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International outcry greets allegations of police abuse

by : Ewen MacAskill and Rory McCarthy
Friday November 18, 2005 - 23:14
2 comments

 Ministers launch inquiry after detainees found
 Shia paramilitaries now control force, say Sunnis

by Ewen MacAskill and Rory McCarthy in Beirut Michael Howard

Seif Saad, an Iraqi guard, showed no remorse yesterday for the detention and alleged abuse of 173 prisoners in Baghdad. "We placed sacks on their heads and tied their hands behind their backs," he said of their arrests, but, as far as he was concerned, they were suspected terrorists.

He was standing in a watchtower overlooking the ministry of the interior building where the detainees were held. The cells were found at the weekend by US forces and the discovery of the prisoners - and the allegations of torture - have provoked an international outcry.

The Iraqi police force is now subject to intense scrutiny. The main charge is that the police have been infiltrated by Shia Muslim paramilitaries - in particular the Iranian-backed Badr Brigades - who have targeted Iraq’s minority Sunni community, from which the insurgency arose.

Since a new Iraqi government was established in the spring, several accounts have emerged of arrests, abuse and extrajudicial killings by paramilitary forces linked to the ministry and dominated by Shia Muslims operating in squads with names such as the Scorpions and the Wolf Brigade. Almost all the incidents have had a sectarian edge.

Mr Saad, 18, a former labourer with no police training, denied the arrests were religiously motivated. He told a Reuters reporter the suspects had been brought in for questioning in connection with bombings, regardless of whether they were Sunni, Shia or Kurd. The reporter said Mr Saad wore a special forces uniform resembling that of a Shia paramilitary group.

US forces said they had been hunting for a missing youth when they uncovered the secret detention centre. The Iraqi government has launched an inquiry and promised an answer within a week.

But Manfred Novak, the UN special envoy on torture, based in Geneva, yesterday called for an independent inquiry. He has received various allegations of torture and degrading treatment by both US and Iraqi forces in Iraq. "That torture is still practised in Iraq after Saddam Hussein is no secret," he said.

Stephen Bowen, an Amnesty International UK campaigns director, said: "This is by no means the first time that we’ve encountered cases of detainees apparently being tortured by members of the interior ministry - a grisly pattern is emerging. It’s tragic that after years of documenting torture, killings and incommunicado detention under Saddam, we are talking about the same issues in the same country - with different perpetrators."

Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, used the organs of the state, particularly 12 branches of the secret police, to oppress the Shias and Kurds. After his fall, the expected mass revenge killings by the Shias against the Sunnis did not take place. But the Shia now effectively control the organs of state, including the interior ministry and the police, allegedly working in collusion with Shia paramilitary groups. Various organisations - human rights groups as well as Sunni groups - claim that the Shia are now using those organs against former members of Saddam’s regime and other Sunnis, as well as Sunni political groups.

Ayad al-Samarrai, a senior official with the Iraqi Islamic party, a mainstream Sunni group, said his organisation had made complaints about the illegal arrest and abuse of Sunni Muslims by government paramilitary forces over the past six months. "We submitted our claims to the government, to the ministry of interior, to the multinational forces, to the Iraqi army. We were saying this for many months before this prison was found," he told the Guardian.

The party wanted an independent Iraqi inquiry established, with support from the US military and perhaps the UN, but with the powers to enter interior ministry buildings to investigate the widely reported accounts of abuse and torture. If no suitable Iraqi inquiry team could be set up, then an international investigation should be set up, he said. He said officials from Iraq’s human rights ministry had tried to investigate but had been refused access by the powerful interior ministry.

"All those who were released from this prison were Sunnis," Mr Samarrai said. "It looks like part of a plan to make this community terrified, or to push them to leave Iraq or to leave their homes, or to force them into violence as they will think it is the only way to protect themselves."

The treatment of the Sunnis has caused concern among the Kurds, who urged in a memo to the Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, to "put an end to arbitrary crimes against the Sunni Arabs".The Kurds are in coalition government with the Shia and the memo was signed by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.

An Iraqi law student, who would only give his initials, MI, said yesterday he had been among those detained at the interior ministry. He had been arrested in August and released six weeks ago. Interviewed by Reuters at a Sunni party office, the 22-year-old said he had been blindfolded, his hands bound and hung from a ceiling hook. He was whipped with metal cables. "They called us Sunni dogs and thieves or friends of Saddam Hussein." He said he had been in a room with 100 others, and that sometimes the captors used drills against people. "They put me in a barrel full of cold water during questioning and gave me electric shocks," he said.

He said life was so tough that prisoners prayed for a transfer to the notorious US-run Abu Ghraib prison.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Stor...



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> International outcry greets allegations of police abuse
Saturday November 19 - 07:24 - Posted by 7605c75c99f4c56e...

What are the crying about! They have been watching Abu Gharib, Fallujah and now they feel morality?! Give me a break!




> International outcry greets allegations of police abuse
Monday November 21 - 16:47 - Posted by 6719107fb27b4d2e...

They’ve had great training: first Saddam, then Bush. What else do you expect?







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