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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

HRW: Torture and ill-treatment of Iraqi detainees

A report entitled The New Iraq? Torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Iraqi custody is released by Human Rights Watch. Subsequently left-leaning media take up the story.

It is reported that Iraqi police, jailers and intelligence agents, many of them holding the same jobs they had under Hussein, are "committing systematic torture and other abuses" of detainees. "The majority of detainees . . . stated that torture and ill-treatment during the initial period was commonplace" in jails run by the Interior Ministry, the report says. The abuses included "routine beatings . . . using cables, [rubber] hose-pipes and metal rods . . . kicking, slapping and punching, prolonged suspension from the wrists," as well as electric shocks to the genitals and long periods spent blindfolded and handcuffed.

Several of the detainees claim that US Marines were present and observed their torture. The report relates "the only known case in which U.S. forces intervened to stop detainee abuse." It said scouts from an Oregon Army National Guard unit saw Iraqi guards at an Interior Ministry compound abusing detainees on June 29. A soldier took pictures through his rifle scope of detainees who were blindfolded and bound.

According to an account related in the report by Capt. Jarrell Southal of the National Guard, his soldiers entered the compound and found bound prisoners "writhing in pain" and complaining of lack of water. They gave water to the men, moved them out of the sun and then disarmed the Iraqi police. But when the Oregon soldiers radioed up their chain of command for instructions, they were ordered to "return the prisoners to the Iraqi authorities and leave the detention yard."