LONDON, March 6 — Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, accused the United States and its allies today of committing widespread abuses in Iraq, including torture and the continued detention of thousands of prisoners without charge or trial.
The accusations seemed poised to rekindle a debate over the treatment of prisoners that flared after the publication of graphic photographs showing prisoners at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison being mistreated by United States guards. More recently, British forces in Iraq have been criticized after video footage showed British soldiers beating Iraqi youths following demonstrations in southern Iraq.
In a report titled “Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq,” Amnesty International also said the level of abuse by Iraqi forces since the handover of power in June 2004 was on the increase.
The United States and its allies, the report said, have “established procedures which deprive detainees of human rights guaranteed in international law and standards.”
“The record of these forces, including U.S. forces and their United Kingdom allies, is an unpalatable one,” it said.
In particular, the report said, forces grouped in the United States-led coalition deny “detainees their right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. Some of the detainees have been held for over two years without any effective remedy or recourse.”
In a press statement accompanying the report, Amnesty International said “thousands of detainees being held by the U.S.-led Multinational Force in Iraq are trapped in a system of arbitrary detention that denies them their basic rights.”
Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, described the way prisoners are detained as “arbitrary and a recipe for possible abuse.”
At the end of November 2005, the report, quoting coalition figures, said that more than 14,000 prisoners were still being held, with about 4,850 in Baghdad, 7,365 at Camp Bucca near Basra in southern Iraq and over 1,100 in the north at Suleimaniya.
Responding to the report, the United States military said all its detainees were treated in accordance with international conventions and Iraqi law, The Associated Press reported.
A British Foreign Office spokesman, speaking in return for anonymity under departmental rules, also denied the allegations. He said that British forces in Iraq were currently holding 43 Iraqi prisoners under United Nations resolutions permitting detentions of people deemed threatening to the security of coalition or Iraqi personnel.
All 43 were visited by the Red Cross and by Iraqi government officials, had their cases reviewed every month and had access to their lawyers and families, the spokesman said. Britain has some 8,000 soldiers in Iraq, mainly in the south. The Amnesty International report took particular issue with conditions in detention facilities run by Iraqis.
“Many cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in facilities controlled by the Iraqi authorities have been reported since the handover of power in June, 2004,” the report said. “Among other methods, victims have been subjected to electric shocks or have been beaten with plastic cable.”
“The picture that is emerging is one in which the Iraqi authorities are systematically violating the rights of detainees in breach of guarantees contained both in Iraqi legislation and in international law and standards,” the report said.