Tens of thousands of people have been held "arbitrarily" in Iraq since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003, creating a situation that is ripe for abuse, Amnesty International has said.
Most of those held were neither charged nor faced trial and had no basic right to challenge their detention, the London-based human rights group said as it launched a new report "Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq".
'Abritrary' detention fuelling 'dire' situation in Iraq: Amnesty
"Nearly three years after the US and allied forces invaded Iraq and toppled the government of Saddam Hussein, the human rights situation in the country remains dire," it said.
"The deployment of US-led forces in Iraq and the armed response that engendered has resulted in thousands of deaths of civilians and widespread abuses amid the ongoing conflict."
The report details what AI calls "human rights violations for which the US-led MNF (multi-national force) is directly responsible" as well as those increasingly committed by Iraqi security forces.
"The record of these forces, including US forces and their United Kingdom allies, is an unpalatable one," they note.
It added: "Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, tens of thousands of people have been detained by foreign forces, mainly the US forces, without being charged or tried and without the right to challenge their detention before a judicial body."
Quoting MNF figures, AI said there were more than 14,000 security detainees in coalition custody at the end of November 2005.
Some 4,710 were held at Abu Ghraib prison with 138 at Camp Cropper -- both in Baghdad -- 7,365 at Camp Bucca, near Basra, and 1,176 at Fort Suse, near Suleimaniya.
A further 650 were held at other military facilities elsewhere in Iraq.
"Some of the detainees had been held for more than two years without any effective remedy or recourse; others have been released without explanation or apology or reparation after months of detention, victims of a system that is arbitrary and a recipe for abuse," AI said.
It charged the multi-national force (MNF) of depriving detainees of human rights guaranteed in international law and standards, claiming about 750 people held from before Saddam was toppled had still not been charged or tried.
Iraqi authorities were also accused of riding roughshod over international conventions by using torture and ill-treatment in detention facilities.
AI said it was "concerned that neither the MNF nor Iraqi authorities have established sufficient safeguards to protect detainees from torture or ill-treatment".
"Urgent, concrete steps" should be taken to address the situation, it added.
This includes prompt, thorough and independent investigations into abuse allegations, and action against anyone found to have "used, ordered or acquiesced" in torture and the right of detainees to challenge their detention.
© Copyright 2006 AFP