UN human rights report urges steps to end abuses in Iraq

The report notes the complexity of Iraq’s situation, marked by the political transition, acts of terrorism, detainees reportedly suffering at the hands of occupation forces, as well as extensive loss of life among civilians. On the positive side, “the Iraqi people have been relieved of the massive, systematic and institutionalized violations of human rights that took place under the preceding regime, and that they now have the prospect of arranging for their own democratic governance under the rule of law and in the spirit of international human rights norms,” the Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Betrand Ramcharan, says in an introduction to the 45-page document. The report is based on a field visit by UN human rights experts who met in Amman with Iraqis from Baghdad, Basra, Erbil, Karbala, Mosul, Ramadi and Sulaymaniya. Among those interviewed was Saddam Salah Abood Al-Rawi, a 29-year old former political prisoner under the regime of Saddam Hussein who was later detained in Abu Ghraib prison by the Coalition Forces. He said he was arrested without being told the charges against him and described horrific abuse, including over two weeks when he was allegedly subjected to torture which at times lasted for up to 23 hours. Mr. Al-Rawi, who has two missing teeth, charged that the Coalition Forces’ abuses included having teeth pulled, kicking, beating, guards standing on his hands and the infliction of mental cruelty, such as telling him he would first be raped by guards and then sent to Guantanamo Bay, if he did not “confess.” He was also kept in solitary confinement for approximately three months. “At the time of a Red Cross visit to Abu Ghraib prison in January 2004, he was warned that if he said anything to the Red Cross visitor that the prison guards would not like, he would never live to regret it,” the report states. When interviewed by the Red Cross visitor, he did not disclose the abuses he endured. “Mr. Al-Rawi said that the ill-treatment which he suffered as a political prisoner under Saddam Hussein was bad, but that during his days in Abu Ghraib as a Coalition Forces detainee he suffered humiliation and mental cruelty, in addition to the physical torture,” the report states. In comments on the report, the United States authorities stated that they were “particularly concerned about these allegations which they considered extreme and inconsistent with other reports.” They added that the charges would be investigated. The report notes that leaders of the countries concerned have condemned rights violations and have pledged to bring those responsible to justice. “It is imperative that this be done, with accountability to the international community.” The report also calls for measures to prevent future abuses, and contains a series of recommendations to achieve this end, including the appointment of an international ombudsman on human rights and humanitarian law who could issue public reports on compliance by coalition forces with international norms of human rights. The experts also stress the need to establish an Iraqi Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On the broader context, the report calls for accountability for human rights in conflict situations and in the struggle against terrorism. “The letter and spirit of international human rights and humanitarian law must be upheld. It is an imperative duty on all involved.”

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