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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 23:24 GMT
Army chief's statement in full
Head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson
Sir Mike apologised on behalf of the Army to the Iraqi victims of abuse
The UK's most senior soldier General Sir Michael Jackson has commented on the decision to jail and dismiss three British soldiers who abused Iraqi civilians.

His statement was as follows:

"Today's sentencing in the trial of the three soldiers and the lifting of reporting restrictions on an earlier courts-martial about the same incident now enables me to say more.

"I have to bear in mind, however, that both cases are still subject to the statutory process of review and potential appeal.

"I can now place on record how appalled and disappointed I was when I first saw those photographs at the outset of the trial.

"The incidents depicted are in direct contradiction to the core values and standards of the British Army, nor do they represent the vast majority of its soldiers who, as I speak, are continuing to do a most difficult job in Iraq.

'Operational challenge'

"Nevertheless, in light of the evidence from this trial I do apologise on behalf of the Army to those Iraqis who were abused and the people of Iraq as a whole.

"I want to put this case in context, both in terms of the operational challenge faced by the Army, and of other abuse allegations.

"I also want to say something about what I am doing to ensure that we learn the lesson.

"As I said in my previous statement, this is one of a very small number of cases dealing with allegations of deliberate abuse against Iraqi citizens.

"Some commentators have reported that there have been 164 Service Police investigations into incidents involving Iraqi citizens.

"But I must stress that this figure includes routine investigations, 100 of which arise from our strict policy of examining the circumstances of our returning fire in the course of a fire fight.

"The police have concluded that very few of these allegations have any foundation.

'Tiny minority'

"Where there is evidence it is being pursued.

"There are in fact, four other known cases involving allegations of deliberate abuse that have been or may be referred to the prosecuting authorities.

"You will understand that, for legal reasons, I am unable to comment further on these cases.

"But this number of alleged incidents must be seen in the context that they implicate only a tiny minority of now well-over 65,000 servicemen and women who have served, or are serving, in Iraq, and whose work is committed to rebuilding that country on behalf of the Iraqi people.

"I want to be clear that the British Army is not complacent about this. Following all operational commitments, we undertake a process of continuous and determined professional review.

"Now that this courts-martial is completed and in view of the nature of this particular incident, I will be appointing a senior experienced officer to assess what lessons we may need to learn.

'High standards'

"He will also track any subsequent prosecutions and will report to me with recommendations for action.

"We will publish our findings when we are no longer constrained by the legal process.

"Let me finish. The Army sets high standards and demands that they are met.

"Those who fail to meet these standards are and will be called to account.

"I believe that this courts-martial illustrates plainly our approach of transparency and accountability: it was held in open court, in the full glare of public scrutiny, and to the same standards of justice and independence that are present in the civilian judicial system.

"I hope what I have said today reinforces our commitment to openness and our desire to maintain the highest standards of conduct in the Army."



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