The Times (UK) have reported on further details from Amnesty International regarding the detention of some 14,000 people by US and British Military Forces.
As I said in an earlier post, it’s about time some independant international board was given the consent to investigate and visit these places without any red tape and report on the exact situation. Both the US and british Governments are the first to jump on countries when it comes to sending in teams of people to investigate other countries, perhaps it’s time they practiced what they preached?
America was today accused of failing to learn the lessons of Abu Ghraib by continuing to hold thousands of Iraqi detainees in conditions that breached their human rights.
Amnesty International, the London-based rights watchdog, criticised coalition forces and the Iraqi Government for holding security suspects for months without trial and allowing them to be routinely abused.
The group said around 14,000 people are currently imprisoned in American and British-run jails under rules that do not afford detainees access to the courts or, in some cases, to the details of the charges against them.
The result, said Amnesty, is “a system that is arbitary and a recipe for abuse”. The human rights group said inadequate legal protections for prisoners in coalition-run facilities had spilled over into Iraqi jails, where detainees were frequently beaten with electric cables and tortured.
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: “After the horrors of life under Saddam and then the fresh horror of US prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, it is shocking to discover that the Multinational Forces are detaining thousands of people without charge or trial.
“Not only prisoners being held in defiance of international law, but the allegations of torture continue to pour out of Iraq,” she said. “As long as US and UK forces hold prisoners in secret detention conditions, torture is much more likely to occur, to go undetected and to go unpunished.”
The report, entitled Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq, presented the stories of individual suspects to illustrate how detainees are held and abused without being told of their alleged crime.
A 47-year-old imam, whom Amnesty called Karim R, was detained for a week by US forces in 2003 and then for a week in May 2005 at the Iraqi Interior Ministry. On the first occasion, Karim told the group he was given electric shocks by a taser stun gun. Last year, he was chained to a wall and given electric shocks by Iraqi interrogators.
“They asked questions claiming that I was a terrorist but they did not even give me the chance to reply. They just stated that I was a terrorist,” he told Amnesty.
The report also described the case of Jawad M, an Iraqi employee at a US base in Baghdad, who was held for five months in Abu Ghraib prison. On his release in early 2005, he told Amnesty: “It was useless. I was there for five months and I knew that nobody can do anything. Until now I don’t know why they sent me to the prison and why I was released and whose decision that was.”
The group also cited the experience of Hillal Abdul Razzaq Ali al-Jedda, a detainee in Iraq with joint Iraqi and British citizenship.
Held by British forces since October 2004, al-Jedda sued the Ministry of Defence last August to challenge his internment. The High Court ruled that he had been “detained simply on a preventive basis” without evidence of a crime. A verdict in the case is expected later this year.
The report alleged that the disregard for due legal process in prisons run by coalition forces had also contributed to a culture of violence and torture in Iraqi-run facilities. In November last year, American soldiers discovered an underground jail in Baghdad run by the Iraqi Interior Ministry that contained more than 100 malnourished and abused suspects.
Amnesty said that detainees held in Iraqi jails are routinely beaten with heavy electrical cables and have their fingernails pulled off.
Despite reports of deaths at the hands of Iraqi police and new militias such as the feared Shia “Wolf Brigade”, accused of several extrajudicial killings in Baghdad, the group said that coalition military commanders had done little to “address this pattern of abuse, and to safeguard detainees from torture or ill-treatment.”
The report also accused US military commanders of knowing that torture takes place in Iraqi jails. In cases quoted by Amnesty, US soldiers are described as being present when detainees are beaten and given electric shocks.
As evidence of what it called “different views within the US politico-military establishment” about how US forces should control torture by Iraqis, the group quoted a disagreement between the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and the current Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.
At a press conference last year, Mr Rumsfeld said that America only had a responsibility to voice disapproval of prisoner abuse. But General Pace interrupted him to say that US soldiers should do more.
“I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it,” Mr Rumsfeld replied.
“If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it,” said the general.