Monday, September 13, 2010

The Torture

Barely noticed amid the fanfare surrounding the announcement of an end to US combat operations in Iraq, in July the US also handed the last of some 10,000 prisoners held on security grounds to the Iraqi authorities – though the US will continue to hold about 200 detainees deemed to be "high-risk".
Remarkably, however, this mass transfer came with no formal guarantees over humane treatment or due process. Given recent instances of the discovery – including by US forces – of horrific abuse being meted out to inmates by Iraq guards, this is extremely regrettable.
The torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners by US forces at Abu Ghraib made the US notorious when the scandal came to light in 2004. However, the sadistic mistreatment of prisoners supposedly in Iraqi official care has been a feature of the entire post-Saddam period, and in many ways the savagery of the abuse has rivalled that of the dictatorial Saddam years.

The above is from Kate Allen's "Iraq: transferred prisoners have reason to fear new jailers" (Guardian) and the cause for the column is Amnesty International's new report [PDF format warning] "NEW ORDER, SAME ABUSES: UNLAWFUL DETENTIONS AND TORTURE IN IRAQ.'' (See last night's entry.) The report details many abuses and imprisonments without access to attorneys or trials or sometimes even charges. One case, that of Ramze Shihab Ahmed, is especially getting press attention. Andrew Wander (Al Jazeera) reports:

On a dull December day in 2009, Rabiha al Qassab, a 63-year-old Iraqi refugee living in a quiet residential area of north London, received a telephone call that marked the beginning of a new nightmare for a family already torn apart by Iraq's political upheavals.
Her 68-year-old husband, Ramze Shihab Ahmed, had been arrested while on a visit to Iraq, and no-one knew where he was being held or what, if anything, he had been charged with.
Nine months later, Ramze is still languishing in legal limbo in a Baghdad prison. His story lays bare the horrific abuses and lack of legal process that characterise post-Saddam Iraq's detention system, which human rights groups say has scarcely improved since the darkest days of the dictator's rule.

BBC News covers the case here and adds, "Amnesty said the use of torture to extract confessions in Iraq was routine -- and the confessions were frequently used as evidence in court." Jomana Karadsheh and CNN focus on numbers such as 30,0000 imprisoned without trial and the US's transfer in July of 10,000 more prisoners to Iraqi control. Rebecca Santana covers the report for AP and notes, "Amnesty International researchers detailed a litany of abuse, including suspending people by their limbs, beating them with cables and pipes, removing toenails with pliers and piercing the body with drills. Hundreds of people — including some facing the death penalty — have been convicted based on confessions extracted through torture, the report said. The vast majority of the detainees are Sunnis suspected of helping the insurgency; hundreds are Shiites accused of being part of the Mahdi Army, an outlawed militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has fought U.S. and Iraqi security forces."

In the US, NBC News is interviewing various outgoing members of Congress. This is from their interview with Senator Evan Bayh who is not running for re-election:

Q: What piece of legislation did you work on that made you the most proud?

A: I've always cared about education and I worked with Senator Schumer on making several thousand dollars of college tuition tax deductible. That will help a lot of your middle class families make college more affordable. I worked on things to make sure that our military, our soldiers got the equipment they needed in Afghanistan and Iraq, that will literally save lives. Got some things done to cut property taxes for people who don’t itemize — which may not sound like a big deal, but for middle class families, senior citizens in particular, that can make a big difference. So I can kind of go down a long list, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for education and for our soldiers.

Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: Heart's smooth ride" went up yesterday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Time To Wizz."

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