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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Red Cross details abuse claims
A group of bound Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
Photos of the treatment of Iraqis have shocked the world (AP Photo/ Courtesy of The New Yorker)
A report by the Red Cross (ICRC) on the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by coalition forces has been published on the website of the Wall Street Journal.

The report refers to "serious violations of international humanitarian law" by coalition forces.

It catalogues ill-treatment by coalition soldiers - including some which resulted in deaths of inmates.

The confidential report had been given to US and UK officials in February.

The Red Cross inspected jails in Iraq between May and November 2003 and made 29 visits to prison facilities in central and southern Iraq during that time.

The report says abuses had been committed at a number of facilities - not just Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, which is the focus of allegations against US soldiers.

Other facilities where mistreatment allegedly occurred include al-Baghdadi air base, Hubbania camp, Tikrit holding area, the defence ministry and a presidential palace in Baghdad.

The allegations include:

  • Prisoners were kept naked in cells, in darkness and without facilities

  • Prisoners were held for prolonged solitary confinement in cells with no daylight

  • The actions of coalition forces in arresting suspects appeared to go beyond any legitimate use of force

  • Prisoners were beaten, in one case leading to death

  • Soldiers fired on unarmed prisoners from watchtowers, killing some

  • The ill-treatment was widely tolerated, especially with regard to extracting information from Iraqis

  • Methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence to gain confessions

The report concludes there have been serious violations of the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Arrests

The report also criticises the way in which arrests were made and says detentions 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," it says.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it continues.

"Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

The report also says some troops told the Red Cross that 70% to 90% of those detained had been arrested by mistake.

'Lack of supervision'

The 24-page document, confirmed by the ICRC as authentic following its publication in the Wall Street Journal, says the abuses were primarily during the interrogation stage by military intelligence officers.

It says once the detainees were moved to regular prison facilities the abuses typically stopped.

Some military intelligence personnel told the Red Cross that widespread ill-treatment was due to a lack of supervision by military police.

Officers also said it was part of the military intelligence process to hold prisoners naked, in the dark, for prolonged periods, and to use inhumane treatment to try to secure their co-operation


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Robbins
"The report accuses both armies [British and American] of ill treatment"



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