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Torture and Prison Abuse in Iraq


Abuse Cited In 2nd Jail Operated by Iraqi Ministry (December 12, 2005)

Iraqi officials have accused the Interior Ministry of torture and prisoner abuse for the second time in a month following an Iraqi government search of a Baghdad detention center. The new abuses involve13 prisoners with broken bones, cigarette burns, and extracted finger nails, and are in general more severe than earlier cases. As with the previous abuse case, the prisoners were mostly Sunnis, in the custody of the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry. Despite calling for an investigation, the Iraqi government has not taken any disciplinary action, and US officials remain divided over the responsibility of US troops to interfere. (Washington Post)

US Detentions Abuse Iraq Mandate: UN (December 5, 2005)

In detaining thousands of Iraqis without due process, the US military is violating its UN mandate. In addition to the Iraqi government's own human rights abuses, US detentions and prison abuse fuel revolt rather than curb it. According to UNAMI Human Rights Chief John Pace, the entire US prison and detention system in Iraq is inconsistent with Security Council resolution 1546, which authorizes the US-led occupation. (Australian Associated Press)

Abuse Worse than under Saddam, Says Iraqi Leader (November 27, 2005)

According to Ayad Allawi, who served as the interim Prime Minister of Iraq in 2004, the human rights situation in Iraq is worse now then under former President Saddam Hussein. Allawi accused members of Iraq's interim government of supporting death squads and secret torture centers. His comments were particularly aimed at the Ministry of Defense, which was found to be housing numerous detainees with visible signs of torture in the basement of one of its buildings. The collapse of human rights in Iraq, the Observernotes, stems from the lack of planning by occupation forces following the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Iraqi Torture Practices Could Be More Widespread (November 17, 2005)

While the discovery of one hundred seventy-three mostly-Sunni detainees in an Interior Ministry building basement sent shockwaves throughout Iraq, many experts believe torture and abuse are much more widespread. The use of torture by US forces, along with the rise of sectarian militias and the polarization of Iraqi government have all contributed to the "institutionalization" of torture and abuse. (Christian Science Monitor)

Torture Alleged at Ministry Site Outside Baghdad (November 16, 2005)

The Iraqi government is investigating new reports of torture by the Iraqi police. One hundred seventy-three Iraqi detainees were found, some paralyzed or with skin peeling of their bodies, in the basement of an Interior Ministry Building in Baghdad. The allegations do little to ease sectarian conflict or promote Iraq's government: the mostly-Sunni prisoners were being held by Shiite police officers. The news also comes at a bad time for US officials, who are facing fresh claims of detainee abuse including sexual humiliation, mock executions, and the use of live lions in interrogations. (New York Times)

US Sweep of Arrests after Iraq Invasion Leads to Few Convictions (November 15, 2005)

Of the 35,000 Iraqis who have been arrested since US forces invaded Iraq, the US military has tried 1,300 prisoners, only half of whom have been found guilty. Though most of the prisoners have been released, 13,500 remain in detention. The US systematically denies Iraqi prisoners the right to legal counsel, and there are reports of widespread torture and prison abuse. As many critics argue, the arrests do more to fuel the Iraqi resistance than quell it: both the number of arrests and insurgent attacks have doubled over the last year and a half, illustrating this direct relationship. (Guardian)

Abu Ghraib General Says Fault Goes High (November 2, 2005)

According to Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the highest ranking US official punished for prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, high level officials used her as a scapegoat to cover up their own failures. Blame should go as high as US Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Karpinski says, for allowing prisoner abuse to take place. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Iraq Slams US Detentions, Immunity for Troops (September 14, 2005)

Iraq's Justice Minister Abdul Hussein Shandal criticizes the US military for its detention of Iraqis and has requested that a UN resolution be changed so that foreigners are no longer immune from Iraqi law. Shendal has also expressed concern for the right of journalists in Iraq to interview insurgents and members of the resistance without fear of interrogation or arrest. (Reuters)

Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division (September 2005)

Human Rights Watchreveals new accounts of torture in Iraq. This report identifies members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division, stationed in Fallujah, as torturing detainees to such a degree "that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers." Contradictory statements over the US's application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan and Iraq contributed to widespread confusion over permissible treatment of detainees.

