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Amnesty Report Fair, says Member of Iraqi Governing Council - 2004-05-26

A member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council says he believes Amnesty International's human rights report, which harshly criticizes the conduct of coalition troops in Iraq, is fair and may be helpful in persuading coalition officials to improve their methods for dealing with ordinary Iraqis and fighting the insurgency.

Amnesty International says coalition forces in Iraq did not do enough last year to restore and maintain public order and safety, and to provide food, medical care, and relief assistance to the Iraqi people.

The London-based human rights organization accuses anti-coalition insurgents of committing, what it called, gross human rights abuses, which have killed many innocent people. It condemns the attacks by armed insurgents and terrorists as crimes against humanity.

Iraqi Governing Council member Mahmoud Othman tells VOA he agrees with Amnesty's overall assessment that coalition troops did not fully live up to their responsibilities as the occupying power.

Mr. Othman is an independent politician from the Kurdish area of northern Iraq and is seen as a moderate figure in the 25-member Governing Council.

"I think there have been some violations of human rights by American forces in Iraq in the last year," he said. "It is helpful to the Iraqi people because if you have this organization talking about it, then the Americans would do something about it."

Amnesty International's report for 2003 says coalition forces violated human rights numerous times last year, during the six-week war to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and in the months following, as U.S. and British troops tried to restore order in a chaotic and violent post-war Iraq. In one part of the report, Amnesty says the use of excessive force by American and British troops cost the lives of civilians. Without giving specific numbers, Amnesty says coalition bombs killed hundreds of civilians during the war and U.S. troops shot and injured scores of civilians after major combat was declared over on May 1.

The human rights group also accuses the U.S. and British military of violating the human rights of Iraqis by arresting and detaining them without charge, and denying them family visits or any form of judicial reviews during weeks and months of detention.

It says the abuse of detainees included sleep deprivation, prolonged restraint in painful positions, and exposure to extreme heat while housed in tents. The group says the ill-treatment and torture of detainees were widespread.

Amnesty complains that none of the allegations of torture and mistreatment of detainees had been adequately investigated. The report was written before the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse became public last month. Since then, the U.S. military has convicted one soldier and charged several others with abusing prisoners and detainees under their care. The military says it is continuing its investigations as new allegations surface.

Iraq is one of 157 countries and territories Amnesty International included in its 339-page report.