U.S. accused of extensive abuse in Iraq

Amnesty International report looks at torture, detention without trial


LONDON --Amnesty International accused the United States and its allies yesterday of widespread abuses in Iraq, including torture and the continued detention of thousands of prisoners without charge or trial.

The accusations could fuel the debate over the treatment of detainees that flared after the publication of graphic photographs showing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad being mistreated by American guards.

More recently, British forces in Iraq have been criticized after videotapes showed British soldiers beating Iraqi youths after demonstrations in southern Iraq.

In its report, "Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq," Amnesty International also said the level of abuse by Iraqi forces since the handover of power in June 2004 was increasing.

The United States and its allies, the report said, have "established procedures which deprive detainees of human rights guaranteed in international law and standards."

"The record of these forces, including U.S. forces and their United Kingdom allies, is an unpalatable one," it said. In particular, coalition forces deny "detainees their right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court."

Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, the deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, described the way prisoners are detained as "arbitrary and a recipe for possible abuse."

At the end of November 2005, the report said, quoting coalition figures, more than 14,000 prisoners were held in Iraq: about 4,850 in Baghdad, 7,365 at Camp Bucca (near Basra, in southern Iraq), and more than 1,100 in the north, at Suleimaniya.

Responding to the report, the U.S. military said all its detainees were treated in accordance with international conventions and Iraqi law.

A British Foreign Office spokesman, speaking in return for anonymity under departmental rules, also denied the allegations. He said British forces in Iraq were holding 43 Iraqi prisoners under U.N. resolutions permitting detention of people deemed threatening to the security of coalition or Iraqi personnel.

All 43 were visited by the Red Cross and by Iraqi government officials, had their cases reviewed every month and had access to their lawyers and families, the spokesman said. Britain has about 8,000 soldiers in Iraq, mainly in the south. The Amnesty International report took particular issue with conditions in detention facilities run by Iraqis.

"Many cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in facilities controlled by the Iraqi authorities have been reported since the handover of power in June 2004," the report said.

"Among other methods, victims have been subjected to electric shocks or have been beaten with plastic cable. The picture that is emerging is one in which the Iraqi authorities are systematically violating the rights of detainees in breach of guarantees contained both in Iraqi legislation and in international law and standards."

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