Now this is very interesting. The BBC reports that the reasons judge advocate Mr Justice McKinnon dismissed the charges against Col Jorge Mendonca of negligently performing the duty of ensuring Iraqi detainees were not ill-treated by his men can now be published, following the dismissal of the remaining charges against the other defendants.
The evidence of Maj Antony Royce was key to the colonel’s acquittal. He told the hearing how the brigade’s most senior legal advisers had approved the “conditioning” of suspects before interrogation.The major also testified that Col Mendonca had asked him about the treatment of detainees.
Mr Justice McKinnon ruled in favour of Col Mendonca’s no case application, saying: “It may be said that Maj Royce’s evidence has greatly undermined the prosecution case.
“His evidence proved uncontroversial [in the legal sense] and credible and more than capable of belief.”
The judge said Maj Royce’s evidence showed that the brigade “sanctioned the conditioning process – the very thing the Crown sought to prove otherwise”.
Maj Royce’s evidence, the judge said, also “shows Col Mendonca sought to satisfy himself that the conditioning process was acceptable under the laws of armed combat and the Geneva Convention”.
“This case is remarkable for the fact that no witness has given any evidence to the effect that Col Mendonca did not do anything that he should have done, or that he did anything he should not have done.”
That is, the learned judge advocate (who is also a High Court circuit judge) didn’t say there was nothing wrong with the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners, which included — at least according to the Prosecution’s case — techniques such as stress positions that have banned in the British army since 1972, after an investigation into their use in Northern Ireland.
On the contrary, he accepted that Col Mendonca’s and Maj Royce’s account that they’d both questioned the use of these techniques but had been told they’d been cleared at brigade level.
Where does this leave us? Looks suspiciously to me as if Col Mendonca and his colleagues were supposed to take the rap for decisions taken far higher up the chain but the court didn’t want to play.
What happens next? Someone authorised the illegal treatment of these men — are we supposed to take it that a very senior officer so did, or was he acting on instructions from his political masters? Since I tend to trust the military rather than our present government (that’s not meant to be a back-handed compliment), I rather suspect the latter.
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