Jan. 25, 2005 – Beatings with cables, fists and hosepipes; hanging by the wrists; electric shocks to the genitals; continuous blindfolding and handcuffing -- these acts were all standard fare in Iraqi prisons during the era of dictator Saddam Hussein, and recent detainees allege they are commonplace inside Iraqi-run prisons today.
A report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW) concludes that the legacy of the former regimeâ€™s police forces continues unabated within the walls of Iraqâ€™s numerous prisons, including at a site where mostly American international advisors have a major presence.
HRW, which is based in the US, found that in addition to torture taking place inside Iraqi jails â€“ performed by Iraqi personnel but with the knowledge and possibly the consent of American and other international officials â€“ abuses include holding captives completely incommunicado, failing to provide legal representation despite its guarantee in the Iraqi interim bill of rights, and random arrests including indiscriminate mass roundups of entire neighborhoods.
In some cases where US personnel were found to have intervened in the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, American commanders ordered their charges not to interfere in the "sovereign" actions of the Iraqi government.
Human Rights Watch found that American advisers operating at Iraqi facilities -- "primarily US citizens funded through the United States government" -- did not participate in the heinous acts recounted in the groupâ€™s 93-page condemnation of current conditions, The New Iraq? Torture and Ill-treatment of Detainees in Iraqi Custody.
The report is based on interviews with 90 Iraqis who were or had been held by Iraqi authorities. In a country defined by widespread concern of going against the government, a full 72 detainees reported mistreatment in custody.
Detainees and Western police advisers alike insisted that the advisers themselves were rarely or never present during interrogations or other interactions between police or guards and detainees. But because Iraqi personnel in at least one facility in the Western Baghdad district of Al-Amiriyya have allegedly committed a broad range of abuses on a large scale, Human Rights Watch concluded that US-backed advisers are not fulfilling a legitimate function but are instead complicit in torture. "International police advisersâ€¦ have turned a blind eye to these rampant abuses," the groupâ€™s press release plainly stated.
"In the name of bringing security and stability to Iraq, both Iraqi officials and their advisers have allowed these abuses to go unchecked," said Human Rights Watchâ€™s Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, in the press statement. "We have not seen the Iraqi police held accountable for their actions."
The report also blames widespread corruption among police and guards on the decision of former US occupation chief L. Paul Bremer to hire tens of thousands of Iraqi men to the force without checking their backgrounds or allegiances.
After admitting that Iraq had no contraband biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and no real ties to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, the United States and other countries that participated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq said that freeing Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein was the primary justification for overthrowing the former dictator and "liberating" the Iraqi people.
"The people of Iraq were promised something better than this after the government of Saddam Hussein fell," Whitson said. "Sadly, [they] continue to suffer from a government that acts with impunity in its treatment of detainees."