Defence secretary Ben Wallace was accused of appearing to condone the use of mock executions after comments he once made that soldiers “might pretend to pour petrol” over prisoners taken on the battlefield resurfaced.
The former Scots Guard captain and future cabinet minster had declared that “battlefield short sharp interrogation where the prisoner is manhandled fairly roughly … is absolutely the norm” to a newspaper in 2003.
Trying to obtain information at the point of capture was critical, Wallace told the Scotsman in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war. “It’s taught to soldiers that’s how it’s done. You might pretend to pour petrol over them, when it’s actually water.”
The remarks, made at a time when Wallace’s political career was in its early stages, were unearthed by human rights group Reprieve, which accused the defence secretary of appearing to condone “illegal, immoral” techniques.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “It’s hard to see why Wallace would pretend he was pouring petrol on a detainee other than to make them think they were about to be burned alive, which quite obviously amounts to a mock execution.”
She added: “The behaviour Mr Wallace is endorsing is not simply ineffective, it is illegal, immoral, and undermines principles which generations of British service personnel risked their lives to protect.”
Mock executions were amongst the torture techniques used by the CIA during the post 9/11 “war on terror”. They were exposed and criticised by a landmark US Senate report in 2014 for being brutal and ineffective.
The current Ministry of Defence guidance on captured persons does not specifically mention mock executions in the list of practises that it rules out. But it makes clear that UK armed forces are required to “act humanely” when somebody has been seized. Read more