UN Assistance Mission for Iraq: Human Rights Report (July 1 – August 31, 2005)

This UNAMIreport highlights the ongoing human rights concerns in Iraq, including the general lack of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights for Iraqi citizens. The document particularly calls attention to "the handling of the circumstances and conditions for detention [which] continues to present a major challenge to the Iraqi authorities and to UNAMI."

Lawyers 'Besiege' Army over Iraq Abuse (July 24, 2005)

The UK military faces a wave of lawsuits over its abuse of detainees in Basra. The law firm, Public Interest Lawyers, is preparing a number of cases against the British army on behalf of Iraqis who say that soldiers abused them. Defense officials have reacted angrily to the increased scrutiny and criticism of the military's conduct, calling the lawyers "ambulance chasers." (Observer)

Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo (July 14, 2005)

Although denying that such practices constitute torture, the US military has released another internal investigation into interrogations at Guantanamo which strongly indicates that aggressive tactics were institutionalized and authorized at the highest level. Refusing to label such incidents as leashing or sexually humiliating detainees as ‘abuse,' the report nonetheless confirms they did occur at Guantanamo, and that soldiers working later at Abu Ghraib justifiably believed these techniques were approved by their superiors. (Washington Post)

Torture and Accountability (June 28, 2005)

The Nation asks why there has not been any investigative commission into the prisoner abuse and torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, and offers some suggestions for how the US democratic system could best hold its highest public officials accountable for these policies. Citing the 1996 War Crimes Act, this article raises the serious possibility of prosecution under US criminal law for those in government involved in "nose-thumbing" at the Geneva Conventions and accountability.

Torture's Part of the Territory (June 7, 2005)

Naomi Klein suggests that supporters of the Iraq war should take a lesson from a straight talking French general in epic movie "The Battle of Algiers" and admit "there is no nice, humanitarian way to occupy a nation against the will of its people." In the absence of consent to its occupation, like the French in Algeria, the US leadership is using the only alternative tool to govern Iraqis: fear. "Unwanted regimes…rely on torture precisely because they are unwanted." While the US remains in Iraq, the reliance on morally outrageous methods of control will continue, and to pretend otherwise is pointless. (Los Angeles Times)

The Unknown Unknowns of the Abu Ghraib Scandal (May 21, 2005)

One year later, the 10 official military investigations on Abu Ghraib have all been "asking the wrong questions," says author Seymour Hersh. In this Guardianarticle, he condemns the lack of accountability and justice and criticizes President George W. Bush's actions—or lack thereof—following evidence of detainee abuse.

US to Expand Prison Facilities in Iraq (May 10, 2005)

Iraqi prisons are running out of room for all the detainees held by US forces, "prompting commanders to embark on an unanticipated prison expansion plan." The number of prisoners has increased nearly 20 percent since the January 30 elections, reaching 11,350. Sunnis constitute more than three-fourths of those held, prompting Sunni representatives' demands to either try them or release them. (Washington Post)

US Tells UN It Remains Opposed to Torture, Abuse (May 7, 2005)

In a report to the UN Committee on Torture, Washington reaffirmed its commitment to outlawing torture, drawing specific attention to punishment of US troops who abused detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Human rights groups criticized the report for not discussing the CIA's practice of sending detainees to countries where interrogators engage in torture. (Washington Post)

The Stain of Abu Ghraib (April 29, 2005)

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004 "was only the tip of the iceberg," says this TomPainearticle. The US government has not fixed the problems but rather responded much like an authoritarian government, denying overarching policy flaws and placing blame on lower-ranking "rogue actors." The author warns that such actions will increase worldwide criticisms of the US and invite other governments to disobey international law as well.

Getting Away With Torture? Command Responsibility for the US Abuse of Detainees (April 24, 2005)

To date, the US military has charged only low-ranking individuals in relation to the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Human Rights Watchbelieves grounds exist to investigate the role of high-ranking US military and civilian leaders including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet, as "the nature of crimes is so serious, and mounting evidence of wrongdoing is now so voluminous, that it would be an abdication of responsibility for the United States not to push this to the next level."

Army Documents Shed Light on CIA "Ghosting" (March 24, 2005)

The Washington Postreports that previously classified Army files show how senior intelligence officials allowed CIA "ghost detainees" in US-run Iraq prisons such as Abu Ghraib, and helped hide these detainees from the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations. This article unveils several points of abuse and human rights violations, indicating that such practices were more common than abnormal.

