Global Policy Forum

Torture and Prison Abuse in Iraq


Prisoner at Camp Bucca
Picture Credit: David Furst Agence France Presse

In April 2004, the New Yorker magazine revealed the "systematic and illegal abuse of detainees," including torture and degrading treatment, by US interrogators and guards at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. Since then, many reports have established US mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, and published hundreds of gruesome photographs taken by prison guards. These reports (some produced by the Pentagon) have exposed the widespread abuse and torture of detainees and a number of deaths under detention and interrogation, as well as the hiding of prisoners from International Committee of the Red Cross inspectors.

World public opinion has condemned the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers as a war crime and a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions. Washington has attributed the events to bad apples and failed to accept responsibility or to hold seriously accountable mid- and high-level military officers and civilian officials, even though these people had established policies and issued orders that led directly to the abuses. Military courts have only tried and charged low-ranking individuals.

Abuses have taken place in detention sites under direct US authority, but also in detention centers administered by British forces and by the government of Iraq.

Also See GPF general page on Torture and Prison Abuse

GPF Perspectives

GPF Report on Iraq: Detention and Prisons (June 2007)

The US Coalition and its Iraqi government partners have held a large number of Iraqi citizens in security detention without charge or trial, in direct violation of international law. No Iraqi is safe from arbitrary arrest and the number of prisoners has risen greatly since 2003. More than thirty thousand detainees lack fundamental rights and they are kept in deplorable physical conditions, many for long periods. US commanders have turned over thousands of detainees to Iraqi authorities whose prisons seriously violate human rights standards.

GPF Report on Iraq: Prisoner Abuse and Torture (June 2007)

United States forces have criminally abused and tortured large numbers of Iraqi prisoners. Hundreds of Iraqis have suffered from this inhuman treatment and some have died as a direct result. Torture has taken place in many sites across Iraq , including central prisons like Abu Ghraib, secret interrogation centers and dozens of local facilities. Torture increasingly takes place in Iraqi prisons, apparently with US awareness and complicity.


Justice Department Gives Torturers a Pass (July 18, 2011)

The US Justice Department has announced that it will not investigate ninety-nine of the one hundred and one cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, will continue to be investigated. So-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques (amounting to torture) were approved in memoranda, issued in 2002, by the Office of Legal Counsel under President George W Bush. However, the memoranda have been found to be legally deficient and do not vindicate the perpetrators of torture. The double standard here becomes apparent as the US is critical of other governments providing immunity from prosecution to torturers but continues to provide immunity to torturers in the US. (Other Words)

United States: Investigate Bush, Other Top Officials for Torture (July 11, 2011)

 A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report calls for criminal investigations into allegations of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senior officials authorized abuses, highlighting the alarming reality that the practice of torture under US President George W Bush was systemic and did not occur in isolated instances. HRW suggests that both the Bush and Obama administrations have used legal doctrines such as state secrets and official immunity to successfully keep courts from considering the merits of torture allegations in civil lawsuits. The US government is perceived as imposing double standards when US abuses escape accountability whilst justice is called for in places like Darfur, Libya, Syria and Sri Lanka. (Human Rights Watch)

Iraq Abuse Ruling By European Court Says UK Failed Human Rights Role (July 7, 2011)

A European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on July 7, 2011, in a case involving the killings of Iraqi civilians by UK soldiers, is a landmark judgment in the universal application of human rights. The ECHR said that the UK failed to carry out effective investigations into the killing of civilians in Iraq . The UK had argued that because the violations occurred in Iraq (and not within UK borders), human rights law did not apply and that applying them would constitute “human rights imperialism.” ECHR Judge Bonello was unimpressed by these arguments. The UK had imposed its military imperialism when intervening in Iraq in 2003 without international authority and, together with the US , occupied Iraq until the formation of the Iraqi interim government in 2004. According to Bonello, the UK’s flexible definition of imperialism “is like wearing with conceit your badge of international law banditry, but then recoiling in shock at being suspected of human rights promotion.”  The UK will now have to investigate the deaths of civilians in Iraq. (Guardian)

At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years after the US-Led Invasion (February 2011)

Human Rights Watch documents human rights abuses in Iraq committed by Iraqi, US and UK forces since the US invasion. The report is split into four sections: the first on abuse against women and girls, the second on restrictions on freedom of speech and violence against journalists, the third on torture of detainees, and the forth on the displacement of and violence against marginalized groups. Research was conducted in April 2010. (Human Rights Watch)

