New York Times: Iraqi police units, often infiltrated and even dominated by members of sectarian militias, continue to be linked to arbitrary arrests and to the torture, rape and sometimes death of detainees, the State Department reported Wednesday. The New York Times
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
WASHINGTON, March 8 Iraqi police units, often infiltrated and even dominated by members of sectarian militias, continue to be linked to arbitrary arrests and to the torture, rape and sometimes death of detainees, the State Department reported Wednesday.
“The vast majority of human rights abuses reportedly carried out by government agents were attributed to the police,” the department said of the situation in Iraq in a report that is part of its annual global human rights review.
The report says North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Zimbabwe, China and Cuba are among the worst rights violators.
It also describes serious problems in countries with close ties to the United States, citing flawed elections in Egypt, beatings and arbitrary arrests in Saudi Arabia and floggings in the United Arab Emirates.
The report asserts that rights conditions are worsening in Iran, a conclusion that comes as the Bush administration is pressing Iran in increasingly forceful terms to curb its nuclear ambitions and not to meddle in Iraq or support terrorists.
The report says repression in China has worsened, with “increased harassment, detention and imprisonment” of government critics, heightened media censorship, and violent suppression of some protests. Overall, it said, China’s record “remained poor.”
President Hu Jintao of China is scheduled to visit the White House next month.
The department is not mandated to review rights abuses in the United States, and the report makes no direct mention of rendition, the practice of sending terror detainees to third countries for questioning.
Amnesty International assailed the report for what it called this “glaring omission.” It noted that the report criticized detainee treatment in Egypt and Jordan, countries where the United States reportedly has sent detainees for interrogation.
For example, in Jordan, the report said, “The most frequently reported methods of torture included beating, sleep deprivation, extended solitary confinement, and physical suspension.”
The annual review credited Poland and Romania, which some reports have said have secret Central Intelligence Agency detention centers, with having tried to address human rights issues. But it said the Romanian police had mistreated detainees.
Barry F. Lowenkron, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, was asked about rendition a briefing. “Let me be clear,” he replied, “we do not send detainees to countries if we believe that they will be subjected to torture. That has been our policy.”
“In some countries that do not have full democratic practices, if we get solid assurances, and if there is precedent and we have precedented examples that have occurred, then we feel confident and we do it,” he said. “If we do not, we do not do it.”
The report discussed in detail reports of wide abuses by the Iraqi police and, to a lesser extent, by Iraq’s army. Police abuses, the report said, “included threats, intimidation, beatings, and suspension by the arms or legs, as well as the reported use of electric drills and cords and the application of electric shocks.”
In a climate of extreme violence, “reports increased of killings by the government or its agents that may have been politically motivated,” the report said.
It said that police units were often dominated by members of sectarian militias, which have sometimes abused their powers in pursuit of personal, party or sectarian goals.
Much in the review had been previously reported, but it added details and some follow-up.
It listed four serious incidents in which a total of more than 60 Iraqis had been detained by the police or by others wearing police uniforms and were found dead. Investigations promised by the Interior Ministry had not produced results, it said.
The report quoted a former Iraqi human rights minister, Bakhtiar Amin, as saying last month that Interior Ministry detention centers were “a theater of violations of human rights,” including systematic torture.
An Interior Ministry detention center in the Jadriya neighborhood of Baghdad was shut after it was discovered last November containing 169 detainees, mostly Sunnis, many of whom showed signs of torture.
An interagency inspection team subsequently established by the government found on Dec. 8 that a police building in Baghdad held 625 detainees “in conditions so crowded that detainees were unable to lie down at the same time.” News reports said several showed signs of severe torture.