22 March 2011


Quilliam has expressed its deep concern at the appearance of new photographs of abuse of detainees by US troops in Afghanistan. These latest photographs apparently show the abuse of prisoners, the deliberate killing of innocent Afghan civilians and the mutilation of Afghan corpses.


Quilliam warns that:


1. These abuses undermine trust in the international community’s humanitarian interventions. The international community’s interventions, for instance in Libya, depend on its Western allies being widely seen as a humanitarian force that is motivated by a desire to improve human rights. The abuse of innocent civilians undermines this perception and makes it easier for anti-western forces (ranging from Colonel Gaddafi to many Islamist groups) to depict the West as being motivated by a covert and sinister agenda.


2. These abuses will further increase anti-western sentiment in Pakistan in particular. Anti-Western feeling in Pakistan is already high due to continuing death of civilians in US drone strikes and due to the recent freeing of CIA employee Raymond Davis after he killed two innocent people in Lahore. The latest abuses in Afghanistan will further increase such feelings and directly empower a wide variety of extreme Islamist groups as well as act as a recruiting tool for the Pakistani Taliban and other militants.


3. These crimes are a stain on the US and Allied forces. Aside from the effect of these events on the West and on the international community, such events should not be being committed by members of any modern army. Although it is good that 12 people suspected of being involved in these crimes are already on trial, further measures clearly need to be put in place in order to prevent such incidents happening again.


Quilliam urges that anyone suspected of such crimes is tried in a fair and open manner and is punished appropriately if found guilty.


Ed Jagger, Quilliam’s Head of Operations and a former British Army Captain, said:


‘These latest photos are deeply shocking. It seems that the mistakes of Abu Ghraib and elsewhere have not been learnt. Apart from being morally repugnant, these actions badly undermine the international community’s attempts to present themselves as defenders of human rights in the Middle East and South Asia. It is clearly much harder for the International community to justify taking action against regimes like Gaddafi’s for their killing of civilians when some western troops from countries leading this community are themselves deliberately killing innocent civilians.


‘The US army clearly needs to do more to teach its recruits that such actions are not only immoral but will actually make the world a more dangerous place for Americans. In my own experience, and as previous incidents have shown, such events make it easier for the Taliban and al-Qaeda to recruit new followers, making it more it likely that further terrorist attacks will occur in the future.


‘As we were taught in the army, moral courage is crucial. That is the courage to do what is right even when it may be unpopular, or risk ridicule or danger, and to insist on maintaining the highest standards of decency and behaviour at all times. This earns respect and fosters trust.’