Iraq: Broken bodies, tortured minds: Abuse and neglect of detainees in Iraq (February 2011)

Amnesty International reviews torture in Iraq by Iraqi officials since the US invasion in 2004. It focuses primarily on the use of torture and its effect on victims and their families. Also discussed is sexual violence, poor conditions in Iraqi prisons, and deaths as a result of torture. The report is illustrated throughout by a number of photos and startling first-hand accounts by victims and family members. It concludes by describing ways readers can take action by contacting Iraqi and American officials. (Amnesty International)


'Rampant Abuse' in Iraq Jails (September 13, 2010)

Amnesty International released a report stating that approximately 30 000 people are being held in Iraqi jails without trials. With the end of the US combat mission in Iraq last month, US authorities, whose own record on detainees' rights was poor, have handed over thousands of people detained by US forces to the Iraqi justice system. The US maintains responsibility for a small section of "high-value" detainees in Karkh Prison, formerly Camp Cropper. (Al Jazeera)

Transfer of Prison in Iraq Marks Another Milestone (July 15, 2010)

The US handed over the last military prison in Iraq, Camp Cropper, to Iraqi officials on July 15, 2010. Custody over detainees has been one of the issues at the heart of the debate over the nature and extent of Iraqi sovereignty in the wake of US withdrawal and this transfer is certainly a step towards greater autonomy for Iraq. The facility has relatively humane conditions for its detainees at present. However it was originally a tented facility which denied Amnesty International access in 2003 - the improvements were largely a harried effort after the Abu Ghuraib abuse scandal became public. (New York Times)

Finally, a Torture Investigation (July 6, 2010)

Eighteen months into its term, the Obama administration has failed to deliver on its campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay and has not undertaken any inquiry into claims of torture and prison abuse by US officials. Meanwhile, the Conservative government in the UK has announced that it will launch an inquiry into the role of British officials in alleged prison abuse and torture committed as part of the War on Terror. Not all of the proceedings of the inquiry panel will be made public however, presumably to avoid compromising relations with the United States and US intelligence services. (Mother Jones)

Report Faults 2 Authors of Bush Terror Memos (February 20, 2010)

The Bush Administration lawyers who authored the infamous 'torture memos', providing legal justification for the use of brutal interrogation techniques including waterboarding, "exercised poor judgment" and flawed legal reasoning but were found not guilty of professional misconduct. The decision of the US Justice Department represents the end of a five year investigation into the conduct of Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo but largely ignores the recommendations of ethics lawyers in the Office of Professional Responsibility who sought to have the matter sent to State Bar disciplinary authorities for further action. (New York Times)


A Secret Detention Camp Run by US Military Intelligence... (September 27, 2009)

Recently released detainees have disclosed that they were held at a secret prison camp run by US intelligence in Iraq. The camp was in the al Mashru area in south Baghdad. Prisoners were subjected to many forms of physical and psychological tortures and held in crate-sized cells with no furniture or bedding. These reports correspond to accounts by other detainees from another prison in Balad, north of Baghdad.   (Al-Hayat/Mideastwire)

US General: Last 17 Detainees to be Handed Over to Iraqi Government (September 7, 2009)

According to General David Quantock, in charge of the US detention centers in Iraq, the US started handing over detainees to the Iraqi government three months ago. He also stated that the Camp Bucca detention center will be closed by mid-September. (Al-Hayat/Mideastwire)

Revealed: US Interrogators May Have Killed Dozens of Detainees (May 6, 2009)

As many as 98 detainees have been tortured to death in US hands, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those US officials responsible for these crimes have either walked free or received minimal sentences. One US officer only received 60 days of house arrest after beating an Iraqi to death. Furthermore, the US military have made great efforts to cover up such incidents, for example an Iraqi body was left out in the sun for hours so that the body would dissolve and therefore would be useless as medical evidence. (AlterNet)

US Says Iraqis May Still Be Held Without Charge (January 9, 2009)

Despite a bilateral pact, in which the US and Iraq agreed to either free Iraqi detainees or transfer them to Iraqi custody, US forces are still holding detainees without charge. The Multinational Force mandate, which allows the US to legally remain in Iraq and detain prisoners, expired on December 31, 2008. Iraqi officials say the US should either charge the detainees or release them immediately. However, the US military argues that some detainees might be high intelligence value which is why it might take until 2010 for the cases to be decided. (Commondreams)


MP Says Iraq Holds Thousands in Secret Prisons (October 31, 2008)

The number of Iraqi detainees in official US and Iraqi detention centers stands at 66,000 but Iraqi MP Mohammad Al-Dainy contends that this is only one quarter of the total number being held in Iraq. Al Dainy argues that Iraqi inmates suffer massive human rights violations in the hundreds of secret prison facilities throughout Iraq, many of which are jointly controlled by the US and Iraqi government. (Swissinfo)

Al Sadr Movement: 20,000 of Our Supporters in Prisons (October 31, 2008)

The US and Iraqi authorities are detaining an increasing number of Shia cleric Al-Sadr followers, of whom many suffer abuse in US and Iraqi prisons. Iraqi MP Salah Al-Obeidi suggests this increase in detentions is part of a US strategy to intimidate opponents of the Status of Forces Agreement. (Al-Hayat)

A Puzzle Over Prisoners as Iraqis Take Control (October 25, 2008)

The US military is considering with what to do with the estimated 17,000 Iraqi prisoners in Camp Bucca when its right to detain Iraqis expires at the end of the year. The US admits that at least 12,000 detainees in Camp Bucca were either mistakenly swept up or played minor roles in the insurgency. Many have been locked away for long periods. (New York Times)

Part III: Detention Has a Wide Destructive Impact: Forced Entry into the Mind (October 14, 2008)

The US detention system in Iraq functions as a tool to shape the beliefs and feelings of Iraqi detainees, making them more submissive towards the US. As no legal representation exists, prisoners awaiting release must react positively towards the US prison curriculum, which includes Islamic discussion classes, in order to appease the US military review board. (Truthout)

CIA Tactics Endorsed in Secret Memos (October 15, 2008)

The US government issued secret memos to the CIA which explicitly endorsed the agency's use of abusive interrogation techniques against Iraqi detainees. One such endorsed torture technique, waterboarding, involves strapping a prisoner to a board, covering his face and pouring water over his nose and mouth to simulate drowning. (Washington Post)

Part II: Detention Has a Wide Destructive Impact in Iraq: Society Undermined (October 12, 2008)

This Truthout article highlights the devastating economic impact of the US detention system on Iraqi families. Nearly all Iraqi men held in US detention facilities were employed prior to internment and had families to support. This loss of income puts families under great economic strain in a distressed economy and forces many families to seek assistance from international charities.

Part I: Detention Has a Wide Destructive Impact in Iraq: Two Million May be Affected (October 10, 2008)

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US military has captured about 200,000 Iraqis, 96,000 of which have been held in US detention facilities such as Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca. Internment of Iraqis has been an essential element of the occupation and the US continues to hold around 20,000 Iraqis, most of whom are denied legal rights. (Truthout)

Secrets of Iraq's Death Chamber (October 7, 2008)

This article highlights how the US and Iraqi detention centers commit grave human rights violations against Iraqi prisoners. For years the US-run Abu Ghraib prison failed to properly identify detainees, which resulted in many innocent people being locked away indefinitely. (Independent)

US Detentions: Reform Needed (September 12, 2008)

US officials claim that conditions in detention facilities in Iraq have improved considerably. But the US refuses to meet even the most basic standards of international law, such as a review process for all detainees. Representatives of Human Rights Watch and Global Policy Forum call for greater oversight of US detention facilities and insist that prisoners receive due process. (ISN Security Watch)

US Segregates Violent Iraqi Prisoners in Crates (August 7, 2008)

The US military holds Iraqi prisoners in small wooden boxes as a form of punishment. They confine detainees to these wooden cells, approximately 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 feet tall, for twelve hours at a time. Human rights groups have asked US authorities to disclose more information about the treatment of prisoners in these "segregation boxes." (CNN)

US Detains Hundreds of Youth Suspects in Iraq (May 19, 2008)

The US military holds more than 500 juveniles in detention centers in Iraq, according to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The occupation force has held at least 2,500 children in detention centers since 2002, including eight in Guantanamo Bay. The author notes that the detention of children in adult detention centers violates US obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as accepted international human rights norms. (Associated Press)

Iraqi Court Rulings Stop at US Detention Sites (May 17, 2008)

US forces continue to defy Iraqi law by detaining prisoners indefinitely, even after Iraqi courts declare defendants innocent. The US has not released any of the 3,000 detainees acquitted by the Iraqi tribunals. In response to the infinite detentions, US military officials claim these laws are designed to take fighters off the streets, not determine guilt or innocence. (Associated Press)

