2 May 2004 -- The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is facing mounting criticism today over allegations that Iraqi prisoners have been abused at coalition-controlled prisons.
The allegations follow a broadcast on U.S. television during the past week of photographs allegedly showing U.S. interrogators abusing Iraqi prisoners. Similar photographs were published yesterday by a British newspaper, purportedly showing British troops mistreating Iraqi detainees.
U.S. President George W. Bush on 30 April expressed what he called "a deep disgust" about photographs of alleged abuses by U.S. guards at the Abu Ghurayb prison -- a facility near Baghdad that had been notorious during deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's rule as a center of torture, rape, and murder.
"Those few people who did that do not reflect the nature of the men and women we sent overseas," Bush said. "That's not the way the people are -- it's not their character -- that are serving our nation in the cause of freedom. And there will be an investigation, and I think they'll be taken care of."
"The New Yorker" magazine announced yesterday that it has obtained an internal U.S. Army report confirming that Iraqi detainees were subjected to "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at the Abu Ghurayb prison.
U.S. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who commands the U.S. forces in Iraq, ordered a criminal probe into the allegations of U.S. abuses more than three months ago. Six U.S. soldiers face possible court martial and seven others have been suspended of their duties at Abu Ghurayb prison.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also has backed a military investigation into the behavior of British troops. But Blair says he is reserving judgment about the authenticity of the photographs that have appeared in Britain's "The Daily Mirror" newspaper.
"Let me make it quite clear," Blair said. "If these things have actually been done, they are completely and totally unacceptable. I mean, we went to Iraq to get rid of that type of thing. Not to do it."
The British Army chief of staff, General Sir Michael Jackson, said that if the allegations of abuse are proven, such behavior by British troops would be "appalling," as well as a violation of the British military's code of conduct. "The allegations are already under investigation," Jackson said. "Again, if proven, the perpetrators are not fit to wear the Queen's uniform. They have besmirched the good name of the army and its honor."
In London, the human rights group Amnesty International says it has uncovered what it calls "a pattern of torture" of Iraqi prisoners by coalition forces. Amnesty International says it has received "scores" of reports of ill-treatment of detainees by British and U.S. troops. A spokesman for the group, Neil Durkin, says there should be an independent investigation.
"It's important that the public knows what the British Army is doing in Iraq," Durkin said. "It's important for Iraqis that they can trust the British Army on the streets and feel that if their relatives have been taken into custody, they will at least be looked after and certainly, certainly not tortured."
Members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council are demanding that Iraqi authorities be allowed to investigate the alleged abuses of inmates at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Council member Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir said any U.S. or British troops involved in the torture of Iraqis must be punished as war criminals because "the dignity of an Iraqi citizen is no less than the dignity of an American."
"Moreover, we demand a detailed investigation and we ask that the United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross be involved, and actively involved, in these investigations," al-Yawir said. "[Whoever] practiced these violations and the people who tried to condone [these] things should be tried according to international law as [war criminals]."
Council member Mahmud Uthman, a member of the pro-U.S. Kurdish minority, warned that the allegations have harmed the coalition's image in Iraq.
(compiled from wire reports)