Those who hailed as "Wilsonian" George Bush's delusional goal of building a liberal Western-style democracy in Iraq should be sobered by the latest report from the United Nations.
The UN found that Iraqi prisons are torturing detainees, locking people up for months without charges and, in most cases, allowing the perpetrators of these human rights to escape justice, according to a new United Nations report.
"Security may not be sustainable unless significant steps are taken in the area of human rights such as strengthening the rule of law and addressing impunity," the report warned.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said it "remains concerned about the overall human rights situation in Iraq since indiscriminate attacks remained a frequent occurrence; the targeted killings of security forces, high ranking officials and civil servants, religious and political leaders, professional groups such as journalists, educators, medical doctors, judges and lawyers and other civilians continued at a high rate, as did criminal abductions for ransom."
It said the last half of 2008 "was also characterized by the attacks against minority leaders and the large displacement of over 12,000 Christians from Mosul in October. Violence against women in the Region of Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq remained one of the issues of serious concern as the pattern of the recorded incidents of suicide often points towards 'honor'-related homicides."
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, whose staff helped compile the report, said, "The situation of Iraqi women is extremely difficult. Violent actions are taken against them on a daily basis and I urge the authorities to make it a priority to both improve legislation, and law enforcement in order to protect them properly."
The UN report said the improvement in the security situation "was not accompanied by a full reestablishment of the rule of law and by systematically addressing impunity."
"Allegations of torture should be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and criminal proceedings taken against officials found to have abused detainees in their custody. Every effort should be made to ensure that juvenile detainees are held at the appropriate and separate locations equipped with rehabilitation facilities, and additional resources devoted to address the issue of overcrowding at detention places," the report said.
Francis A. Boyle, Professor of Law at the University of Illinois, told us, "Under the Laws of War, the United States still remains the belligerent occupant of Iraq and is therefore vicariously responsible for these war crimes and human rights atrocities."
He said, "Nothing has changed as a result of the so-called Status of Forces agreement with respect to the Laws of War and the analysis set forth in there except the termination of the Security Council Resolutions with the side letters from the USA indicating a willingness to abide by the Laws of War as a condition for the renewal."
Prof. Boyle added, "That does not alter the status of the U.S. as the Belligerent Occupant of Iraq and the fact that we are vicariously responsible for these war crimes and human rights atrocities, as indicated by the relevant sections of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, which is still valid and binding."
The UN report found that:
The 26,249 people being held in Iraq prisons in December faced "months or even years in overcrowded cells" and many had not been formally charged.
The use of torture as an interrogation method and the ill-treatment of detainees remains "a serious challenge to Iraq's criminal justice system."
There is no known case in which any official in the powerful Ministry of Defense, which has its own jails, "has been held accountable for human rights abuses."
The report also criticized jails in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region for poor treatment including beatings and electric shock.
Kurdistan also came under fire for its high rate of so-called "honor killings" of women and the many cases of women burned or coerced into suicide in honor cases. It said, "The vast majority of women still face at least one form of domestic violence."
The report also charged that the amnesty law, which was promoted by the U.S. to encourage reconciliation, has largely failed to have it intended affect. Only 7,500 detainees were released from prison out of a total of some 127,431.
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