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Blair Attacked for His 'Terrifying' Dossier on Saddam's Brutality
Published on Tuesday, December 3, 2002 by lndependent/UK
Blair Attacked for His 'Terrifying' Dossier on Saddam's Brutality
by Ben Russell
 

Tony Blair launched an onslaught against Saddam Hussein's human rights record yesterday in an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of military action against Iraq.

The Foreign Office released a graphic 23-page dossier giving details of the Iraqi regime. But the publication sparked accusations of political opportunism from human rights groups, while left-wing Labour MPs claimed the Government was "softening up" the public for war.

The dossier, published six days before the deadline for President Saddam to release details of his weapons of mass destruction, reports on torture techniques including eye gouging, mock executions and lowering victims into acid baths. It describes systematic raping of women and persecution of the Kurds and other minorities.

A four-minute video released by the Foreign Office included images of blood-spattered prison cells, the burns of torture victims, and dead children after gas attacks on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988.

The report said: "Iraq is a terrifying place to live ... these grave violations of human rights are not the work of a number of over-zealous individuals but the deliberate policy of the regime. Fear is Saddam's chosen method for staying in power."

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said the report would "remind the world that the abuses of the Iraqi regime extend far beyond its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction".

Amnesty International accused the Government of failing to speak out about human rights abuses in a string of states allied to the West. A spokesman said: "We are concerned about the timing and whether that introduces a measure of political opportunism."

Hania Mufti, of the international pressure group Human Rights Watch, said: "The timing would not be so much of an issue if it came against a background of previous actions by the Government to expose human rights violations."

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman, warned: "This dossier, no matter how horrific its terms, would not provide cover for action against Iraq unless it were accompanied by a mandate from the UN."

Alice Mahon, the Labour MP, said: "Why is this being published now? We know all of this is part of a softening-up exercise." Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for Linlithgow, said: "I think that this highly unusual, indeed, unprecedented publication is cranking up for war."

© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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