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Human Rights Group Says Iraqi Security Forces Torture Detainees

A U.S.-based human-rights group says Iraqi security forces are committing systematic torture of people detained for suspected criminal or militant activities.

The 94-page report by the group, Human Rights Watch, says it is commonplace and routine for Iraqi authorities to resort to torture and unlawful arrest.

The report is based on interviews between July and October last year with 90 former detainees. Seventy-two of them said they had been tortured and abused.

Human Rights Watch investigators say many of the former prisoners bear physical scars of their alleged ill treatment, and in some cases Iraqi government doctors have corroborated the allegations.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, Sarah Leah Whitson, spoke with VOA from the group's London office. She described some of the report's key findings. "The torture includes beating with cables, hanging from ceilings, electric shock to the genitals, and arms and legs, kicking, slapping, punching. The whole plethora of abuses and torture that one can imagine happening in a prison," she said.

Ms. Whitson says U.S. and other international authorities training Iraqi police and security forces must emphasize respect for human rights in their instruction. Also, she says, the new Iraqi government that emerges from Sunday's election must make a priority of ending torture. "The message has to come from the top and the message has to be that torture is not an acceptable police technique. It is not an acceptable technique of interrogation and it is not one that is going to be tolerated," she said.

Ms. Whitson says the Iraqi transitional authority received a copy the Human Rights Watch report about a week ago, but has not responded to the allegations.

Iraq's law of administration during the transitional period forbids torture in all its forms, and says any confession extracted through torture can not be admitted into proceedings at any trial, criminal or otherwise.