US Records Serious Rights Abuses in Iraq

WASHINGTON – Three years after U.S. forces invaded Iraq in part to stop human rights violations, a U.S. report said on Wednesday the country was again racked by abuses ranging from arbitrary killings and arrests to torture. In its annual report detailing human rights abuses worldwide, the State Department said in 2005 reports increased of killings by the Iraqi government or its agents and members of sectarian militias dominated many police units. The report did not list any abuses committed by the United States, which has come under strong international criticism for its treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and at a U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued (in Iraq),” the report said. “Police abuses included threats, intimidation, beatings, and suspension by the arms or legs, as well as the reported use of electric drills and cords and the application of electric shocks.”

In Iraq on Wednesday, the bodies of 18 men — bound, blindfolded and strangled — were found in a Sunni Arab district of Baghdad, apparent victims of the sectarian turmoil gripping Iraq.The global report also listed abuses among both allies and traditional foes, from close friends Saudi Arabia and Egypt to adversaries Iran, Syria and Zimbabwe.

Governments targeted in the report frequently point to abuses by the United States and lambaste the report as hypocritical, a criticism Washington brushes aside.

“We are not saying we ourselves are perfect. When we find something wrong in our own rights record, we try to fix it. But usually those who charge us with hypocrisy are putting up a smoke screen and trying to ignore the facts in the report,” said a State Department official, who asked not to be named.

President George W. Bush cites abuses by ousted President Saddam Hussein and a desire to establish democracy to justify the 2003 invasion, ordered originally to confront a threat from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. Bush administration officials, while acknowledging abuses in Iraq, say the new government is trying to improve conditions and that the United States is spending money helping it. “There is no comparison with Iraq under Saddam Hussein, a ruthless dictator and a mass murderer who gassed thousands of people,” said a senior official. But human rights groups said U.S. legitimacy was damaged by what was happening in Iraq, where thousands of people were arbitrarily detained with no judicial protections.