suspicion of looting in the Iraqi southern city of Basra in May 2003.
“The soldiers, having detained him for looting, forced him to enter the canal and left him floundering,” Newman’s report said.
The judge said Ahmed had been “aggressively manhandled and assaulted” by soldiers who then unlawfully forced him into the waterway.
“He should not have been detained and held in armed and confined custody in a Warrior [vehicle], he should not have been transported in the Warrior to the canal, he should not have been forced to enter the canal, let alone left there to flounder and drown,” the report noted.
Newman said the boy did not know how to swim and therefore, the British soldiers’ failure to help before drowning was the “plain and certain” cause of his death.
“Notwithstanding the unlawful treatment involved in getting him into the water, his death could have been avoided because he could and should have been rescued after it became clear that he was floundering,” he noted.
Newman’s condemnation led to the apology of Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) over the incident, with an MoD spokesman saying, “This was a grave incident for which we are extremely sorry.”
He further noted that, “We are committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing by UK forces and will use Sir George’s findings to learn lessons to help ensure nothing like this happens again.”
A British court tried the soldiers for manslaughter but they were acquitted in 2006.
During the US-led invasion of the Arab country, former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s government sent 120,000 members of the British armed forces and civilians to the country, proving its role as then US President George W. Bush’s chief military ally.
The two allies said they invaded Iraq to eliminate its “weapons of mass destruction” but no such weapons were ever found.
The invasion plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly violence and the rise of terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIL).