Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Iraq / Torture

Who's Talking about Torture in Iraq?
By Chris Ames
The Guardian, April 27, 2010
"A new report from Amnesty International highlights human rights abuses in present-day Iraq, mainly by armed groups, and the failure of the Iraqi authorities to take effective action to stop such abuses. It comes a week after revelations about a secret prison under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi prime minister, where detainees were allegedly tortured. How concerned is the UK government about these issues? Concerned mainly to play them down, it appears. Last Monday the Los Angeles Times reported that: 'Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of prime minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured.' The existence of the prison is not disputed, and the allegations of abuse -- including the death of one detainee -- were apparently substantiated by an internal US embassy report. The report received very little coverage in Britain. I asked the Foreign Office if it had any comment, or had taken up the allegations with the Iraqi government. A spokesman said the FCO would not make a statement because of pre-election purdah ...
It isn't surprising that the British government is reluctant to criticise its Iraqi counterpart directly. It took part in a war that it now largely justifies on the basis of overthrowing a brutal dictator and bringing democracy to the country instead. That democracy is now in chaos. For the most part the abuses in Amnesty's new report, Iraq -- Civilians Under Fire, are not alleged to be the direct responsibility of the Iraqi government but carried out by armed groups and others. The authorities are, however, criticised for their response: 'In particular, the authorities have failed to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into many attacks on and other violent crimes against civilians, and a climate of impunity continues to prevail. In the case of violence against women and girls, and attacks on men perceived to be gay, the climate of impunity is underpinned by Iraqi legislation and jurisprudence, which provides for lenient punishment for attackers who are deemed to have acted in defence of 'honour'.' [...]"

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