UK court denies public inquiry into Iraq detainee abuse

[JURIST] A UK High Court on Tuesday denied an appeal from Iraqi citizens to open a single public inquiry into allegations of abuse by members of the British Armed Forces. The Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), the group representing a group of more than140 Iraqis, appealed to the High Court after Defence Secretary Liam Fox refused to open a single public inquiry into allegations of UK military abuse. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) argued that a public inquiry would be unnecessary since public inquiries into the Baha Mousa and the Al Sweady cases were already under way by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT). In the appeal, PIL contended that IHAT was not sufficiently independent as required by article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

British Troops Accused of Abusing Iraqi Detainees

The NY Times reports that a lawyer for 200 Iraqis demanding a public inquiry into what they have described as brutal mistreatment by British soldiers in a secret detention center near Basra told the High Court in London on Friday that the abuse amounted to “Britain’s Abu Ghraib.” The assertion was buttressed with video recordings that appeared to show British interrogators bullying, humiliating and threatening a detainee. At least nine detainees are said to have died as a result of their mistreatment.

Michael Fordham, the lawyer for the former detainees, said they had been subjected to beatings, starvation, sleep deprivation, electric shocks, prolonged periods of nakedness and sexual humiliation by female soldiers, sensory deprivation through the enforced use of hoods, earmuffs and blackened goggles, and exposure to pornographic DVDs.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) opposes a public inquiry, arguing in a blog post that a public inquiry would be too expensive and less effective than the MOD investigation, especially since the MOD has already assembled a team to investigate the claims.

Iraq Broadcasts Confessions By Al Qaeda Insurgents

Two men arrested in Iraq over suicide bomb attacks on embassies and a foreign television office were shown on state TV Sunday confessing that they worked for al Qaeda. The confessions, broadcast widely on several local channels, were aired at a time when Iraqi forces are under pressure to demonstrate their ability to fight insurgents as U.S. troops prepare for a complete withdrawal from Iraq by end-2011. In a report last year, rights group Amnesty International criticized Iraq for using taped televised confessions, saying they undermined people’s right to a fair trial.

77,000 Iraqis killed from 2004 to August 2008, U.S. military says

The U.S. military released its most detailed compilation of data on Iraqi casualties during more than four years of the Iraq  war, reporting that 63,185 civilians and 13,754 members of the country’s security forces were killed from the beginning of 2004 through August 2008.

The casualty figures released by the United States are lower than Iraqi government accounts. Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry reported last year that 85,694 Iraqis, including military and police personnel, were killed from the beginning of 2004 through October 2008.

A controversial 2006 survey in the Lancet, a British medical journal, estimated that more than 600,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war, a figure more than 10 times as high as other estimates at the time. Iraq Body Count, a public database of civilian deaths since 2003, puts the number between 98,252 and 107,235.

In the period covered by the U.S. report, at least 121,649 Iraqis were
wounded. Among coalition troops, 3,592 were killed and 30,068 wounded.

AI Report: Iraq unlawfully detaining and torturing thousands

(JURIST) According to a report by Amnesty International (AI), the Iraqi government is unlawfully detaining and torturing more than 30,000 detainees. The report, “New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detention in Iraq“, accuses Iraq of torturing detainees during interrogations in order to obtain confessions, which are then used as evidence against them. Furthermore, an increasing number of uncharged detainees are being held despite judicial orders for their release.

The report proposes a number of guidelines to be followed by the Iraqi prison authorities  in order to help protect detainees, including immediately halting the ill treatment of prisoners and ensuring the detainees are given full due process rights and access to legal representation.

AI urged the US and Iraqi authorities to respect international human rights law for the protection of prison detainees by immediately releasing any uncharged detainees. AI also recalled that the practice of arbitrary detention violates both Iraqi legislation (the 2008 Iraqi amnesty law prescribes that uncharged detainees are to be released after a period of six to 12 months in detention) and international human rights law.

Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim and a US military spokesman both refuted the AI investigation, saying that all detainees are being held on judicial warrant and that the report is “baseless” and the claims of detainee mistreatment are “not true.”

Transfer of US biometric database to Iraq raises concerns

Over the past seven years, US soldiers in Iraq have used sweeping wartime powers to collect fingerprints, iris scans, and even DNA from ordinary people and suspected insurgents, an effort that has helped the Pentagon amass one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of biometric information collected during a war. Nearly 7 percent of Iraq’s 29 million people are cataloged — their names, facial scans, and often other details about them, such as whether they were considered a friend or foe. As the war draws down, however, the collection of so much personal information has raised questions about how data gathered during wartime should be used during times of peace, and with whom that information should be shared. Some Iraqis fear that the transfer of data to their government could create a “hit list’’ of Iraqis who worked with the US military or a tool for settling ethnic or sectarian scores.

According to Lt. Col Velliquette, the Iraqi system has approximately  750,000 records in its database. Earlier, EPIC, Privacy International,  and Human Rights Watch wrote to the US Secretary Defense to warn that the system will lead to reprisals and further killings. For more information, see Transcript of “The Role of Biometric in Counterinsurgency,’ blogs at Harpers and Wired.

The collection in Iraq is part of a global attempt to find and track terrorist suspects. Stephen Morris, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said the bureau helps dozens of countries collect biometric information, usually in exchange for access to data. The FBI has agents stationed in Jordan, Italy, Mexico, Germany, and elsewhere to organize “fingerprint exchanges’’ of thousands of terrorist suspects.

Obama declares that combat In Iraq is over

President Obama announced the end of the combat mission in Iraq and discussed the future of the U.S. commitment to helping build a stable Iraq in an address to the nation from the Oval Office.

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq  with a different mission:  advising and assisting Iraq’s Security  Forces, supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions,  and protecting our civilians.  Consistent with our agreement with the  Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.  Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission.  Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife.  But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals.

On Afghanistan:

Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.  Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there.  But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake.  As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders — and hundreds of al Qaeda’s extremist allies — have been killed or captured around the world.