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IRAQ: Torture of detainees is commonplace, says rights group

IRIN | July 23, 2006

The Iraqi government has called for an investigation after New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Sunday that US military personnel regularly torture and abuse Iraqi detainees under interrogation.

"We urge the US government to explain the accusations present in the HRW report and punish severely those who have used torture," said Ahmed Abdel-Kareem, a senior official at the Ministry of Human Rights. "Since the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004, the US military has claimed that it had abandoned such procedures and that serious investigations were underway. But now we see that the problem has only worsened."

According to the report, which covered the period from 2003 to 2005, Iraqi prisoners were routinely mistreated while under interrogation by US forces. John Sifton, author of the 53-page report and a senior researcher on terrorism at HRW, says that the US military command in Iraq actually condones such methods. "These accounts rebut US government claims that torture and abuse in Iraq was unauthorised and exceptional," said Sifton. "On the contrary, it was condoned and commonly used."

HRW focused its survey on the Camp Nama detention facility next to the Baghdad International Airport, where the most egregious incidents of torture have been alleged. "I was taken prisoner and accused of participating in the insurgency," recalls Omar Hadi, a former prisoner at the Nama facility. "They tore my finger nails out – one at a time for 20 days – and then hit me with electric shocks." After that, Hadi said, his captors pulled out his two front teeth with pliers.

Other victims alleged they had been kept inside large ovens until their skin was almost fried. "One of my colleagues was taken back to the jail… and his skin was totally burned, with cigarette burns and dog bites all over his body," said Hadi.

According to the US military press office in Baghdad, abuse allegations will be investigated, "because torture isn't a part of US military behaviour". One official promised that "serious action" would be taken.

Khalid Rabia'a, spokesman for the Baghdad-based Prisoners' Association for Justice, said that abuse allegations by former detainees were frequent. "The HRW report represents a realistic assessment of what's happening," said Rabia'a. "In the meantime, the government should implement its democratic ideology and insist on punishing those responsible."


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