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Fears of Torture of Iraqi Detainees Increases, Following U.S. Handover, Says Amnesty International in New Report
Torture Widely Used by Iraqi Security Forces to Obtain "Confessions," Finds Report
NEW YORK - September 14 - As the United States withdraws from Iraq, it has turned over to Iraqi government security forces tens of thousands of detainees held without trial with no safeguards in place to prevent widespread torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi
government to either release detainees held for long periods without recognizable
criminal charges against them, and without having been tried, or bring
them to trial.
“The Iraqi authorities must take firm and decisive action now to show that they have the political will to uphold the human rights of all Iraqis, and to stop the torture and other gross abuses of detainees’ rights that are so prevalent today,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The report , New Order, Same Abuses, provides a detailed accounting of the situation for thousands of individuals who were detained arbitrarily sometimes for several years, without charge or trial. The report catalogues severe beatings of detainees, often in secret prisons, to obtain forced confessions, and enforced disappearances.
Amnesty International estimates that 30,000 detainees are held without trial in Iraq although the Iraqi authorities have failed to provide precise figures. Ten thousand of the detainees were recently transferred from U.S. custody as their combat troops ended some operations in Iraq.
Several detainees are known to have died in custody, apparently as a result of torture or other ill-treatment by Iraqi interrogators and prison guards, who regularly refuse to confirm their detention or whereabouts to relatives.
Riyadh Mohammad Saleh al-‘Uqaibi, 54, and married with children, died in custody on February 12 or 13 this year, as a result of internal bleeding from being beaten so intensely during interrogation that his ribs were broken and his liver damaged.
A former member of the Iraqi Special Forces, he was arrested in late September 2009 and held in a detention facility in the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, before being transferred to a secret prison at the old Muthanna airport, where 400 detainees were held.
His body was handed over to his family several
weeks later. The death certificate gave his cause of death as “heart failure.”
"We have a situation in Iraq where many thousands of people are locked up on suspicion or because they have been accused -- falsely accused in some cases -- of involvement in political violence, but who have been detained for years without charge," said Geneve Mantri, Government Relations Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA.
"These people are not being allowed any effective means to challenge their detention or the reasons authorities give to justify it. And now we fear they are at continued risk of torture, which is widespread in Iraqi prisons."
Several of the detainees held at the old Muthanna airport told Amnesty International they were detained on the basis of false information that Iraqi security forces obtained from secret informants.
They had been held without any access to the outside world and some were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during interrogation, apparently to make them confess to their involvement in bombings or other crimes that could incur the death penalty.
Torture is widely used in Iraq to obtain “confessions.” In many cases these are already prepared by interrogators and detainees are forced to sign while blindfolded and without reading the contents.
Prepared confessions are often used as the only evidence against detainees when they are brought to trial, including in cases where the charges incur the death penalty.
Hundreds of prisoners are reported to have been sentenced to death, and some have been executed, after being convicted on the basis of “confessions” which they said were false and had been signed under torture or other duress.
Methods of torture include beating with cables and hosepipes, prolonged suspension by the limbs, administration of electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, breaking of limbs, removal of finger and toenails, asphyxiation and piercing of the body with drills, and psychological torture such as threats of rape.
“Iraq’s security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees’ rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity,” said Smart.
“Yet, the United States authorities, whose own record on detainees' rights has been so poor, have handed over thousands of people detained by U.S. forces to face violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for human rights.”
Thousands of people also continue to be detained despite judicial orders issued for their release, and a 2008 Iraqi Amnesty Law, which provides for the release of uncharged detainees after six to twelve months.
The U.S. forces completed the transfer of
all but 200 prisoners to Iraqi custody on July 15, without any guarantees
against torture or ill-treatment as international law demands.
The report also highlights long-term detentions in the northern Kurdistan region by the Asayish – Kurdish security police.
Walid Yunis Ahmad, 52, and a father of three,
has been arbitrarily detained without charge or trial for more than 10
years since his arrest on February 6, 2000, in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous
Kurdistan region of Iraq, by members of the Asayish. He is the longest
held, untried detainee in Iraq known to Amnesty International.
Three years after his arrest his family discovered that he was alive but still detained and were able to visit him.
Walid Yunis Ahmad is alleged to have been tortured, and has been held in solitary confinement since going on a 45-day hunger strike in 2008 in protest at his continuing detention. He is currently still held at the Asayish headquarters in Erbil.
To obtain a copy of the report, Iraq: New Order, Same Abuses, please contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, firstname.lastname@example.org