That’s the name for the spirit of divine retribution in Greek mythology, we are told, which exacted its vengeance against those exhibiting hubris, another classic mythological concept.

Nemesis is now knocking on the door of the British government, specificallly the British Ministry of Defense, as is apparent from revelations over the past weekend from the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Abu Ghraib, it would seem, was no isolated incident; if these allegations hold true, then the British Army was itself engaged in the systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners – although not at Abu Ghraib, it had built its own prisons of horrors, most nearer to Basra. This included death while in captivity:

The 26-year-old widower Baha Mousa died after two days in British captivity. The autopsy reported 93 injuries – abrasions, lacerations and broken ribs. Listed cause of death: suffocation.

“A regrettable, isolated incident,” was the explanation for this from the British authorities. Others beg to differ, specifically the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), with offices in Berlin, which has teamed up with the Birmingham-based human rights law firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), in particular to prove not isolated but systematic mistreatment of detainees in British custody in Iraq to the satisfaction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They’ve brought together testimony from 109 former prisoners, with complaints spanning various time-periods within 2003-2008, and at differing locations – which would seem to tend towards the “systematic.”

To it’s credit, the BBC World Service (radio) recently broadcast a news-item about this, starting with a brief statement in the House of Commons by UK Foreign Minister William Hague dismissing the allegations and reassuring fellow MPs that all such incidents had already been investigated and dealt with fully. This was then followed by the moderator interviewing a British professor of jurisprudence, who pointed out that under international law it is national courts that are supposed to handle allegations of torture, that international organs like the ICC are not to move in unless the national government in question shows itself unable or willing to properly prosecute the matter – and that, in his opinion, the actual tepid UK response to such incidents means it is time for the latter to happen. Meanwhile, a news-segment entitled “Great Britain: Torture in Iraq” was shown last Sunday evening on ARD, the 1st German public television network (and it’s available for viewing here, although, of course, it is in German).

Gettin’ Outa Dodge/Denmark

At the same time, in another incident similarly related to this Nemesis theme, former Israeli government official Carmi Gillon hastilly got himself out of Denmark last Sunday a bit sooner then he had planned, since that was the very day he was supposed to speak at a Jewish Film Festival in Copenhagen. Gillon had been the Israeli ambassador to Denmark from 2001 to 2003, but he had also been head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, from 1994 to 1996. He choose to leave following being reported to the police the previous Friday, for torture in connection with his Shin Bet days, by the Danish Anti Torture Support Foundation (link is in English).

I tried to find a nice tweet about this to display here, as is my preference, but could not. The Danish papers do tweet, but not as intensively as you’ll find with news publications in other European countries (an interesting story, perhaps for another day). What’s more, I couldn’t find coverage of this incident outside of Berlingske Tidende – which is certainly a respected, mainstream Danish paper, yet you get a feeling that this is not an incident the Danes are particularly proud of. (The Berlingske piece also reveals that a similar police complaint had been submitted against Gillon even while he was the Israeli ambassador there – but of course it had to be dismissed due to his diplomatic immunity at the time.) Berlingske (again!) also published a blog-entry by the respected Danish statesman Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Foreign Minister there 1982-93, who deplored what had happened to Gillon but on the rather strange grounds that the incident disrupted what could have been a valuable conciliatory gesture for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (What Israeli-Palestinian peace process?)

In any event, Gillon is gone, while ECCHR and PIL are shortly headed for The Hague. Oh, but don’t let the following confuse you if you should happen to see it in your Twitter-feed:
European Crt Backs UK
(But don’t click – the article will count against your FT free monthly allocation of 8, and it’s not worth it!)

As you can see from the explanation provided just below the FT tweet itself (I decided to show that part as well, so as not to mess with your minds), this torture case is not that of the Iraqi prisoners but rather of four British men – one of them since deceased – who claim they were tortured while being investigated by the Saudi police, and who likely were but who cannot do anything about it.

Only someone very vicious could derive any sort of satisfaction from British nationals getting a taste – from Arabs – of the medicine that their military dished out to many more Arabs in Iraq, right? That’s likely true, although most of us can look forward with anticipation to the welcoming banquet ATSF will have prepared for George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney should they ever decide to pay a visit to the Danish isles.

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