The "Surge" of Iraqi Prisoners (May 7, 2008)

Amid all the talk about the US military "surge" in Iraq, little has been said about the accompanying "surge" of Iraqi prisoners, whose numbers rose to nearly 51,000 at the end of 2007. Global Policy Forum's Ciara Gilmartin states that US forces hold nearly all detainees indefinitely without charge, an arrest warrant or the opportunity to defend themselves. Human rights monitors, including the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), are denied access to detention centers in Iraq by US officials. This lack of oversight not only increases the likelihood of detainee abuse, but also violates international human rights law. (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Letter to the Security Council on MNF Detention Practices in Iraq (April 28, 2008)

This Human Rights Watch (HRW) letter to UN Security Council members expresses concern that the Council-mandated Multinational Force is holding a large number of detainees in Iraq for lengthy periods without judicial review. HRW calls on the Security Council to insist that MNF practices conform to international human rights law.

Letter to the Security Council on the Issue of Detainees in Iraq (April 22, 2008)

On April 28, 2008 the Security Council will discuss Iraq and receive a report from the US on the Multinational Force (MNF). In anticipation of this debate, Global Policy Forum and International Federation for Human Rights call for greater attention to the extrajudicial and arbitrary detention of large numbers of Iraqis held by the MNF, including some 20,000 held in a vast prison camp in the southern desert.

Veto of Bill On CIA Tactics Affirms Bush's Legacy (March 9, 2008)

President Bush used his veto power against a bill that would limit the Central Intelligence Agency from using torture methods during interrogation, such as water-boarding. Already the eighth veto power exercised in just ten months with Democrats in control of Congress, he solidified his legacy of fighting for the expansion of executive power. President Bush justified the veto by citing the continued threat of terrorism and ignored testimonies from the FBI and military officials that confirmed torture produces unreliable intelligence. (New York Times)

Thousands of New Prisoners Overwhelm Iraqi Prison System (February 14, 2008)

According to this New York Times article, the number of detainees in Iraq has increased with the rising number of US troops, straining the already over-crowded Iraqi prison system. At the Rusafa detention center alone, 6,647 detainees had been captured since the American force was increased and 6,079 of them had not been found guilty of any crime, leading to human rights violations. Furthermore, the US Justice Department-established program, the Iraq Corrections Program, instigates sectarian violence by specifically appointing Shiite guards to watch over Sunni prisoners.

US Army Rejects Court Martial of Abu Ghraib Commander (January 11, 2008)

The US army has thrown out one of the only convictions made in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan now faces a mere criminal reprimand, the lightest punishment possible, for violating a gag order on the investigation. Human rights advocates claim the decision fails to address accountability and does not hold higher-level military officials responsible for their role in the Abu Ghraib scandal. (Guardian)


Lawyers Take MoD to Court Over Iraqi Mutilation Claims (October 18, 2007)

Lawyers acting for relatives of Iraqi detainees who died while in British custody ask the High Court to order an independent investigation. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) refuses to launch an investigation into the allegations and denies that British soldiers abused Iraqi detainees. Lawyers for the families point to witness statements, death certificates and videos of Iraqis with serious injuries including genital mutilation, gouged-out eyes and bruises consistent with being punched and kicked. They argue that the British government has a duty to investigate claims of deliberate wrongdoing. (Guardian)

Congress Seeks Secret Memos on Interrogation (October 5, 2007)

The US Justice Department prepared secret memos in 2005 authorizing CIA interrogation techniques such as head slapping and simulated drowning. Human rights groups argue the two memos demonstrate Washington's willingness to blur definitions of torture to justify practices in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Washington claims the authorized tactics do not breach anti-torture legislation or international law. However, Congress demands access to the documents and is troubled that the memos were created in secret. (Washington Post)

Why the Pentagon Doesn't Want Me to Testify About Abu Ghraib (September 10, 2007)

A witness to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib says that the US military imposed a gag order on him and reduced his rank so that he would remain silent about the abuse. Sam Provance, an intelligence analyst at the prison in 2003, saw detainees dragged into interrogation rooms. He says that investigations into the abuse failed to account for senior officers who ordered the interrogation techniques and instead singled out and blamed soldiers at the bottom of the chain of command. (AlterNet)

Documents Show Troops Disregarding Rules (September 4, 2007)

