Mussab Al-Khairalla / Reuters – 2005-09-13 23:38:39
BAGHDAD (September 8, 2005) — The United Nations raised the alarm on Thursday about mounting violence in Iraq blamed on pro-government militias and urged the authorities to look into reports of systematic torture in police stations.
In a bi-monthly human rights report, released on a day when 14 more victims of “extrajudicial executions” were found near Baghdad, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq also said “mass arrests” by US and Iraqi forces, and long detentions without charge, could damage support for the new political system.
“Corpses appear regularly in and around Baghdad and other areas. Most bear signs of torture and appear to be victims of extrajudicial executions,” it said, noting incidents reported after arrests by “forces linked to the Ministry of Interior”.
“Serious allegations of extra-judicial executions … underline a deterioration in the situation of law and order.”
The Shi’ite-led government has denied accusations from the once dominant Sunni Arab minority that it tolerates sectarian death squads among police forces. It has admitted that abuses do occur but has vowed to crack down. Sunni insurgents are also accused of mass killings of civilians and security personnel.
Sunni leaders were angered when 36 bound and blindfold men were found tortured and shot near the Iranian border two weeks ago. On Thursday, police said they found 14 bodies, similarly tied, some of them policemen, in a farm stream south of Baghdad.
Doctors in nearby Mahmudiya, where the bodies were taken, said the deaths appeared to have taken place two days earlier.
Such killings have contributed to sectarian tensions as Iraq prepares to vote in a referendum on a new constitution, which many Sunni leaders say they will oppose. Anxious to stabilise Iraq, Washington has tried to engage Sunnis, who lost influence with the fall of Saddam Hussein, in the electoral process.
The UN report indicated widespread and lengthy detentions of suspected Sunni insurgents may be counter-productive: “The high number of persons detained … continues to be a matter of concern … It would be beneficial to establish mechanisms for speedier consideration of detainee cases which could have a beneficial impact on the overall political process.”
The treatment of detainees was also worrying: “Accounts … consistently point to the systematic use of torture during interrogations at police stations and within other premises belonging to the Ministry of the Interior,” it said.
The UN body said it had raised such issues with the Iraqi government, which insists that Iraq has put repression behind it, and expected it to publish reports on its investigations.
The United Nations repeated its condemnation of Iraq’s revival of the death penalty; it hanged three criminals last week and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said this week that his predecessor, Saddam, should be “hanged 20 times a day”.
(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald)
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