Monday, May 10, 2004

Red Cross Report

Here is a look at some excerpts from the International Red Cross Report on the abuse of Iragi detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, as taken from an article in today's Washington Post. It appears to contradict the Bush administration's take on the situation:

"Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers was broad and "not individual acts" as President Bush has argued, according to a Red Cross report disclosed today.

Bush has said the abuses were the result of the "wrongdoing of a few."

However, the report says "the use of ill-treatment against (Iraqi) persons deprived of their liberty went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered a practice tolerated by" coalition forces.

A senior Red Cross official added: "We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts. There was a pattern and a system."

"ICRC (Red Cross) delegates directly witnessed and documented a variety of methods used to secure the cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogators," according to the confidential report. The 24-page document was confirmed as authentic by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) after it was published today by the Wall Street Journal.

The Red Cross report says its delegates saw how detainees at Abu Ghraib were kept "completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness." It said it found evidence supporting prisoners' allegations of other forms of abuse during arrest, initial detention and interrogation.

Among the evidence were burns, bruises and other injuries consistent with the abuse that prisoners alleged, it said.

The report cites abuses – some "tantamount to torture" – including brutality, hooding, humiliation and threats of "imminent execution."

"These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information and other forms of cooperation from persons who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an 'intelligence value."'

The agency said arrests allegedly tended to follow a pattern.

"Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property," the report said.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it said. "Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, ICRC director of operations, said the report had been given to U.S. officials in February, but it only summarized what the agency had been telling U.S. officials in detail between March and November 2003 "either in direct face-to-face conversations or in written interventions."

Kraehenbuehl said the abuse of prisoners represents more than isolated acts, and that the problems were not limited to Abu Ghraib.

"We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts. There was a pattern and a system," he said, declining to give further details.

Kraehenbuehl said the ICRC regretted the publication and said it would have preferred sticking to its policy of confidential discussions with coalition authorities because the United States had been making progress toward meeting its demands.

The report said the abuses were primarily during the interrogation stage by military intelligence.

Once the detainees were moved to regular prison facilities, the abuses typically stopped, it said."

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