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UN Report: Rights Abuses In Iraq

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The report also faulted U.S. forces for detaining people "for prolonged periods without judicial review" and urged U.S. officials to continue investigations into two shootings by guards for the American embassy working for Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe.

In December, five Blackwater guards were charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in a shooting incident at a busy Baghdad intersection. A sixth Blackwater guard has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a U.S. court.

As of December 2008, the number of detainees under Iraqi control  was 26,249 and those under the control of the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) was 15,058, the report said. It raised concerns about the conditions of detainees, many of whom have been deprived of their liberty for months or even years in overcrowded cells, and about violations of the minimum rules of due process as many did not have access to defense counsel, or were not formally charged with a crime or appeared before a judge.

The report recommended that the Government of Iraq "ensure the effective implementation of the legislation regulating prisons and bring all detention facilities and prisons under the authority of the Ministry of Justice."

The Iraqis "should address urgently all allegations of abuse of detainees, including juveniles. And law enforcement personnel and detaining officials known or suspected of having tortured or ill-treated detainees in their custody should not enjoy immunity from prosecution."

The report called on the Iraqi government to "increase efforts to alleviate overcrowding in prisons and detention facilities and improve sanitation and hygiene conditions; in particular, institute urgent measures to examine conditions at juvenile detention facilities in respect of overcrowding and lack of adequate rehabilitation programs." 

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It urged the Iraqi government to "investigate incidents involving gender-based violence, in particular the so-called 'honor crimes' perpetrated against women, and take measures to ensure that persons found responsible for committing these crimes are held accountable and brought to justice."

And it urged MNF-I and U.S. Government authorities to investigate reports of deaths caused by privately hired contractors working on behalf of the US Government, and strengthen effective mechanisms for holding these contractors accountable for unlawful killings.

The U.S. must "ensure that offenses committed in Iraq by all categories of U.S. contractor employees are subject to prosecution under the law."

That the U.S. is now in the process of leaving Iraq is a screaming admission of the folly of the Bush presidency. Nation-building is never easy. Nation-building in a nation about which we understand nothing is suicidal.

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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