Torture Hovers Over Poll - Inter Press Service - 12.16.2005

Torture Hovers Over Poll
Brian Conley and Omar Abdullah


BAGHDAD, Dec 15 (IPS) - Issues around torture will top the long list of problems a new government in Iraq will face after the election Thursday.

This time it is not allegations against U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib or other prisons, but against Iraqi police and militia seen as backed by the Shia-dominated interim government.

“People are doing the same as Saddam’s time and worse,” former prime minister Iyad Allawi recently told The Observer newspaper. “These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same thing.”

Allawi made these accusations against the backdrop of a recent U.S. raid that uncovered a torture centre in Western Iraq.

Torture and abuse were well known under Saddam, as Allawi reminded the international community, but they continue in the new Iraq as well. The Baghdad morgue has reported many cases of bodies being brought with wounds indicative of abuse.

Many dead are found abandoned in ditches, with their wrists in handcuffs.. Morgues have received bodies bearing wounds apparently from electric drills. Bodies are also found with cigarette burns, and several bear multiple abrasions from blows, or evidence of being hung by their hands or feet.

Few in Iraq doubt that the interim government detains and tortures people. Influential Sunnis and people on the street alike have complained to the central government about secret prisons all over Iraq — particularly in Baghdad.

Ali Shalal Abbas from the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons told IPS there are “over 200 secret prisons in Iraq, which operate under the control of various parties and ministries.”

Most of the prisons are believed to be under the command of the ministry of the interior. The Association members visited the UN office in Amman Nov. 20, and provided them with details of seven secret prisons, all supervised by the ministry of the interior.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari ordered an investigation into the prison discovered by U.S. forces early November. But it is unclear whether other secret facilities located in places such as the ministry of interior headquarters in Baghdad and at the prison in al-Kot and the al-Zober prison in Basra are being investigated.

It also appears unlikely the Iraqi government will expand its investigations to include other complaints of abuse and illegal detention by the Iraqi police.

Allawi’s accusations appear to be bearing out, but the former interim prime minister may have more than just the Sunni community’s interest at heart.

Allawi made the allegations only about the misdeeds of the interim Shia dominated government; he was silent on the misdeeds of his own earlier government.

Allawi was handpicked by the United States for the post of prime minister for the government formed after the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). He helped continue many CPA practices — including criminal abuse of human rights.

In July 2004 the Sydney Morning Herald alleged that during his time as prime minister Allawi “pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government.”

Iraqis are aware of Allawi’s murderous past. Many Sunnis oppose Allawi for his role in the raids on Fallujah. Shias hold Allawi responsible for the assault on Najaf. But although a Shia, he is seen as standing against sectarianism.

People also think now of the more murderous record of the last Shia-led government. “The United States, they brought many criminals to Iraq to run the government,” Ali Shalal Abbas told IPS. “These people don’t really care about Iraq, each one wants the best for his own party, his own group, not for Iraq.” Many Iraqis commonly say that the interim government arrived on American tanks.

Some Iraqis say these acts of torture only began with the American presence in Iraq. Many others see it as a continuation from the days of the Saddam regime. (END/2005)


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