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Human rights in Iraq 'much worse'

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A humanitarian watchdog says the human rights situation in Iraq deteriorated significantly in 2005. Who is mainly to blame?
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Human Rights Watch

(CNN) -- After a year of arduous political spadework by Iraqis trying to establish a democracy, a major humanitarian watchdog group has said "the human rights situation in Iraq deteriorated significantly in 2005."

Human Rights Watch made the assessment Wednesday in a report titled "Human Rights Watch World Report 2006," a global survey of the state of human rights.

The U.S.-led coalition has touted a year of political progress in Iraq, as Iraqis numbering in the millions went to the polls to vote for a transitional parliament, a four-year parliament and a constitution.

The United States has also touted its efforts to fight and arrest insurgents and train competent Iraqi security forces.

One of the realities stemming from the report is that violence -- deadly, dramatic suicide bombings and daily insurgent ambushes and roadside bombings -- has taken a toll on living conditions, as well as claiming many lives.

"Efforts to boost economic reconstruction and the rebuilding of Iraq's devastated infrastructure continue to be hampered by general instability in the country and the level of violence caused by insurgency and counterinsurgency attacks," the report said.

The report cited:

  • A rise in insurgent armed attacks, "including the deliberate targeting of civilians and violent attacks such as suicide bombings."
  • A "high" level of abductions of Iraqis. The number of foreign nationals abducted "has decreased," a trend that parallels the "departure of foreign personnel" employed there.
  • U.S. and Iraqi counterinsurgency operations resulting "in the killing of civilians in violation of the laws of armed conflict."
  • An "absence of basic precautions by the U.S. military to protect civilians, including at checkpoints, brought to the fore by the killing of an Italian intelligence officer in March 2005."
  • "Evidence of the torture and other mistreatment of detainees held in the custody of U.S. forces in 2003 and 2004 has continued to emerge in the wake of the Abu Ghraib revelations in April 2004."
  • Doubts about the ability of the Iraqi High Tribunal trying Saddam Hussein and others from his regime to hold a fair proceeding.
  • The report cited al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic Army in Iraq as targeting "civilians for abductions and executions."

    "The first two groups have repeatedly boasted about massive car bombs and suicide bombs in mosques, markets, bus stations and other civilian areas," it said.

    Citizens regarded as collaborators have been targeted for killings.

    "The victims of targeted assassination by insurgent groups include government officials, politicians, judges, journalists, humanitarian aid workers, doctors, professors and those deemed to be collaborating with the foreign forces in Iraq, including translators, cleaners and others who perform civilian jobs for the U.S.-led Multi-National Force in Iraq," the report said.

    "Insurgents have directed suicide and car bomb attacks at Shia mosques, Christian churches and Kurdish political parties with the purpose of killing civilians. Claims that these communities are legitimate targets because they may support the foreign forces in Iraq have no basis in international law, which requires the protection of any civilian who is not actively participating in the hostilities."

    The report said "the vast majority" of allegations of detainee abuse involve Interior Ministry forces and members of the "armed forces" under the Defense Ministry.

    "Detainees in pretrial detention on security-related offenses, in particular, are subjected to various forms of torture or ill-treatment, including routine beatings, sleep deprivation, electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back, deprivation of food and water for prolonged periods, and severely overcrowded cells.

    "Former detainees held by Ministry of Interior forces in connection with alleged terrorist offenses linked to insurgent activity report other forms of torture, including having weights attached to their testicles, or having a string tied tightly round their penis and then being forced to drink large amounts of water."

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