The prisoner were taken to a hitherto unknown base run by Joint Special Operations Forces Task Force 20 (later known better as Task Force 121, when they moved their operations, including heinous torture, to Camp Nama by the Baghdad airport). The black site, codenamed H1, was at an airfield next to a pumping site in the desert wasteland of the western Iraq desert.
The prisoners were captured by forces from a number of countries, but the "official" captures were turned over to the US forces, to protect the other nations' militaries, who knew they were vulnerable to war crimes charges for what they were doing.
The tale of how the reporters sniffed out this story is incredible in and of itself, taking many twists and turns, including the discovery that the identity of the murdered prisoner was for a very long time misidentified by UK personnel. The entire matter is now supposedly under military investigation.
Snippets from the Guardian article:
The holding facility at H1 was not inspected by the Red Cross. Moreover, its existence was not disclosed to Lieutenant Colonel Mercer, the UK's most senior army lawyer in Iraq at the time. Mercer says he was "extremely surprised" to learn of its existence.
He said: "This matter potentially raises very serious questions. Strenuous efforts were made at all times to ensure that all prisoners were accorded the full protection of the Geneva conventions and vigorous objections would have been raised if there was the slightest possibility of a breach of the conventions. It appears from the information disclosed that some prisoner operations were being conducted, deliberately or otherwise, outside of the chain of command."
The holding facility appears effectively to have been a secret prison – a so-called black site. It is entirely possible, according to international law experts, that taking prisoners to H1 could amount to "unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement", and that the prisoners were subjected to "enforced disappearances", both of which are war crimes under the Rome statute of the international criminal court.
One former RAF Regiment trooper who was based at H1 for several months has described being involved in a number of similar missions in which prisoners were collected from coalition special forces. This always happened "under total darkness", he says. On arrival at H1, the prisoners were handed on to people whom he describes as "other authorities".
Could this explain why the police investigation into the alleged killing of Tariq Sabri ended with some of the most basic facts – such as his name and the the cause of his death – remaining unknown?
According one well-placed source with knowledge of Operation Raker, the RAF police investigation into the death, there were some at the MoD who were concerned about the possible consequences of a more thorough inquiry: people who were filled with dread at the thought that it could lead to accusations that British forces and others had been involved in crimes against humanity.