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Intl. Probe Into Abuses by Iraqi Govt. Urged
BAGHDAD, November 16, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – US-backed Iraqi government faced calls Wednesday, November 16, for an international enquiry into abuse of Sunnis at a secret prison in Baghdad where inmates were reportedly tortured, beaten and starved.
The call by the Sunni-based Islamic Party follows revelations that more than 170 detainees, mostly Sunnis, were illegally held at a center run by the Shiite-dominated interior ministry, in a case likely to embarrass the US military supervising local security forces, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We insist on having an international investigation," Islamic Party spokesman Alaa Makki told AFP.
"There have been similar cases in the past and investigations into them led to nothing," said another party spokesman, Ayad Samarrai.
"We want an international and impartial inquiry as we are beginning to think there are people high up in government who are responsible, or at least accomplices."
Makki also blamed US-led forces for the abuse, saying it could not happen without "their green light".
US occupation forces raided the underground facilities of an interior ministry complex in south Baghdad Sunday in search for a teenager and were stunned by the presence of almost 200 detainees, some of them were already dead of torture, according to Al-Jazeera.
US forces in Iraq claimed they did not know of such hidden prisons.
In a press conference Wednesday over the issue, Islamic Party official Tariq Al-Hashemi said the party wanted justice for the people of Iraq.
In case the Interior Ministry was proven guilty in these practices, the minister and his staff have to resign and stand trial for human rights violations, Hashemi added.
"We have presented over 50 complaints to the interior ministry, the Iraqi government and the US occupation forces," said Hashemi, adding "We only received few replies and they all were either denials or resentment (at the abuses)".
"Such crimes are committed by parties who wish to curb the political process, to stop Sunnis from taking part in the coming elections within only one month, to hinder our election campaigns," he charged.
Iraqi Supreme Shiite scholar Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani should condemn crimes committed by the interior ministry officials, said Hashemi, adding that Sistani should not provide protection for those involved.
Iraqi Sunni leaders have warned several times that continued military and police crackdowns were alienating their community in the run-up to December elections for a new parliament amid stark warnings from the UN on human rights violations.
“As Iraqis are gearing up for the upcoming polls, crackdowns on Sunnis have been noticeably increased,” the People of Iraq Congress said in a statement Sunday, November 13, a copy of which was obtained by IslamOnline.net.
The European Union, for its part, voiced its concern over the abuse at an Iraqi government detention center, saying it showed the need to bolster human rights in the violence-scarred country.
EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner noted that Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari had ordered an investigation into the reports, and stressed that the facts were not yet confirmed.
But she said: "If it were so, it's clear ... that human rights are part of our very, very strong values, and those values that we want also to export to Iraq."
Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, she recalled that the EU agreed earlier this year to fund training of Iraqi judges and senior police.
"What we can do is to contribute ... by building up a police corps that does not torture, a police corps that really knows where the limits are, but at the same time tries to restore order," she said.
Speaking for the EU's British presidency, junior minister Lord Bach said that the EU had earlier this month "noted with concern recent reports ... of human rights violations by the Iraqi security forces."
"Any human rights abuses ... should be investigated and dealt with in a proper sensible way," he told the Strasbourg assembly.
The notorious US-run Abu Ghraib prison has been the scene of horrifying abuse cases that appalled the international community and led to worldwide demonstrations against the US torture policy.
The revelations come just a month before Iraq is to go to the polls in to elect a permanent government, the latest stage in the country's political transition following the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
"I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating. One or two detainees were paralyzed. And some had their skin peeled off various parts of their body," Hussein Kamal, Iraq's deputy interior minister, was quoted as saying by AFP.
The Iraqi government said Tuesday it would investigate such accusations.
US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and US commander in the war-torn Arab country General George Casey "have discussed this case with the leaders of the Iraqi government at the highest levels," a statement by the US embassy said.
The UN mission in Iraq Monday accused the interior ministry of holding hundreds of individuals in detention despite judicial orders for their release.
In a separately related development, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came under fire after accusations by two Iraqi human rights organizations that two Iraqi nationals were caged with lions as a means of forcing them to make certain confessions.
Responding to such accusations, Rumsfeld said such charges were "farfetched."
Iraqi detainee, Thahee Sabbar, who has brought a lawsuit against Rumsfeld and top US military commanders, said he was also beaten, deprived of food and sleep, given electric shocks, shot with rubber bullets and subjected to mock executions after being detained by US soldiers in July 2003, according to AFP.