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
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
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
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
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
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