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Torture in Iraq Continues

May 14, 2011

In Iraq: New Order, Same Abuses

This Amnesty International report focuses on human rights abuses committed – yes, still being committed – by U.S.and coalition forces and by the Iraqi government itself. New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq doesn’t whitewash the abuses of the government’s opposition. It holds the “insurgency” to be fully responsible for “gross human rights abuses amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Its focus, however, is on those abuses that citizens of the United States and other coalition nations might be able to do something about – those involving our forces and our allies:

…the unlawful detention, enforced disappearance and torture or other ill-treatment of thousands of people since 2003 by the US-led Multinational Force (MNF) in Iraq and by the Iraqi authorities. Some have been held arbitrarily, without charge or trial, for seven years…Most have had no access to legal representation and some have not had visits from relatives.
            An estimated 30,000 untried detainees are currently being held by the Iraqi authorities…in severely overcrowded facilities and otherwise poor detention conditions…Some detainees have been held in secret detention facilities and tortured.
            Under international law, the USA is barred from transferring detainees to places where they face torture or other serious human rights violations…A state cannot claim to be treating detainees humanely while knowingly handing them over to torturers, anymore than it can knowingly “release” detainees in a minefield and claim that their safety is no longer its responsibility.

Iraq: Detainees Describe
Torture in Secret Jail

It’s also worth checking out Human Rights Watch’s report on the same issue – based on interviews with 42 prisoners in the Al Rusafa Detention Center on April 26, 2010. The men were among 300 prisoners who had been transferred from a secret facility at Muthanna airport inWest Baghdad, after news of the prison was first revealed. The detainees reported being “hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized,” according to the report.
            “The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle Eastdirector at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to prosecute all of those responsible for this systematic brutality.”
            HRW judged the men’s stories to be “credible and consistent. Most of the 300 displayed fresh scars and injuries they said were a result of routine and systematic torture they had experienced at the hands of interrogators at Muthanna.”

“What happened at Muthanna is an example of the horrendous abuse Iraqi leaders say they want to leave behind. Everyone responsible, from the top on down, needs to be held accountable.”
                                — Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch

Listen to NPR’s story on this report, or read the transcript. You can also view the BBC report onIraq’s secret jails, but you’ll have to wait through a commercial first.

Tugging at Threads to Unspool Stories of Torture

Finally, if you haven’t read Denise Grady’s devastating portraits of Iraqi torture survivors in the New York Times, don’t miss it. The piece focuses on the work of the torture treatment center recently opened in Amman, Jordan, by the Minnesota-based Center for Victims of Torture. The center has seen survivors of torture inflicted by the Saddam Hussein regime, by Al Qaeda in Iraq, and by “the sectarian groups, gangs and militias that continue to terrorize parts of Iraq,” as well as by the Iraqi army and U.S. forces, and the article notes that some of the survivors seen by the center have been tortured by more than one of these groups.

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