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Summary of Leaked Red Cross Report on Iraqis Tortured in US Custody

by NewStandard Staff

The Red Cross produced a 24-page report, packed with documented allegations of US and other coalition forces abusing and torturing Iraqi detainees. We've distilled the report down to a few hundred shocking words.

May 13, 2004 –

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Editor’s Note: Last February, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) produced a confidential report based on nearly a year of investigations and inspections carried out in Iraqi communities and Coalition detention facilities. The ICRC provided copies of the report to numerous Western officials and military officers. This week, the Wall Street Journal obtained and posted a copy of the report to the Web. We have posted a copy on The NewStandard website, and have distilled the major findings of its 24 pages into the following summary.

Download the Full Report (PDF, 1.4MB)

Conditions of and treatment during arrest

The report begins with an assessment of trends found in common among various reports of abductions by Coalition Forces:

Documented instances of mistreatment during transfer and custody

This is by no means a complete list, even from the limited report provided by the ICRC. These are just some of the cases of inmate torture documented by Red Cross personnel. None of these incidents has been proved in a court of law, at least not to the knowledge of the ICRC at the time of writing.

Treatment during interrogation

Persons arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or otherwise deemed to have intelligence value were “systematically� subjected to verbal, physical and psychological abuse by Coalition Forces, especially US personnel at US facilities, as part of what “appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel.�

The most frequently alleged methods of torture included:

The report stresses that these methods of torture were used “in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information or other forms of co-operation.� When questioned by ICRC personnel, a military intelligence officer referred to the methods as “part of the [interrogation] process.�

Mistreatment and torture by Iraqi police

At one facility, a member of the US-installed Iraqi Police (IP) forces tortured prisoners by staging mock executions using an unloaded pistol. At the same facility, IP officers reportedly administered electrical shocks to prisoners.

On one occasion, an inmate’s mother was allegedly brought and threatened with rape in front of her detained son. These techniques were all used to force the signing of confessions to be used against prisoners later in the event of a trial.

Treatment at “regular internment facilities�

The ICRC refers to the treatment in facilities other than those where “high value� prisoners were kept or where prisoners were being interrogated, as “respectful, with a few individual exceptions� which were “quickly reprimanded and disciplined� when reported.

But even here, ICRC inspectors personally witnessed Coalition personnel slapping prisoners, roughing them up, and pushing them around or to the ground as well as generally displaying “disrespectful attitudes.� As punishment for various perceived infractions in such facilities, inmates were forced to squat or lie down in the sand under hot sun for hours at a time, as well as other acts. Guards at such facilities were, however, found to have generally avoided the use of collective punishment.

Placing inmates in harm’s way

The report cites two significant ways in which Coalition Forces have placed inmates in significant danger.

The “rewards�

Interrogators employed a system of “drip-fed� rewards of items and privileges, granted to prisoners who cooperated to varying extents with their interrogators. Rewards included:

The effects

The ICRC found lasting psychological results of the treatment dealt prisoners at detention facilities. Some presented signs of concentration difficulties, memory problems, verbal expression difficulties, incoherent speech, acute anxiety reactions, and suicidal tendencies.

Other effects of prisoner mistreatment cited in the report include numerous cases of severe, permanent physical disability as well as death.

Previous ICRC actions and Coalition Forces’ improvements

The ICRC issued a number of reports to Coalition officials during 2003, detailing numerous allegations of documented abuse. In fact, by May 2003, when George Bush declared an end to “major combat� in Iraq, the Red Cross had already documented (and notified Coalition officials of) more than 200 allegations of ill treatment of prisoners. The report notes some improvements that were made as a result of ICRC criticism. They are:

Beyond the report’s limited scope

As wide-ranging and thorough as the ICRC report seems, nothing in its 24 pages refers to the specific incidents, or even the types of incidents, pictured in many of the photographs which have been leaked to the press in the past few weeks or other photos and videos that are in possession of the Pentagon but have to some extent been described to the media. There is no mention in the Red Cross report of inmates being forced into naked human piles, forced into sexual and mock sexual positions or forced to have sex with guards.

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