The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained documents from legal proceedings against US military officers charged with committing crimes against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents reveal that troops believe their actions are “appropriate, approved, standard and lawful. The 22 incidents include the drowning of an Iraqi man who was pushed from a bridge after breaking curfew and the suffocation of a former Iraqi general during an interrogation using an approved technique.The documents shed light on war crimes in Iraq that are typically kept from public knowledge. (Associated Press)

Marines Trials in Iraq Killings Are Withering (August 30, 2007)

A US soldier faces trial for the massacre of 18 Iraqis in Haditha in 2005 as a military court dismisses indictments against other marines. Defense lawyers in the Haditha prosecutions argue "the killings should be viewed in the context of combat against an enemy that ruthlessly employs civilians as cover...and murder charges against marines could harm the morale of troops still in Iraq."? Lieutenant General James N Mattis, whose decisions in the Haditha prosecutions are final, has expressed sympathy for other enlisted marines whom he cleared of wrongdoing in relation to Haditha. Legal commentators are concerned that no marine will be convicted for the massacre. (New York Times)

The Abu Ghraib Cases: Not Yet Over (August 29, 2007)

A US Military Court has convicted the sole US military officer to face charges for crimes relating to Abu Ghraib prison abuse. The officer was convicted of failing to obey an order after he was acquitted of more serious charges relating to cruelty and maltreatment of prisoners. Legal experts and human rights activists argue the case demonstrates the failings of the US military in prosecuting officers in the war's most prominent abuse scandal. While two private contractors who worked in the prison may face prosecution for their role in abuse, the US government has charged only low-ranking soldiers with a total of 11 soldiers being convicted. The Pentagon insists that none of the senior officers at Abu Ghraib were involved in the abuse of prisoners. (Time)

Lawyers Accuse MoD of Retaining Evidence on Abused Iraqi Detainees (August 22, 2007)

Lawyers call for an independent public inquiry into orders given by the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) to soldiers to use conditioning techniques on Iraqi prisoners. The MoD refuses to provide information to the British High Court in a case regarding the death of an Iraqi prisoner and the abuse of ten other Iraqi civilians. Legal commentators believe the information being withheld by the MoD will reveal that British soldiers were ordered to ignore a prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and to adopt techniques of hooding, stressing, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and noise to extract intelligence from detainees. (Guardian)

"Surge" Has Led to More Detainees (August 15, 2007)

Under the US "surge" strategy in Baghdad, the number of detainees held in Iraq has increased and will continue to rise substantially. Approximately 60,000 security detainees are held in Iraqi prisons and the US only releases a small percentage of prisoners due to a lack of charges or evidence. The review and release process in Iraq is criticized as inefficient. (Washington Post)

Iraqi Jails in Appalling Condition (July 21, 2007)

Since the Baghdad Security Plan began in February 2007, Iraq's detention centers have seen a huge influx of prisoners alleged criminals and innocent individuals alike. Some facilities house more than three times their capacity, forcing inmates to live in crowded, unsanitary conditions and with little access to proper healthcare. Yet US and Iraqi officials maintain that the prisons meet international standards and comply with [national] laws. (Los Angeles Times)

The General's Report (June 25, 2007)

In this New Yorker article, Seymour Hersh describes how Major General Anthony Taguba was treated as a pariah by the Pentagon after he investigated torture at Abu Ghraib and wrote a strong report about it. Taguba's career was ruined and he was eventually forced to retire.

Human Rights Law Applies in Iraq Killing, Lords Rule (June 13, 2007)

Ruling on the death of an Iraqi civilian in British custody, the House of Lords declared that, indeed, UK's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights apply to British troops in Iraq. The decision means that the Human Rights Act protects anyone held in British custody abroad and grants a right to life, a right not to be tortured and the right to access to a fair trial. (Guardian)

Human Rights in Iraq: A Case to Answer (May 29, 2007)

The Independent reports that British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith told UK soldiers that they were not bound by the Human Rights Act, which bans torture and abuse of prisoners, when handling Iraqi detainees. By suggesting that UK troops should take a pragmatic approach, Lord Goldsmith has helped to establish a permissive environment for human rights violations in Iraq. The UK Court of Appeal has ruled that Iraqi detainees and British soldiers are subject to the Human Rights Act, and a decision over this case will be made by the end of 2007. Human rights groups have prepared legal claims, however so far most of the crimes committed by British troops remain unpunished.

