TORTURE IN IRAQ: Some things never change

The torture of Iraqi prisoners is headline-making news at the moment, but a report published just before the bad publicity started puts things into some sort of perspective.

Researchers from the Physicians for Human Rights carried out a study among nearly 2,000 households in three Iraqi cities in July last year, and discovered that torture and abuse of human rights was a way of life during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Nearly half of the respondents reported cases of torture, killings, disappearance, forced conscription, beating, gunshot wounds, kidnappings, being held hostage and ear amputation since 1991.

Around 70 per cent of abuses were carried out in the home rather than in the prisons, and by members of the ruling Ba’ath party.

While most respondents agreed that there should be an improvement in basic human rights, such as equal opportunities in education, access to health care and family planning, only half felt these rights should be extended to women. Over half the women questioned believed it was a husband’s right to beat them, and that women should not have equal opportunities in education and work.

A similarly depressing picture was painted by the same group when they came to question doctors in Iraq. A minority of doctors seemed prepared to do the bidding of the Ba’ath party, including ear amputation, falsification of documents to conceal torture cases, and the administration of ‘mercy bullets’ to patients injured following torture.

These poor, suppressed people deserve better from their American ‘liberators’.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004; 291: 1471-9; and 1480-6).

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