U.S. Cites Array
of Rights Abuses by the Iraqi Government in 2004
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
March 1, 2005
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 - The State Department
on Monday detailed an array of human rights abuses last year by
the Iraqi government, including torture, rape and illegal detentions
by police officers and functionaries of the interim administration
that took power in June.
In the Bush administration's bluntest description
of human rights transgressions by the American-supported government,
the report said the Iraqis "generally respected human rights,
but serious problems remained" as the government and American-led
foreign forces fought a violent insurgency. It cited "reports
of arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison
conditions - particularly in pretrial detention facilities - and
arbitrary arrest and detention."
The lengthy discussion came in a chapter
on Iraq in the department's annual report on human rights, which
pointedly criticized not only countries that had been found chronically
deficient, like North Korea, Syria and Iran, but also some close
American allies, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The allegations of abuses by an Iraqi government
installed by the United States and still heavily influenced by
it provided an unusual element to the larger report. The report
did not address incidents in Iraq in which Americans were involved,
like the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which came to light
A senior State Department official said
the criticism of Iraq was in keeping with the administration's
approach. "What it shows is that we don't look the other
way," the official said. "There are countries we support
and that are friends, and when they have practices that don't
meet international standards, we don't hesitate to call a spade
The official said Iraqi officials accepted
that there had been problems and were correcting their practices.
"The Iraqis are not in denial on this," the official
The report emphasized the larger accomplishments
of the Iraqi people, as symbolized by the successful elections
of Jan. 30. But it gave extensive details about complaints that
the government had violated human rights provisions of the transitional
law put in place by the United States and the Iraqi Governing
Council shortly after the 2003 invasion.
These included reports that police officers
in Basra were involved in killing 10 Baath Party members; that
the police in Baghdad arrested, interrogated and killed 12 kidnappers
of three police officers on Oct. 16, 2004, and that corruption
was a problem at every level of government.
The document cited without comment a report
by Human Rights Watch, an independent advocacy group, that "torture
and ill treatment of detainees by police was commonplace,"
allegedly including "beatings with cables and hosepipes,
electric shocks to their earlobes and genitals, food and water
In one case, the report said, enough evidence
had been gathered "to prosecute police officers in Baghdad
who were systematically raping and torturing female detainees."
Two of them received prison sentences, while four were demoted
Prison conditions in Iraq had shown "significant
improvement" after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the department
said, but many prisons still fell short of international standards.
There were also reports of police officers
making false arrests to extort money from the families of detainees,
and of an Iraqi ministry having members of a political party arrested
in order to occupy their offices. "Reportedly," the
document said, "coerced confessions and interrogation continued
to be the favored method of investigation by police."
The broader annual report, which is required
by Congress and is formally titled the Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices, described rights abuses in other allied countries
in notably tough language.
The report said that the Saudi record of
abuses in 2004 "far exceeds the advances," that Egypt's
and Pakistan's records were poor, and that Jordan had "many
problems." It criticized all four countries over allegations
of abusing and torturing prisoners.
But the document also struck optimistic
notes at times. It cited the success of democratic elections in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine, and suggested that developments
in those places, coming as President Bush continued to promote
democracy as a counter to terrorism, might be helping to embolden
people elsewhere to shed a hopelessness about change.
In much of the broader Middle East, "people
are increasingly conscious of the freedom deficit in the region,"
Under Secretary Paula J. Dobriansky said in introducing the report.
The official attention paid to Egypt and
Saudi Arabia is not new, but some of the language in the report
was unexpectedly sharp. In Saudi Arabia, for example, it said:
"There were credible reports of torture and abuse of prisoners
by security forces, arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detentions.
The religious police continued to intimidate, abuse and detain
citizens and foreigners. Most trials were closed."
Egypt, it said, restricted many basic rights,
and its security forces continued to mistreat prisoners, leading
to at least 10 deaths in custody.
The report on Iraq also covered the year
in which the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib were uncovered.
An acting assistant secretary of state,
Michael G. Kozak, was asked Monday how that scandal had affected
the administration's latest evaluation. "Look," he said,
"the events at Abu Ghraib were a stain on the honor of the
U.S.; there's no two ways about it."
What mattered, he said, was whether a government
worked to redress the abuses that do occur. "I think you've
seen the U.S. being very active," he said.
The report, coming days after some critics
suggested that President Bush had been insufficiently tough with
President Vladimir V. Putin, listed several complaints about Russia.
It criticized the central government's consolidation of power
at the expense of the regions, its restriction of news media,
and its allowing of political pressure to taint the judiciary.
It said China, which has a growing commercial
relationship with the United States, continued to abuse prisoners,
harass activists and restrict religious practices.
North Korea was condemned for continued
"brutal and repressive" treatment of its people; Iran
for allowing citizen's freedom to "deteriorate;" and
Syria for widespread use of torture, poor prison conditions and
mass arrests of Kurds.
Sudan's human rights record was called
extremely poor, both for restricting freedoms and for the continuing
violence by government-linked militias in Darfur Province.