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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Red Cross: Iraqis jailed in error



ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

GENEVA -- Up to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested "by mistake," according to coalition intelligence officers cited in a Red Cross report disclosed Monday. It also says U.S. officers mistreated inmates at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison by keeping them naked in dark, empty cells.
Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers was widespread and routine, the report finds -- contrary to President Bush's contention that the mistreatment "was the wrongdoing of a few."

While many detainees were quickly released, high-ranking officials in Saddam Hussein's government, including those listed on the U.S. military's deck of cards, were held for months in solitary confinement.

Red Cross delegates saw U.S. military intelligence officers mistreating prisoners under interrogation at Abu Ghraib and collected allegations of abuse at more than 10 other detention facilities, including the military intelligence section at Camp Cropper at Baghdad International Airport and the Tikrit holding area, according to the report.

The 24-page document cites abuses -- some "tantamount to torture" -- including brutality, hooding, humiliation and threats of "imminent execution."

"These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information and other forms of cooperation from persons who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an 'intelligence value.' "

High-ranking officials were singled out for special treatment, according to the report, which the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed as authentic after it was published by The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

"Since June 2003 over a hundred 'high value detainees' have been held for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells devoid of daylight," says the report.

It did not say who the detainees were, but an official who discussed the report with the Red Cross told The Associated Press they include some of the 55 top officials in Saddam's regime named in the deck of cards given to troops.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said detainees held at Baghdad International Airport include many of the 44 "deck of cards" suspects already captured. It was not clear whether Saddam was at the airport.

The high-value detainees were deprived of any contact with other inmates, "guards, family members (except through Red Cross messages) and the rest of the outside world," the report says.

The report says some coalition military intelligence officers estimated "between 70 percent and 90 percent" of the detainees in Iraq "had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units."

The agency said arrests tended to follow a pattern.

"Authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property," the report says.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it says.



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