Shamed US to Hand Over Abu Ghraib Prison to Iraqis (March 10, 2005)

US forces will transfer control of Abu Ghraib and three other major detention facilities to Iraqi authorities. Iraq's Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin said the transfer will take place gradually after the formation of the new Iraqi government. A US army official noted earlier that the US would probably transfer high security detainees to a US facility at Baghdad's airport before the handover. (Guardian)

Prisoner Uprising In Iraq Exposes New Risk for US (February 21, 2005)

This Washington Postarticle details a January 2005 inmate riot at a US-run detention facility in the southern Iraqi desert near the Kuwaiti border. According to the article, US guards shot four inmates and injured six after clashes spread through five of eight compounds at Camp Bucca. Major General William Brandenburg, who oversees US military detention operations in Iraq, unveiled plans for a new maximum-security facility with segregated metal cells to hold some of the "harder-core" 5,150 Camp Bucca inmates.

Rumsfeld Sued Over Torture in Iraq and Afghanistan (March 1, 2005)

According to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should take the blame for detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two human rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit based on evidence beyond what the media revealed about Abu Ghraib, which implicates Rumsfeld for approving and having knowledge of torture and abuse. Critics say Rumsfeld had "command responsibility," a doctrine that places blame on high-ranking officials if their orders could violate national or international law. (Inter Press Service)

Abu Ghraib Abuse Firms Are Rewarded (January 16, 2005)

Peter Beaumont of the Observerreports that the Pentagon awarded valuable new contracts to the two major defense contractors implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. CACI International, which employed almost half of all interrogators and analysts at the prison, and Titan, the other contractor, both received awards totaling $180 million.


Torture's Path (December 22, 2004)

In 2002, Alberto Gonzales, acting as Chief Counsel for President Bush, advocated and acknowledged the use of various interrogation methods involving torture of Iraqi detainees. The memo documenting the discussions laid out guidelines for interrogations does not consider "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment as constituting torture. (Newsweek)

Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Reported after Abu Ghraib Disclosures (December 8, 2004)

A Defense Intelligence Agency memorandum reports mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison and includes testimonies of intelligence officials who witnessed prisoners with burn marks on their backs amongst other forms of abuse. Other military interrogators threatened the officials and confiscated their photos. A Pentagon spokesman said the incidents are "under investigation." (New York Times)

US Generals in Iraq Were Told of Abuse Early, Inquiry Finds (December 1, 2004)

Retired Colonel Stuart A. Herrington's report on detainee abuse at the military prison of Abu Ghraib finds that army generals in Iraq knew of prisoner abuse more than a month before army investigators launched an official inquiry into detainee mistreatment. Herrington condemns the practice of keeping "ghost detainees" hidden away from humanitarian organizations and warns that US maltreatment of prisoners has fueled the Iraqi insurgency. (Washington Post)

Rewriting the Geneva Convention (November 13, 2004)

The US has violated the Geneva Convention, which forbids "individual or mass forcible transfers […] of protected persons from occupied territory," by taking prisoners out of Iraq for interrogation. In an attempt to confer legality upon its actions, the White House ordered the Justice Department to issue a memorandum defining the status of such "protected persons". The result is a very disturbing exception to "an all-encompassing right." (Boulder Daily Camera)

Clash Over Prisoners Exposes Power Struggle (September 23, 2004)

Differences between the statements of Iraqi ministers and US officials concerning the release of two hostages being held in Iraq have once again exposed the limited power of the Iraqi interim government. Although the US occupation forces have officially handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi government, Iraqi officials' decision-making powers remain severely restricted. (Guardian)

Goodbye, Geneva: It's Time to Rewrite the Laws of War (August 24, 2004)

Two reports on detainee abuses and two lesser-known reports on collective arrests and torture in Iraq strongly indicate changing methods of war. Both the US and its "enemies" defend their illicit actions "on grounds of necessity." Their use of "unconventional war tactics" raises questions about the applicability of international law in modern-day warfare. (Slate)

Iraq's Child Prisoners (August 1, 2004)

The Sunday Heraldcontends that widespread arrests and detention of Iraqi children by US and UK forces continues in Iraq. The report suggests that over 100 children remain detained in jails throughout Iraq, with information of the children's identity, whereabouts, and the duration of detention unknown.

