Iraq: A decade of abuses detailed in new report

Ten years after the US-led invasion ended the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains enmeshed in a grim cycle of human rights abuses, including attacks on civilians, torture of detainees, unfair trials and widespread use of the death penalty, said Amnesty International in a new report today.

Amnesty’s 82-page report - Iraq: A Decade of Abuses  (PDF) - catalogues years of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces and by foreign troops in the wake of the 2003 invasion. It highlights the Iraqi authorities’ failure to observe their obligations to uphold human rights and respect the rule of law in the face of deadly attacks by armed groups.

One of the cases highlighted in the report is that of Ramze Shihab Ahmed a 70-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who last June was given a 15-year prison sentence by a Baghdad court after a hearing that lasted only 15 minutes. His conviction was based on three pieces of oral testimony - a pre-trial confession that Mr Ahmed had repudiated saying he’d been tortured into making it, the allegedly coerced testimony of a co-defendant in a previous trial, and information from a secret informant. Amnesty is currently making representations on Mr Ahmed’s case to the Iraqi ambassador to the UK.    Meanwhile, Amnesty’s report shows that since the Iraqi government restored the death penalty in 2005 (after it had been suspended following the 2003 invasion) at least 447 prisoners have been executed, including Saddam Hussein, some of his main associates and alleged members of armed groups. Hundreds of prisoners currently await execution on death row, and Iraq - where 129 prisoners were hanged last year - is now one of the world’s leading executioners.   Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:   “Ten years after the end of Saddam Hussein’s repressive rule, many Iraqis today enjoy greater freedoms than they did under his Ba’athist regime, but the fundamental human rights gains that should have been achieved during the past decade have signally failed to materialise.   “The removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003 should have been followed by a process of fundamental human rights reform but almost from day one the occupying forces began committing torture and other serious violations against prisoners, as the Abu Ghraib scandal involving US forces and the beating to death of Baha Mousa in the custody of British soldiers in Basra graphically demonstrated.   “Neither the Iraqi government nor the former occupying powers have adhered to the standards required of them under international law, and the people of Iraq are still paying a heavy price for their failure.   “Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale. It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture.   “Iraq remains caught in a cycle of torture and impunity that should long ago have been broken.”   Amnesty’s report shows that torture is rife and committed with impunity by government security forces, particularly against detainees arrested under anti-terrorism laws while they are held incommunicado for interrogation. Detainees have repeatedly alleged that they were tortured to force them to “confess” to serious crimes or to incriminate others while held in these conditions. Many have repudiated their confessions at trial only to see the courts admit them as evidence of their guilt without investigating their torture allegations, and sentencing them to long-term imprisonment or death. Meanwhile, adding to the injustice, the authorities have paraded detainees before press conferences or arranged for their “confessions” to be broadcast on local television in advance of their trials or trial verdicts in gross breach of the presumption of innocence and of the right of every accused to receive a fair trial.   In the UK and the USA, despite investigations into individual cases, there has been a failure to investigate systematically the widespread human rights violations committed by forces from those countries, and to hold those responsible to account at all levels. Iraqi victims of US human rights violations have found the route to remedy in the US courts blocked. The Iraqi authorities have periodically acknowledged torture and other ill-treatment but they have generally sought to explain them away as isolated occurrences or, in a few high-profile cases, have announced official inquiries whose outcomes, if any, subsequently were never revealed. Methods of torture reported by detainees include:

  • Electric shocks applied to the genitals and other parts of the body
  • Partial suffocation by having a bag placed tightly over the head
  • Beatings while suspended in contorted positions
  • Deprivation of food, water and sleep
  • Threats of rape or that female relatives will be detained and raped
  • Women detainees subjected to sexual abuse

Download and read the report (PDF)

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