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Maya Alleruzzo/AP/Press Association Images Prisoners perform daily prayers at a prison in Baghdad, Iraq, November 2008.
# Iraq
Thousands of Iraqis face torture, says Amnesty report
Human rights group says the US handover has left many people vulnerable and at risk of abuse.

THOUSANDS OF PRISONERS HANDED over by the US to Iraqi security forces to mark the end of America’s combat operations in Iraq are in danger of being tortured, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The report, entitled New Order Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq, says that tens of thousands of prisoners have been held without trial.

Amnesty says there are around 30,000 untried prisoners in Iraqi jails, and a large proportion of these remain at risk of torture and abuse during their confinement. The organisation alleges that several prisoners have already died in custody due to torture and physical abuse.

Detention

Amnesty says that detainees have been held in secret facilities and tortured to glean confessions from prisoners. It outlines cases where people were interrogated in groups, beaten, and blindfolded. Prisoners were not allowed to contact family members or lawyers to tell them where they were.

The report outlines cases of ill-treatment since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003:

Many of these detainees have been tortured or ill-treated in the initial period of their detention when they were held incommunicado. Most have had no access to legal representation and some have not had visits from relatives. In some cases, families spent months trying to find out where their detained relatives were held.

Al Jazeera outlines one case in detail today, the arrest and torture of British national Ramze Shihab Ahmed who fled Iraq after attempting to organise a coup against Saddam.

His family claim he travelled to Iraq to help his jailed son, but was arrested himself. They say they don’t know what the charges are, but received a phone call in March calling for $50,000 in return for Ramze’s release. When a British consular official was allowed to see Ramze months after his arrest, he said he had been tortured and forced to confess to terrorism charges.

Ramze remains in prison, nine months after his arrest.

Handover

Amnesty is critical of the handover of prisoners to Iraqi forces, saying that American forces have “abdicated” responsibility for their protection and rights. The US passed control of the last American-run prison to Iraq in mid-July.

Malcolm Smart, the organisation’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa said:

Iraq’s security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainee’s rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity.

Yet, the US authorities, whose own record on detainees’ rights has been so poor, have now handed over thousands of people detained by US forces to face this catalogue of illegality, violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for their human rights.

The group says that hundreds of prisoners have been sentenced to death, and some executed, on the basis of forced confessions.

The US continues to hold 200 prisoners, including members of Saddam Hussein’s government. Last week, President Obama moved to censor new images of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison which allegedly show prisoners being raped.