The Government's attempt to present Iraq as a uniquely evil regime turned into
a public relations flop yesterday when the Iraqi dissident chosen to present it
denounced the threat of war with Saddam Hussein and said Baghdad officials used
British-made equipment as instruments of torture
Amnesty International accused the Government of turning a blind
eye to human rights abuses elsewhere in the world and seizing on the horrors in
Iraq for political reasons.
Hussain al-Shahristani, a former nuclear scientist who was tortured
and jailed for 11 years for refusing to work on Saddam's secret nuclear programme,
said: "When I was in jail I was held with British-made handcuffs. In the cells
next door, I could hear the screams of people who were having holes drilled into
their bones. Those drills were made in Britain."
The Foreign Office's 23-page
report is drawn mainly from open sources, such as reports by Amnesty and Human
Rights Watch, with a sprinkling of newer information from the Government.
Officials said that, despite the horrors it catalogues, no decision
had been taken on whether to create a Yugoslavia-style war crimes tribunal for
"This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold
and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists," said Irene
Khan, Amnesty's secretary general.
"Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind
eye to Amnesty's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before
the Gulf war."
At a briefing for journalists, the Foreign Office projected a
video montage depicting Iraqi detainees being beaten and executed, and of the
aftermath of the Iraqi gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988.
Mr al-Shahristani quickly strayed from the script. He nodded
approvingly when Foreign Office officials were confronted with a barrage of questions
about Britain's silence at the time of the Halabja massacre, its support for Iraq
in the 1980s and accusations that the Government was trying to build a case for
He rejected the idea of another conflict: "I am extremely concerned
about the consequences of this intervention on the Iraqi people.
"I am particularly concerned that weapons of mass destruction
could be used again by the Iraqi regime against the people if there should be
any opposition or uprising." He added: "The Iraqi people could pay the price of
this war, as they have paid the price of sanctions and all the previous wars."
The Government dossier lists several methods of torture, including
eye gouging, piercing of hands with electric drills, suspension from the ceiling,
electric shock, sexual abuse, beating the soles of the feet, mock executions and
acid baths. The report says: "Fear is Saddam's chosen method for staying in power."
Some of the cases highlighted include:
A husband and wife were tortured separately about the
sale of a car which, investigators claimed, had been seized during a raid on Iraqi
opposition activists. The woman was stripped, burnt with a lit cigarette and beaten
while her children were forced to watch. Her husband's arms were tied behind his
back and he was suspended from a hook. Later, he was shot at with a pistol and
his feet and hands were mutilated with gunshots. Eventually the family paid a
bribe and the couple was released and managed to flee the country.
Saddam's son, Uday, maintains "a private torture chamber"
in Baghdad, and "personally executed dissidents in Basra" during the 1991 uprising.
He also "ordered the national football team to be caned on the soles of their
feet after losing a World Cup qualifying match".
Women are routinely beheaded on charges of prostitution.
The identity card of one Iraqi militiaman, Aziz Salih Ahmed, is reproduced and
describes his occupation as "violation of women's honour", that is, a professional
Horrendous prison conditions, such as the "Casket Prison"
in Baghdad, where "prisoners are kept in rows of steel boxes, as found in mortuaries,
until they either confess to their crimes or die. There are around 100-150 boxes,
which are opened for half an hour a day to allow the prisoners some light and
A commander's letter chastising a subordinate, saying:
"There is no objection to cutting off the heads of traitors. But it would have
been preferable had you also sent them to security for the purpose of interrogating
A decree passed in 2000 allowing the amputation of the
tongue as a penalty for insulting the president or his family.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002