Britain fears backlash from torture photos

19th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 January 2005 , LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday described photographs allegedly showing British troops abusing Iraqi civilians as "shocking and appalling", but warned they must not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the Armed Forces. Blair told parliament he was "disgusted" by the 22 pictures, presented at a court martial of three British soldiers in Germany Tuesday. But he added that the vast majority of the 65,000 British soldiers who had so far served in Iraq had done so "

19 January 2005

LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday described photographs allegedly showing British troops abusing Iraqi civilians as "shocking and appalling", but warned they must not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the Armed Forces.

Blair told parliament he was "disgusted" by the 22 pictures, presented at a court martial of three British soldiers in Germany Tuesday.

But he added that the vast majority of the 65,000 British soldiers who had so far served in Iraq had done so "with distinction, courage and great honour to this country".

The difference between democracy and tyranny was that in a democracy when "bad thing happen" the perpetrators were held to account, Blair said.

"So whilst we express in a unified way our disgust at those pictures, I hope we do not allow that to tarnish the good name, fully deserved, of the British armed forces," Blair said.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC he believed the pictures would damage Britain. "Words fail me," Straw said about the photographs which he described as "disgusting and degrading".

"But yes, they will damage the United Kingdom, in my view quite unfairly", he said. Only a "tiny handful" of soldiers was responsible, Straw said.

The photographs, showing British soldiers in Basra maltreating naked Iraqi civilians, have been carried by the media throughout the Arab world and prompted parallels with U.S. behaviour in Iraq.

London's liberal Guardian newspaper said Wednesday Britain now had its own "Abu Ghraib" prison scandal, while the Daily Mail warned that Britain was lurching into a "moral quagmire" in Iraq.

Middle Eastern journalists based in London took the view that the photographs would damage the reputation of British troops.

"The reaction in the Arab and Muslim world has been of shock and surprise because until very recently the British troops were considered to be much better in their conduct than the Americans," said Ahmed Versi of the London-based Muslim News.

He believed the photographs would damage the British forces "because it seems as though all the occupied forces in Iraq are involved in mistreating Iraqi prisoners."

The deputy leader of Britain's opposition Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell, said the photographs would "open old wounds" and make the sensitive task of the British troops in the run-up to Iraqi elections on 30 January more difficult.

Conservative leader Michael Howard also called the photographs "appalling" and said they brought shame on the country. They did not, however, reflect the true character of the majority of the British armed forces.

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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