AFP: Britain admitted Tuesday that collective failings led to the seizure of 15 sailors by Iran in March, but said no disciplinary action would be brought. LONDON, June 19, 2007 (AFP) – Britain admitted Tuesday that collective failings led to the seizure of 15 sailors by Iran in March, but said no disciplinary action would be brought.
Defence Secretary Des Browne said a review into operations and rules of engagement concluded the group’s seizure was “not the result of single gross failing or individual human error”.
Instead, there was a “coming together of a series of vulnerabilities, most of them relatively small when viewed in isolation, but which together placed our personnel in a position which could be exploited by Iran”.
But the review concluded “that there is no case for disciplinary action against any of the individuals involved,” although it “does emphasise that many of these individuals could have done more to prevent what happened.”
The eight Royal Navy sailors and seven Royal Marines were seized in the northern Gulf on March 23 as they carried out routine anti-smuggling operations, after Iran alleged they had entered its territorial waters.
They were held for eight days and were shown on Iranian television apparently confessing to their “mistake” before being released.
Browne said the report had highlighted a number of shortcomings, including the need to identify, assess and recognise the complexity of such boarding operations, as well as train personnel accordingly.
It also recommended using specialists rather than a “composite team” in such situations.
Browne said he accepted the report, by former Royal Navy Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fulton, and underlined that many of the recommendations had already been implemented.
He also said he agreed with the findings of a separate review into the media handling of the incident by former BBC news chief Tony Hall.
On the storm surrounding payments to some of the 15 for their story on their return, Browne said Hall had concluded there had been a “collective failure of judgment” within the defence ministry.
A series of recommendations were made to prevent a repeat and to improve dealings with the media in the future, he added.