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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 20:37 GMT
UK unveils Iraq 'torture' dossier
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and advisers
Iraqi leaders: The regime is accused of brutality
A dossier of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Iraqi regime, including torture and rape, has been released by the UK Government.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the report was needed so "people understand the comprehensive evil that is Saddam Hussein".


There's systematic terror perpetrated by Saddam on a daily basis against his own people

Jack Straw
It came as United Nations weapons inspectors said equipment had gone missing from a missile factory in Baghdad they inspected four years ago.

However, human rights organisation Amnesty International has criticised the timing of the dossier's publication, saying ministers are exploiting the issues to justify their own ends.

Meanwhile, US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held talks in London on Monday with senior British ministers, including Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, on the situation in Iraq.

No details of the discussions were being released.

The human rights dossier, released earlier on Monday, contains graphic first-hand accounts by Iraqi victims of torture, with methods including eye gouging, piercing of hands with drills and acid baths.

It accuses Saddam Hussein of introducing severe penalties like cutting off ears and tongue amputation for criminal offences and speaking out against him.

Women are allegedly raped, tortured and summarily executed. Prisoners at one jail are said to have been kept in steel boxes like those found in mortuaries with only half an hour a day allowed for light and air.

This document is merely a distraction from a much wider problem

Peter, UK

The dossier says Iraq "is a terrifying place to live" with "fear Saddam's chosen method for staying in power".

"Torture is systematic in Iraq. The most senior figures in the regime are personally involved," the dossier begins.

The report concludes by describing the Iraqi leader as "ruthless", adding: "A cruel and callous disregard for human life and suffering remains the hallmark of his regime."

'Systematic terror'

The dossier was launched six days before Baghdad must submit a full declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, or face "serious consequences" under United Nations resolution 1441.

Mr Straw said it was "worth reinforcing the case" that human rights abuses in Iraq have happened in the past and "they are happening today".

Protesters in London
Anti-war protesters in London brought traffic to a standstill
"We are publishing this because it is important that people understand the comprehensive evil that is Saddam Hussein," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"He has got these weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and probably nuclear weapons which he has used in the past against his own people as well as his neighbours and could almost certainly use again in the future.


This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists

Irene Khan, Amnesty International

"In addition to that, there's the systematic terror which is perpetrated by Saddam on a daily basis against his own people, which is why there is this most unusual and outrageous political system which simply goes back to one person.

"The only person worth dealing with is Saddam, because everybody else, including his own cabinet, are in mortal fear."

Publication of the dossier is a move by the government to gain public support for war on Iraq if the regime fails to comply with the resolution, said BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the document made "harrowing" reading, and was "a political document intended to achieve a particular political effect."

Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons and anti-war on Iraq, said: "I think that this highly unusual, indeed, unprecedented publication is cranking up for war."

Peaceful solution

But Britain's spokesman on Iraq denied the report was intended to build a case for military action against Iraq.

Speaking in the Jordanian capital Amman on Sunday, Mark Sedwill said: "There is a strong impression around in the Middle East that Britain has a desire to prepare for military action on Iraq. It isn't so.

"We want a peaceful way out of this."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Straw: Dossier makes harrowing reading
Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan disagreed.

She said: "This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists.

"Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War.

"They remained silent when thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians were killed in Halabja in 1988."

A team of UN weapons inspectors has been in Iraq since last Wednesday examining suspected arms sites.

They have so far been allowed unfettered access to suspected weapons sites and, excepting the missing UN equipment at the latest inspection site, so far nothing incriminating has been found.



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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Cigarette burns, acid baths, even drilling through bones"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"People understand the comprehensive evil that is Saddam Hussein"
Hania Mufti, Human Rights Watch
"The dossier represents only the tip of the iceberg"

Talking PointFORUM
Human Rights Day
Ask the UN high commissioner

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02 Dec 02 | Middle East
02 Dec 02 | Politics
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