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Amnesty: British Soldiers Killed Iraqi Civilians Who Posed No Threat - 2004-05-11


The human rights group Amnesty International says British troops have shot and killed dozens of civilians in Iraq who posed no apparent threat. The London-based group issued its findings in a report released Tuesday.

Amnesty International says the civilians killed by British forces in Iraq include an eight-year-old girl, Hanan Saleh Matrud, shot to death in the town of Karmat Ali last August.

The British military says she was accidentally hit by a warning shot, but Amnesty International quotes witnesses who say a soldier aimed at her from 60 meters away.

In all, the report examines 37 cases of allegedly questionable killings in Iraq by British troops. The director of Amnesty International U.K., Kate Allen, told British radio her group demands an independent investigation.

"We've talked to the families and we've talked to witnesses," she said. "We haven't and we weren't able to talk to soldiers and to the Royal Military Police because they refused to talk to us. Now I think that it is absolutely essential in these situations, each one of these cases is thoroughly and independently investigated."

The Defense Ministry says it is examining the report before giving a detailed response, but a spokesmen said the British military takes its responsibilities under international law very seriously.

A member of parliament's defense committee, Bruce George of the ruling Labor party, says any soldiers accused of wrongdoing must be prosecuted.

"The government have said they will investigate," he said. "If it is found that anyone committed illegal acts according to British law or international law, then they will be brought to trial and they will be punished."

The Amnesty International report is another blow to the U.S.-led occupation force in Iraq, which has been shaken by graphic photos and allegations of mistreatment against Iraqi prisoners.

A recently disclosed International Committee of the Red Cross report concludes that some of the abuses have been, in the document's words, "tantamount to torture."