The Sunday Telegraph (04 Sep 2011) reports that British troops are being asked to secretly inform on their comrades as part of an investigation into allegations that soldiers systematically abused civilians during the Iraq War. The report, which includes significant comments from the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF) spokeman, continues:

Notices have appeared in several military publications urging soldiers to pass information about friends and colleagues to a special inquiry team.

The appeals have been placed by the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), which is investigating claims that British troops took part in the abuse of Iraqi citizens during their occupation of the south of the country. ,,,

The appeals for informers, which have appeared in Soldier and The Sixth Sense – Ministry of Defence publications issued to British troops -have been described as a "disgrace" by MPs and former senior commanders.

They warn it will damage morale and undermine operational effectiveness, especially amongst troops on operation in Afghanistan.

It is believed to be the first time that soldiers have been officially asked to pass information to an inquiry team on the activities of colleagues on such a large scale.

The disclosure has led to claims that some senior ranked soldiers and officers could become victims of witch hunts on the basis of spurious claims anonymously passed to the investigations team by disgruntled soldiers.

IHAT was established in November 2010 and is being led by retired Chief Superintendent Geoff White. The staff of 83, includes 38 provided by the private security company G4S.

The team is planing to conduct more than 140 interviews with members of the armed forces including the SAS, tactical questioners – intelligence officers who conduct interrogations – and soldiers over the next two years.

The allegations of abuse relate to the period between March 2003 and late 2008 when British troops were occupying southern Iraq. They include claims of sexual abuse, deprivation of food, water and sleep, prolonged solitary confinement and mock executions.

One of the IHAT notices encourages informers to leave information anonymously.

It states: "A dedicated Intelligence Cell has been created for the receipt, analysis and dissemination of relevant intelligence.

"A confidential reporting line has been created to enable all serving and non-serving members of HM Forces to provide information to the IHAT team.

"If you have any information or intelligence you feel will be of assistance to IHAT relevant to arrest, detention, handling and interrogation of Iraqi civilians by HM Forces, please leave a message by phoning the number below.

"You can leave your name and contact details or alternatively pass the information anonymously." ...

A senior British officer who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan senior officer described the investigation as an "exercise in self-cleansing". ...

IHAT is understood to be focusing on the role of tactical questioners working for the Joint Forces Interrogation Team between 2003 and 2008. ...

Patrick Mercer, a former infantry commander and Tory MP for Newark said: "These adverts are a disgrace.

"The crux of unit morale is that people should no that they can trust each other in difficult circumstances such as operations in Afghanistan. The idea that soldiers should be encouraged to inform on each other is unthinkable."

While ruling that British troops did not systematically abuse Iraqi civilians, the inquiry into the death of Mr Mousa is expected to criticise individual soldiers and the chain of command. ...

Adrian Weale, the spokesman for the British Armed Forces Federation, added: “Obviously any allegations of misconduct against members of the Armed Forces need to be taken seriously and properly investigated.

"Our concern is that some of the allegations being investigated by IHAT have little or no evidential basis and that even if there were indications that something had occurred, it is now far too long after the events for there to be any realistic chance of a just resolution.

“What we cannot condone is a 'fishing expedition’ by IHAT in which service personnel are asked to inform on each other.

"BAFF takes the view that the work of IHAT should be reviewed by an outside authority, and that if it is determined that the investigations are unlikely to result in prosecutions, IHAT should be disbanded and a line drawn under its work.”

An IHAT spokesman said: "The IHAT is reviewing all allegations of abuse and ill-treatment by UK Armed Forces in Iraq in order to ensure that those allegations are, or have been, investigated appropriately.

"Policing in the Armed Forces, as in wider society, relies not just on consent of the people, but also their active co-operation and this is particularly important when investigating allegations of an historic nature.

"We are determined to establish the facts and get to the bottom of the allegations and to do this we rely on information from, and the co-operation of, members of the Armed Forces and the public. We have a team of professional investigators and only cases where there is sufficient evidence of criminality will any case be referred for consideration of prosecution"