ICRC Still Seeking Access to Iraqi-Run Prisons (May 24, 2007)

Jakob Kellenberger, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is not optimistic about coming to an agreement with Iraqi officials over the organization's access to 20,000 prisoners in Iraqi jails. These detention centers allegedly torture Sunni inmates. The ICRC visited Guantanamo Bay over 40 times and Kellenberg states that its interventions improved conditions and treatment of inmates. (Reuters)

Kidnap and Torture: New Claims of UK Army War Crimes in Iraq (May 18, 2007)

In April 2007 an English soldier was tried and convicted of mistreating Iraqi civilians. Fouad Awdah Al-Saadoon, the former chairman of the Red Crescent in Basra, claims that he was severely beaten by British soldiers because they thought he was a prominent member of the Ba'ath party. These are the first of many impending cases that implicate the British Army in the systemic abuse stemming from high-ranking military officials. (Independent)

New Detainees Strain Iraq's Jails (May 15, 2007)

The number of prisoners in Iraq is increasing sharply due to the Baghdad Security Plan. The US has taken an additional 3,000 Iraqis into custody since January, raising to 19,500 the total number of its detainees. Further, Iraqi authorities are forcing hundreds of Iraqis into overcrowded facilities and holding untried detainees alongside criminal convicts. The Iraqi judicial system cannot cope with the huge flood of detainees and Iraqis have to wait weeks before their cases are heard. According to a UN official, detainees have also regularly reported ill treatment and abuse in Iraqi-run prisons. Although Iraqi officials characterize the mistreatments as an aberration, human rights groups say this is a systemic problem. (Washington Post)

US Holds 18,000 Detainees in Iraq (April 15, 2007)

This Washington Post article reveals that with the new Baghdad Security Plan, the US has arrested another 1,000 Iraqis, raising to 18,000 the number of detainees in US custody. According to military contracting documents, this number could reach 20,000 by the end of the year 2007. However, the martial law issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does not grant the US the authority to detain Iraqis, leaving the responsibility to the Iraqi government. Further, the detainees’ status is unclear as Washington does not consider them as prisoners of war, but as “enemy combatants� instead. Despite the many prison scandals in Iraq, the US continues to conduct arbitrary arrests and hold Iraqi citizens in detention without due process.


ICRC Says Near Accord with Iraq on Detainee Visits (November 30, 2006)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is quite confident that Iraqi authorities will allow ICRC officials to interview the 16,000 prisoners in Iraqi-run detention centers, following new allegations of torture against detainees. The Iraqi-held prisoners have so far been out of the reach of the humanitarian agency, despite international laws that mandate their access to prisoners. According to a United Nations report, there are nearly 30,000 detainees in Iraq, with half of these being held by coalition forces. (AlertNet)

Final Report of the Mental Health Advisory Team (November 17, 2006)

A Pentagon report compiled by the Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) reveals the worsening behavioral health condition of US soldiers. Crippling illnesses like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder afflict soldiers, but this consequently affects Iraqi civilians. The survey revealed that more than a third of the troops condone the torturing of Iraqis, less than half believe Iraqi civilians deserve dignified treatment which adds up to a vast number of humanitarian breaches.

The Army 'Approved Abuse of Prisoners' (November 17, 2006)

During the court martial of seven British soldiers, charged with the ill-treatment of nine Iraqi prisoners in Basra in 2003, the UK army's high command was accused of violating the Geneva Conventions. The allegations suggest that British intelligence and legal advisers authorized the use of "conditioning" techniques, including putting prisoners in stress positions and hooding them, despite such practices' violation of international law. Whilst army officials investigate whether the abuse was widespread and systematic throughout army ranks, the British military concedes that the allegations reveal alarming parallels to those against US troops at the Abu Ghraib detention center in Baghdad. (Times)

The Unlearned Lessons of Abu Ghraib (October 19, 2006)

A new law that attempts to clarify the US government's position on the proper treatment of detainees in custody shows that the Bush administration and the US Congress have learnt nothing from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. The law provides no criminal responsibility for those who practice aggressive interrogation techniques, even though such techniques breach the Geneva Conventions. This Washington Post piece analyzes the events that led to the human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib, including the confusion within military ranks about what constitutes acceptable behavior and the use of civilian contractors to interrogate detainees.

