** Iraqi security forces systematically abuse prisoners, a leading US-based human rights group reports. ** Unlawful arrests, torture and the long-term isolation of detainees are "routine", Human Rights Watch says...
Another rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union charges that similar abuses allegedly committed by US soldiers have not been investigated.
The ACLU said it had obtained documents that told “a damning story of widespread torture reaching well beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib”, the notorious US-run jail in Iraq.
The 94-page report by Human Rights Watch detailed a catalogue of abuses allegedly committed by Iraqi security forces.
The report - The New Iraq? Torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Iraqi custody - found evidence of widespread human rights violations against alleged national security suspects and common criminals.
Between July and October 2004, HRW’s investigations revealed systematic use of arbitrary arrest, torture of detainees, improper treatment of child prisoners and denial of access to lawyers.
** Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin acknowledged that abuses had occurred **and blamed the legacy of Saddam Hussein's regime.
He told the Reuters news agency that the security forces’ “shortcomings” were the fault of “three-and-a-half decades of dictatorship, widespread torture and human rights violations”.
Among the report's findings are:
*] Detainees were routinely beaten with cables and metal rods during interrogation, given electric shocks and kept blindfolded and handcuffed for days
*] Detainees were held for long periods in isolation, deprived of food and water and crammed into small cells with standing room only
*] Iraqi police sought bribes in return for releasing prisoners or allowing them access to family members or food and water.
[/list] Executive director for HRW Sarah Leah Whitson said Iraqi forces and international advisers were allowing abuses to “go unchecked” in the name of bringing stability to Iraq.
She said: "The people of Iraq were promised something better than this after the government of Saddam Hussein fell. "The Iraqi interim government is not keeping its promises to honour and respect basic human rights." Ms Whitson acknowledged Iraqi security forces were targeted by insurgents, but said this did not justify prisoner abuse. The HRW report does not examine claims of mistreatment of prisoners by US or coalition forces.
However, the ACLU said late on Monday that US investigations into alleged abuse committed by American soldiers had been “woefully inadequate” and had “basically whitewashed the torture and abuse”.
Quoting US defence department documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU said the Pentagon had failed to conduct full inquiries into “serious allegations of torture including electric shocks, forced sodomy and severe physical beatings”.
In one case, a 73-year-old Iraqi woman reported that her captors sodomised her with a stick, but the incident was closed on the basis of a “sanitised copy” of a preliminary report, the ACLU said.