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UN Report Hails US-Led Coalition for Ending Systematic Abuse by Saddam - 2004-06-04

A United Nations human rights report found serious violations by some U.S. troops, including abuse of Iraqi detainees. The report calls for an international jurist to monitor respect for human rights in Iraq by the occupying coalition forces.

The report praises the U.S.-led coalition for ending decades of systematic abuse by Saddam Hussein and bringing greater freedoms to the Iraqi people. But it says the way some prisoners were treated by American soldiers was "a stain upon the effort to bring freedom to Iraq."

U.N. officials note that the willful killing and torture of detainees "might be designated as war crimes by a competent tribunal."

This is the first comprehensive United Nations report on the human rights situation in Iraq, since the coalition invaded that country last year.

In advance of its publication, several media reports claimed the United States had urged the U.N. to tone down some of the inflammatory language. However, spokesman Jose Dias categorically denies the allegation.

?There was no pressure put on the office to change the wording of the report. It is a very comprehensive report,? Mr. Dias said. ?It analyses the situation of human rights in Iraq over the past year, and if there are quibbles with the wording, you can expect that countries mentioned in the report will defend their position quite vigorously.?

Some of the most disturbing information in the report comes from eyewitness accounts of Iraqis interviewed in Amman, Jordan. The report says these people testified that arbitrary arrests and detention have been going on since April 2003. They describe coalition soldiers as forcing their way into their homes and humiliating the inhabitants.

One eyewitness, who was held in Abu Ghraib prison for four months, alleged he was subjected to torture, which at times lasted for up to 23 hours. After each session, he said, loud music was put on to prevent him from sleeping.

In commenting on the report, U.S. authorities acknowledge their concern about these allegations, but say they consider them extreme and inconsistent with other reports. They say they will investigate these charges.

The report recommends the appointment of an international inspector of human rights in Iraq to make regular checks on all detention centers. It emphasizes that, overall, there has been a gain in human rights in Iraq, since the coalition took control of the country more than a year ago.