Global Policy Forum

UN Exec Decries Illegal Iraq Detainees


By Alexander G. Higgins

Associated Press
April 21, 2006

Some 15,000 detainees are being held in Iraq by government ministries in violation of Iraqi law, and nearly as many are being held by U.S.-led multinational forces, a senior U.N. official said Friday. Only the country's justice ministry is permitted to hold detainees for longer than 72 hours, but Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Baghdad, said most Iraqi-held detainees are under the control of other government officials, naming Iraq's interior and defense ministries in particular.

"Those are still in the thousands and would be not in a situation which is in line with Iraqi law," he said at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva. Magazzeni, who took over the post in mid-February, was visiting Geneva and said he was on his way back to Baghdad. It was unclear where Magazzeni obtained his figures for detainees held by the Iraqi government. He said the 14,222 detainees being held by multinational forces in Iraq at the end of February for "imperative reasons of security" also is "way too high."

"We're working very closely with them (the U.S.-led multinational forces) to try to see that number brought down in a very substantive way." The United States said in February it was holding nearly 14,390 detainees at four major prisons including Abu Ghraib. The figure did not include people picked up and held at local jails for investigation. Magazzeni said those detainees should be brought before an Iraqi judge and be found guilty or be released if they are innocent, Magazzeni said. He also said cases of torture and summary execution "are happening every day."

He said his office also was receiving reports of an increasing number of attacks by death squads and militias, which have at least the appearance of being police or official units. Sectarian tensions have been running high in Iraq since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, which was followed by reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques and clerics.

Magazzeni also said the Iraqi Central Criminal Court, which handles serious crimes, has sentenced to death an Iraqi convicted of the 2003 truck bombing that killed 22 people in the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. The U.S. military said in December that Iraq had issued an arrest warrant naming Mullah Halgurd al-Khabir as the "prime suspect" in the U.N. bombing. Magazzeni did not name the person he said was convicted, and it was unclear if he was talking about al-Khabir.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on Torture and Prison Abuse in Iraq
More Information on the UN Role in Iraq


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