Iraq Misses Deadline on Torture Probe

Iraq Misses Deadline on Torture Probe
December 1st, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq Misses Deadline on Torture Probe

Iraq Misses Deadline on Torture Probe
By HAMZA HENDAWI - Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) Iraq's government missed a two-week deadline
Wednesday to complete an investigation into torture allegations at an
Interior Ministry lockup, a probe which Amnesty International warned may
show a pattern of abuse of prisoners by government forces.
The Shiite-led government has insisted the claims are exaggerated;
nevertheless, the charges are discrediting U.S. efforts to restore human
rights in the country after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.
A Sunni Arab politician, Mohammed al-Mishehdani of the Sunni-led
National Council for National Dialogue, said simple cases of torture
reported in the past were never solved so he had few expectations for this
investigation, especially since a general election is due in two weeks.
"We think that the government is not serious in this matter because
it does not want to be dragged into controversy while the elections are
looming," he said.
The probe was launched after Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a
Shiite, disclosed on Nov. 15 that up to 173 detainees _ malnourished and
some showing signs of torture _ had been found in an Interior Ministry
building seized by U.S. troops two days earlier.
Al-Jaafari promised that a high-level committee would complete a
full investigation into conditions in Interior Ministry detention centers
nationwide within two weeks.
On Wednesday, however, Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Kamal said
the investigation was still under way. An aide to Deputy Prime Minister
Rowsch Nouri Shaways, a Kurd who is heading the committee, said more time
was needed.
A U.N. spokesman in Baghdad said the issue of alleged torture in
government detention centers was raised in meetings U.N. special envoy
Ashraf Jehangir Qazi held last week with al-Jaafari and President Jalal
Talabani, a Kurd.
"We take these allegations very seriously and we raise them all the
time," U.N. spokesman Said Arikat told The Associated Press. "But we haven't
seen any action in terms of results."
The failure to release results by the two-week deadline did not
surprise Sunni Arab politicians. They have long complained of mass arrests
and mistreatment of Sunni Arabs _ the group that forms the backbone of a
30-month-old insurgency _ by Iraq's Shiite-dominated security forces.
"We believe that the government is part of this case, so we do not
expect that it would try to reveal the truth," said Harith al-Obeidi, a
spokesman for the General Conference for the People of Iraq.
Amnesty International spokeswoman Nicole Choueiry said the
London-based rights group had repeatedly raised torture allegations with
Iraqi authorities since last year but knew of no major attempt to get to the
bottom of them.
"It's an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed urgently. This
month's discovery may be the tip of the iceberg," she said by telephone from
London, adding that Amnesty has called on the government to allow the United
Nations to investigate the claims.
After Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction were never found,
the Bush administration defended the war in part as a move to introduce
democracy and human rights in Iraq.
But photographs showing U.S. guards abusing Iraqi detainees in
Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison and what Iraqis see as the heavy-handed
manner of American troops have made many Iraqis skeptical of Washington's
Last weekend, former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular
Shiite, was quoted by the British newspaper The Observer as saying that
human rights abuses in Iraq were as bad as under Saddam and could get worse.

"We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are
being interrogated," he said. "A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed
in the course of interrogations."
But powerful Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim told the AP in an
interview Wednesday that the government did not sanction abuses. He blamed
Saddam loyalists and militant Muslims for the killings of Shiites and
"I don't believe that there is a single official in the Iraqi
government whether a Cabinet minister, a member of parliament or in the
presidency who accepts and condones the violation of human rights," said
al-Hakim, whose party _ Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
or SCIRI _ controls the Interior Ministry.
Iraq has in recent months been awash with reports of death squads
made up of militiamen linked to Shiite political parties who kidnap and kill
Sunni Arabs. Shiite politicians deny any part in the killings, but they have
triggered reprisals from the Sunnis. Hardly a day goes by without police
finding bodies of members of both communities.
SCIRI is linked to the Badr militia, widely blamed for the
assassination of Sunni Arabs.
"There are violations, mistakes, torture and beatings," said Ridha
Jawad Taqi, a senior SCIRI member. "But you must consider that this is a
place that's evolving from being a non-state to a state, and mistakes are
bound to happen."
He blamed the abuses on Saddam loyalists who he said have
infiltrated the Interior Ministry.
"They have succeeded in tarnishing the image of the government. The
government is no match for their expertise in psychological war," he said.