New Leaders, Similar Story at Iraq's Abu Ghraib (September 17, 2006)

Detainees of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad claim routine torture continues to prevail after the handover of control in September 2006 from US troops to Iraq's Ministry of Justice. Human rights organizations have been denied access to detainees. As this OneWorld article reveals, US police advisers, employed to supervise law enforcement in Iraq, have turned a blind eye to these rampant abuses, leaving Iraqi officials unaccountable for their actions.

Child Prisoners Left Without Support (July 30, 2006)

This Integrated Regional Information Networks article focuses on the plight of nearly 200 child detainees in Iraqi- and US-run prisons. Local and international human rights organizations describe cases where the US has falsely held children as young as 14 for up to two years, and then released them without assistance or psychological support. The article also highlights the illegality of detaining children and adults in the same facility.

Soldiers Tell of Detainee Abuse in Iraq (July 23, 2006)

This Human Rights Watch report details how abuses against Iraqi detainees in US custody continued after the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal. In the 53-page document, soldiers describe how they routinely subjected prisoners to severe beatings, sleep deprivation and various forms of degrading and humiliating treatment. The accounts reveal that the military chain of command apparently authorized such methods as part of the well established detention and interrogation processes in Iraq from 2003 through 2005.

US Forces Kidnapped Family Members of Terror Suspects (July 14, 2006)

US forces in Iraq have systematically detained Iraqi prisoners' family members in an attempt to force the suspects to talk. Corporal Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader at Abu Ghraib, told investigators that kidnapping was the other big Geneva Convention violation going on at the prison. In response, Congress has demanded that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hand over documents that could substantiate such allegations. (Salon)

Pentagon Details Abuse of Iraq Detainees (June 16, 2006)

The Pentagon has released a report detailing allegations of abuse of Iraqi detainees by US special operations forces. In some incidents, dating to 2003 and 2004, interrogators fed Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner. The report, with many portions blacked out, concludes that the detainees' treatment was wrong but not illegal demonstrating that the US government refuses to take the investigation of detainee abuse seriously. (Associated Press)

NGO Letter to the Security Council (May 19, 2006)

A group of 27 NGOs points out that the US-led Multinational Force (MNF) in Iraq has seriously violated international law, including bans on the use of torture, illegal detentions, siege tactics against population centers, and "indiscriminate and especially injurious" weapons. Furthermore, the MNF is responsible for failing to address patterns of corruption and mismanagement in Iraq's development fund and reconstruction programs. Citing numerous official reports and legal texts, the letter urges Council members to "substantially reconsider, revise or terminate" the MNF's mandate to bring it into conformity with international law. (Global Policy Forum)

UN Exec Decries Illegal Iraq Detainees (April 21, 2006)

According to Gianni Magazzeni, the UN Human Rights chief in Iraq, the US-led multinational forces and the Iraqi government are each holding roughly 15,000 detainees in violation of Iraqi law, and torture continues everyday. While Iraqi law permits only the Justice Ministry to hold detainees for longer than 72 hours, thousands of prisoners remain under the control of Iraq's Interior and Defense Ministries. As for prisoners under US custody, Magazzeni has requested that the US turn them over to an Iraqi judge to be sentenced or released if not found guilty. (Associated Press)

General to Testify in New Abu Ghraib Trial (April 18, 2006)

Major General Geoffrey Miller has been called to testify in the trial of an Army dog handler accused of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, making him the highest-ranked officer to be questioned over the use of torture and abuse at the infamous prison. Miller, who commanded the Guantanamo Bay detention center before relocating to Abu Ghraib, introduced the use of dogs and several other aggressive interrogation techniques to the military's interrogation policies in Iraq. While military tribunals have begun moving up the chain of command, few officers have been sentenced, and a military judge denied a request to subpoena Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his role in torture and abuse. (Associated Press)

Blair Envoy Reveals Plight of Iraqis Lost in Jail Maze (April 9, 2006)

Numerous Iraqis detained by coalition forces have disappeared into a black hole. According to Ann Clwyd, a British MP and Human Rights Envoy to Prime Minister Tony Blair, detainee disappearances and missing prison records reflect broader patterns of torture and abuse in Iraq. Despite increasing criticism of disappearances and prison conditions, US officials have not addressed the allegations and the number of detainees continues to rise. (Observer)

By the Numbers (April 2006)

According to a study by Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the NYU School of Law, torture and abuse in Iraq has been more widespread than generally reported. Of the 330 documented cases of torture and abuse by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 220 took place in Iraq. Overall, more than 1,000 individual criminal acts of abuse have been recorded, involving 600 US military and CIA officials, and 460 detainees. The US has failed to investigate the full extent of abuse, and only a fraction of the implicated personnel have faced disciplinary action.

