-- Coalition forces involved in the mistreatment
of Iraqi prisoners might be guilty of war
crimes, the top UN official for human rights
said in a report released Friday.
45-page report by the office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights is not entirely
critical. It says Iraq is better off now than
before the invasion, when it was under "a
brutal, murderous, torturing gang that preyed
on its own people," referring to deposed President
Saddam Hussein's regime.
also notes the difficulties of working in
a country subject to terrorist attacks and
insurrection, and that "hardships suffered
by Iraqis in the aftermath of the victory
of Coalition Forces were clearly not intended."
the report concludes that serious problems
occurred in Iraq. It details a range of abuses,
from the torture and sexual humiliation of
prisoners to other military operations that
unjustly prevented Iraqi civilians from traveling
or using hospitals and other facilities safely.
report also says torture and psychological
coercion against prisoners to extract intelligence
violate international humanitarian law.
killing, torture or inhuman treatment, if
committed against detainees protected by international
humanitarian law, constitute a grave breach
under the Geneva Conventions and therefore,
of international humanitarian law, and is
prohibited at any time, irrespective of the
status of the person detained," the report
says. "The above-described acts might be designated
as war crimes by a competent tribunal."
report also denounced "acts of depravity"
by Iraqi insurgents and terrorists, including
the videotaped decapitation of American Nicholas
Berg last month.
Commissioner Bertrand Ramcharan of Guyana,
who has been in the position since Sergio
Vieira de Mello of Brazil was killed in a
terrorist attack in Baghdad last summer, said
the report was based on interviews and other
information from governments, news media and
human rights sources.
Washington, State Department spokesman Adam
Ereli said the criticisms "are certainly a
matter of concern," and that the U.S. government
sought more details about some of the allegations
in order to investigate them.
said he thought a war crimes charge was unlikely
to arise because the United States was already
taking action on its own and would prosecute
those responsible for abuses against Iraqi
think the Uniform Code of Military Justice
is competent to act on the abuses that occurred,"
U.S. soldiers face military charges, and the
Defense Department said it is investigating
more than 40 cases of possible misconduct
against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
UN report said the detention process lacked
transparency and accountability, and so the
world had little information about the imprisoned
report also found that coalition troops interrogated
children, humiliated Muslim women and jailed
men without explanation. It also cited cases
in which coalition forces allegedly threw
Korans on the ground or tore them apart.
report said the first allegations of prisoner
abuse were raised by human-rights groups such
as Amnesty International in July 2003. It
said Vieira de Mello also raised concerns
in a July 15 meeting with coalition officials.
report includes events from as recently as
ordered the broad investigation in April,
saying he was concerned because the United
Nations has not monitored Iraq since the U.S.-led
invasion in March 2003.
53-nation commission scrutinized Iraq for
years but stopped after Hussein was ousted
MATTHEW SCHOFIELD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free Press news services contributed to this
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