UN Says Abu Ghraib Abuse Could Constitute War Crime (June 4, 2004)

Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan stated that the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers represented a grave breach of international law and "might be designated as war crimes by a competent tribunal." Ramcharan called for the appointment of an international commissioner to report on "compliance by coalition forces with international norms of human rights and humanitarian law." (New York Times)

An American in The Hague? (June 10, 2004)

According to the doctrine of "command responsibility," US officials might be legally responsible for the torture in Abu Ghraib prison and other war crimes. The article suggests that if the US refuses to accept for itself the same standards of international law that it applies to others, it will have difficulty prosecuting foreign war criminals in the future. (New York Times)

The Other Prisoners (May 20, 2004)

A Guardianinvestigation reveals that a December 2003 note smuggled out of Abu Ghraib from a woman Iraqi prisoner led to the secret inquiry conducted by US Major General Antonio Taguba. The note claimed that US guards raped, abused and tortured women detainees, and that several of the women were now pregnant. The Taguba report confirmed the letter "was entirely and devastatingly accurate."

Bremer Knew (May 19, 2004)

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Spokesperson Nada Doumani claims that senior CPA officials, including Chief Administrator Paul Bremer, knew of the human rights abuses occurring at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere throughout Iraq. Doumani asserts that reports of abuse and torture of detainees passed through the CPA "on a weekly basis, often with few responses forthcoming." (Al-Ahram)

The Gray Zone (May 15, 2004)

Seymour Hersh investigates a US Defense Department secret operation giving "blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate 'high value' targets" in Iraq. Hersh contends that Washington encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency. (New Yorker)

Iraqi Families Win Right to Challenge Government (May 11, 2004)

The British High Court has ruled that relatives of 12 Iraqi prisoners, who were allegedly killed by British troops in Southern Iraq, can challenge the government's refusal to hold independent inquiries into the deaths. The families' lawyer argues that the deaths are subject to the European convention on human rights because the southern part of Iraq was under British occupation at the time of the killings. (Guardian)

Chain of Command (May 9, 2004)

Seymour Hersh investigates the allegations of abuse and torture by US military and intelligence personnel at Abu Ghraib prison and examines how the Department of Defense responded to the charges. Hersh argues that statements by the US Department of Defense that "the investigation into Abu Ghraib had moved routinely through the chain of command" are baseless, noting that knowledge of the abuse of detainees "had been severely, and unusually, restricted." (New Yorker)

UN Committee Could Investigate US, Britain (May 8, 2004)

The US may face an international investigation into the allegations of torture of detainees held in Iraq. The UN Committee Against Torture meeting in Geneva will discuss whether member states are abiding by the Geneva Convention. ( Deutsche Welle)

Torture Commonplace, Say Inmates' Families (May 3, 2004)

Former inmates at Abu Ghraib prison recount numerous cases of abuse, torture and public humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers. The inmates also give detailed accounts of detainees kept in the prison cells naked while US soldiers posed for pictures. (Guardian)

US Military in Torture Scandal (April 30, 2004)

Six US soldiers are charged with abusing and sexually humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and a US General is under investigation. The soldiers defend their actions, claiming they were acting in part under orders of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon. (Guardian)

Torture at Abu Ghraib (April 30, 2004)

A February 2004 report by US Major General Antonio M. Taguba reveals that soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company and members of the US intelligence community engaged in a "systematic and illegal abuse of detainees." Furthermore, the report claims numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib prison between October and December 2003. (New Yorker)


US Detentions of Iraqis May Violate International Law (June 30, 2003)

Amnesty International has gathered evidence detailing US violations of international law in Iraq. It alleges that the US military has subjected Iraqi prisoners to ''cruel, inhuman or degrading'' conditions at detention centers in Baghdad. (Associated Press)

Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 10: Management of Detention and Prison Facilities (June 8, 2003)

CPA Administrator Paul Bremer issued this order placing all prison and detention centers in Iraq under the authority of Iraq's Ministry of Justice. Claiming UN Security Council Resolution 1483 as justification, the order asserts Bremer's overall "authority, direction and control" and calls for the implementation of "fundamental standards applicable to the operation of all prison and detention facilities."

The Geneva Conventions and Prisoners of War (March 24, 2003)

This Crimes of Wararticle discusses the legal rights of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The US and Iraq have each accused the other of breaching the Conventions by showing TV footage of prisoners. This article exposes the hypocrisy of both sides' allegations.

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