Abuse, Torture by Iraqi Police Called Routine
the millions of dollars spent by the U.S. and other nations to improve
their performance, Iraqi police still routinely abuse and often
torture detainees, according to a report released Tuesday by Human
Rights Watch (HRW).
of torture include routine beatings using cables, hosepipes and
other implements; kicking, slapping, and punching; prolonged suspension
from the wrists with hands tied behind the back; electric shocks
to sensitive parts of the body, including the earlobes and genitals;
and being kept blindfolded or handcuffed continuously over several
days, according to the 93-page report.
on investigations carried out in Iraq between July and October last
year, including interviews with 90 former prisoners, the report,
"The New Iraq?
Torture and Ill-Treatment of Detainees in Iraqi Custody,"
also found that arrests were frequently carried out without warrants
on the basis of information provided by "secret informants."
to the provisions of Iraq's Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP), which
requires a defendant to be brought before a judge within 24 hours
of arrest, the vast majority of ex-detainees had been held without
appearing before a judge for a far longer period, in some cases
for almost four months.
detention system was also found to be rife with corruption, according
to the report, which noted that police officials routinely demand
bribes for visits by family members and attorneys, for appearances
before a judge, and even for food and water.
people of Iraq were promised something better than this after the
government of Saddam Hussein fell," said Sarah Leah Whitson,
HRW's Middle East director. "The Iraqi Interim Government is
not keeping its promises to honor and respect basic human rights.
Sadly, the Iraqi people continue to suffer from a government that
acts with impunity in its treatment of detainees."
new report comes amid an ongoing cascade of news about serious abuses
committed against detainees by US soldiers in Iraq.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released new
documents here Monday that detailed formal complaints of abuses
by soldiers, often Special Operations Forces (SOF), of Iraqi civilians,
including sexual humiliation, burning with cigarettes, and even
forced sodomy, very few of which were followed up aggressively by
military investigators. The report covered incidents that allegedly
took place through July of 2004.
one case, a 73-year-old Iraqi woman captured by SOF testified that
she was stripped and humiliated by a man who "straddled her
...and attempted to ride her like a horse" before hitting her
with a stick and shoving it into her anus. Although an investigation
was launched, the case's disposition remains classified.
another case recounted by US contractor, a female military police
officer was witnessed making a detainee "jump up and down and
then roll left to right on the ground in what he believed to be
150 degree Fahrenheit temperature" for some 20 minutes despite
his having collapsed repeatedly. The incident was never investigated.
other cases, including homicides, Army investigators either accepted
soldiers' claims of self-defense or closed their investigations
for insufficient evidence.
director Anthony Romero described many investigations as "woefully
of the investigations have basically whitewashed the torture and
abuse," he said. "The documents that the ACLU has obtained
tell a damning story of widespread torture reaching well beyond
the walls of Abu Ghraib (prison)."
of the cases released by the ACLU also involved Iraqi police and
tend to corroborate some of HRW's findings.
was in June 2003 that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA) transferred responsibility for the management of all detention
and prison facilities to the Ministries of Interior and Justice,
along with a memorandum that set out basic standards for their operation,
although actual Iraqi control the criminal justice system did not
begin until Sept. 2003.
the presence of US and other foreign advisers, however, those standards
have been largely ignored, according to the report, which noted
that many detainees were deprived of adequate food and water and
crammed into "standing-room-only" cells with no room to
lay down to sleep.
report stressed that the Iraqi police face a daunting situation
given the wave of insecurity and crime, including kidnapping and
extortion rackets, that has hardly abated since the US invasion
nearly two years ago not to mention an insurgency that has specifically
targeted the police.
just the last four months of 2004, it noted, some 1,300 police and
scores of other members of security forces died at the hands of
Iraqi security forces obviously face tremendous challenges, including
an insurgency that has targeted civilians," said Whitson. "We
unequivocally condemn the insurgents' brutality. But international
law is unambiguous on this point: no government can justify torture
of detainees in the name of security."
report examined cases of suspected members or sympathizers of Muqtada
al-Sadr's Mahdi Army who were arrested during and after last August's
clashes in Najaf. They were routinely arrested without warrant,
taken into detention where they were subjected to torture and a
variety of other abuses, and then released without charge.
investigators also interviewed more than 60 criminal suspects in
Baghdad, virtually all of whom were tortured and then forced to
sign a confession without knowing its contents.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) documented many
of the abuses in a report to the US government in Feb. 2004, but
it is not clear what, if anything, Washington did about it, according
to the report.
report also noted that many of the same officers involved in the
abuse held similar positions under Saddam Hussein, although in an
interview with the Washington Post, Hania Mufti, HRW's Baghdad
director, said they were not as severe as the worst abuses conducted
before, including mock executions, disfigurement with acid, and
forcing detainees to witness sexual assaults on their family members.
report also detailed "the only known case in which US forces
intervened to stop detainee abuse." The soldiers units stopped
the abuse and disarmed the police, but, when they radioed senior
officers to explain what they had done, they were ordered to "return
the prisoners to the Iraqi authorities..."
think this is actually a campaign to intimidate Iran," he said.
"It's holding out a palpable threat that if you don't cooperate
this is what is going to happen to you."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service