An independent report into detainee handling by the British Army has been published today, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey has announced.
The report’s author, Brigadier Purdy, was directed by Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, to assess the current detainee handling situation within the British Army. This comes two years after the Aitken Report, which examined six cases of alleged detainee abuse in Iraq.
Brigadier Purdy, the British Army’s Inspector, took evidence from soldiers and commanders in Afghanistan as well as staff involved in policy, doctrine, legal advice, training and the planning and conduct of operations.
His team included independent member Mark Lewindon, a retired senior civilian police officer with experience of police detention practices and other relevant fields.
The report concluded that detainee handing receives direct attention from commanders at all levels in the Army and MOD, and that progress identified in the 2008 Aitken Report is continuing.
It also found that officers and soldiers clearly understand the procedures to follow when handling detainees and know the potential legal and strategic consequences of mistakes.
Brigadier Purdy’s review team also found no evidence to suggest that pre-deployment and in-theatre training are failing to prepare forces to carry out detainee handling in accordance with the law and policy.
The review, commissioned at the start of the year, is part of the Army’s normal business of continuous improvement. Such self-examination ensures that the Army continues to meet its high standards in all areas and identifies whether improvements need to be made.
Brigadier Purdy’s report makes 31 tactical-level recommendations for improvements to the current system of detainee handling. The Defence Board and Ministers have accepted the conclusions and recommendations which have also been disclosed to the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry, as part of the MOD’s evidence for the final stages of the inquiry.
Brigadier Purdy said:
“Commanders on operations in Afghanistan are clearly focused on the issue of detainee handling. There are governance mechanisms in place to monitor and assure detainee handling processes, with any allegations of improper behaviour, including allegations from detainees, fully investigated.”
General Sir David Richards said:
“I take great pride in what the Army, alongside the other Services, has achieved on operations in recent years. The vast majority of officers and soldiers have acquitted themselves with courage, integrity and honour, in extraordinarily demanding circumstances.
“The handling of detainees is a critical area and this report provides independent assurance that even more is now being done than before to ensure our officers and soldiers understand the importance of treating detainees properly.
“But we must not be complacent. Nobody should be in any doubt as to the importance I attach to this issue and there are many recommendations here to take forward. Detainee handling must be seen as a mainstream military skill rather than a matter for specialists.”
Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said:
“I am pleased the Review has found no evidence to suggest that training is failing to prepare forces to carry out detainee handling.
“Nevertheless, there are areas in which there is room for improvement and the Review makes 31 recommendations. We intend to press ahead with implementation as quickly as we can.”
Ministry of Defence, UK