Iraq Abuse Trial Is Again Limited to Lower Ranks (March 23, 2006)

The US military sentenced Sergeant Michael J. Smith, an Army dog handler, to six months in prison for his role in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. As with other torture-related trials, the military failed to sentence senior officers stationed at Abu Ghraib, and in some cases did not even question high ranking officials responsible for the military's detention and interrogation policy. According to Smith's testimony, the interrogation procedures at Abu Ghraib were sanctioned by chief intelligence officer Colonel Thomas Pappas, who in turn was following the guidance of Guantanamo Bay military commander Major General Geoffrey Miller, whose recommendations helped "set the conditions" for prisoner interrogation. While Pappas was granted immunity in return for his testimony, Miller was never called to testify. (New York Times)

In Secret Unit's Black Room, a Grim Portrait of US Abuse (March 19, 2006)

The US military's Task Force 6-26, an elite commando group established after 9/11 to fight the war on terror, converted an Iraqi government building into one of their own torture chambers where thousands of Iraqi detainees were subjected to brutal interrogation techniques. Unlike the rotten apples at Abu Ghraib, soldiers from Task Force 6-26 are among the military's most highly-trained Special Forces. Because of their highly secretive nature, and the classified status of their operations, the extent of abuse and torture remains unclear. (New York Times)

NGO Letter to the Security Council on Iraq (March 14, 2006)

On the eve of the Security Council's quarterly discussion on the situation in Iraq, a group of NGOs has written the Council to voice their concern. Several disturbing reports have been released by Secretary General Kofi Annan, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and human rights organizations. These reports have highlighted significant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, especially in the area of detention practices. In response, the NGOs ask the Council to break its pattern of pro forma review, "accept its responsibility" and "substantially review the mandate it has given to the MNF."

Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq (March 2006)

According to Amnesty International, the US-led occupation forces continue to use torture in Iraq. The US and UK have ignored their obligations under international law and have “attached insufficient weight to human rights considerations.� Iraqi detainees are held without trial or sentence, and Iraqi authorities have continued a pattern initiated by the US in systematically violating detainees’ rights. Any allegations of abuse, the report argues, must be subject to swift, thorough, and independent investigation, and all officials involved in torture and abuse must be brought to justice.

Tortured Logic (February 28, 2006)

According to former US Army interrogator Anthony Lagouranis, mid- and low-level officials have shouldered all responsibility for prison abuse in Iraq, despite signals from high level officials justifying the use of torture. Interrogators routinely use dogs, hypothermia, and other “enhancements� while interrogating prisoners, despite clear violations of international law. Colonel Thomas Pappas, the top intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, admitted authorizing such techniques without regard for the Geneva Conventions. Though US President George Bush has signed legislation banning torture, he asserts the right to interpret the legislation "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the president" as justification for the continued use of torture. (New York Times)

Former UN Human Rights Chief in Iraq Says US Violating Geneva Conventions, Jailing Innocent Detainees (February 28, 2006)

In this interview, former United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) human rights chief John Pace discusses sectarian violence, US military operations, and the legality of the war. According to Pace, ongoing US military operations have led to widespread civilian displacement and destruction, and along with the rise in sectarian militias contribute most to instability in Iraq. Furthermore, US detentions violate the Geneva Conventions and as many as 90 percent of all Iraqi prisoners are innocent. “Normalization,� Pace says, cannot go forward in Iraq so long as the US military occupation remains. (Democracy Now!)

Local NGO Documents Prisoner Abuse (February 20, 2006)

In just six weeks of operation, the Prisoners Association for Justice, an Iraqi NGO established to assist former detainees, has received 125 reports of prison abuse, including sexual humiliation, psychological manipulation, and severe physical abuse. Officials have struggled to track abuse, as the US, the UK, and various Iraqi Ministries each oversee various prisons and detention centers. Iraqi officials have requested control of all Iraqi prisons, citing their inability to control torture and abuse in prisons under US and UK control. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Outrage Spreads over New Images (February 16, 2006)

The Australian Special Broadcasting Service aired previously unseen images of US troops torturing and sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. In addition, British troops were videotaped beating Iraqi teenagers in the southern city of Amarah in 2003. Iraqi citizens have expressed outrage over the images, while the Governate of Basra has severed ties with the British military. (Inter Press Service)



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