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UK dossier slams Saddam on torture

The UK's Straw said the document made
The UK's Straw said the document made "harrowing reading."

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Was the dossier on Iraq released by the UK in the interests of

Human rights?
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

LONDON, England -- Britain has released a second dossier on Iraq, accusing dictator Saddam Hussein of masterminding the widespread and systematic torture of his political opponents.

But the release of the dossier was condemned by Amnesty International who accused the UK's Foreign Office of "cold and calculated manipulation" of the work of human rights activists.

The release of the document by the U.S.'s staunchest ally was seen as further preparing the ground for a possible military strike against Saddam.

CNN's Robin Oakley said there was nothing new in the report, it was "all part of preparing public opinion" and Amnesty had "something of a case."

"The big question all the journalists were asking at the Foreign Office was: 'Why now?'" he said.

Releasing the 23-page document, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the abuses listed made "harrowing reading."

Oakley said the thrust of "a horrific catalogue" of abuses was that it was the regime itself and not individual soldiers or police who were responsible for the torture.

In the introduction to the document -- titled "Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses" -- the Foreign Office said: "Iraq is a terrifying place to live.

"People are in constant fear of being denounced as opponents of the regime. They are encouraged to report on the activities of family and neighbours. The security services can strike at any time.

"Arbitrary arrests and killings are commonplace. Between three and four million Iraqis, about 15 percent of the population, have fled their homeland rather than live under Saddam Hussein's regime.

"These grave violations of human rights are not the work of a number of overzealous individuals but the deliberate policy of the regime. Fear is Saddam's chosen method of staying in power."

The document went on: "Saddam Hussein has been ruthless in his treatment of any opposition to him since his rise to power in 1979. A cruel and callous disregard for human life and suffering remains the hallmark of his regime."

The document listed Saddam's favoured methods of torture.

They included eye-gouging, piercing of hands with an electric drill, suspension from a ceiling, electric shock, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, beating of the soles of feet, mock executions, extinguishing cigarettes on the body and acid baths.

But the motives behind the report's publication were immediately attacked by Amnesty International.

The human rights group's secretary general Irene Khan 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 the same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War."

The report was published 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.

Teams from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are continuing their work in Iraq where they are looking for evidence that Iraq has been developing or stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. (Full story)

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