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HRW Says Detained Iraqi Women Frequently Tortured, Abused

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Iraqi authorities subject many jailed women in the country to torture and ill-treatment.

A 105-page report released on February 6 by the rights group says brutal tactics by Iraqi security forces are essentially similar, and that hundreds of women are still illegally in detention about a year after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to reform the criminal justice system.

The report -- titled "'No One Is Safe': Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System" -- says Iraq's weak judiciary frequently bases convictions upon coerced confessions and that trial proceedings fall far short of international standards.

The U.S.-based group's Iraq researcher, Erin Evers, told RFE/RL from Baghdad that none of the "promised reforms" has been implemented.

"The criminal justice system -- that includes everything from security forces to investigative judges to the courts themselves -- is completely dysfunctional," she said. "It is penetrated by corruption and abuse at every stage and, frankly, the international community has not done its part to pressure the government to undertake reforms."

The report is based on interviews with women and girls in prisons, with their families and lawyers, and with medics. HRW also reviewed court documents and met with Iraqi security and government officials.

The rights group says a vast majority of more than 4,200 women detained within Iraq's Interior and Defense Ministry facilities are Sunni Arabs. But it says women of "all sects and classes" are abused.

The report adds that many women are detained for months -- sometimes even years -- without being formally charged or allowed to see a judge.

Out of 27 women who spoke with HRW, many described being beaten, kicked, slapped, hung upside down, given electric shocks, and raped or threatened with sexual assault by security forces while being interrogated.

They said security forces questioned them about their male relatives'’ activities rather than crimes in which they themselves were implicated. They were also forced to sign statements which they said they were not even allowed to read.

Maliki Criticized For Slow Pace Of Reconciliation

Also in Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki came under criticism from U.S. lawmakers on February 5 for the slow pace of political reconciliation and links to Iran.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives gathered to assess the threat of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq the Levant (ISIL).

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said Al-Qaeda is now carrying out 40 mass attacks a month, in Iraq's bloodiest eruption of violence in six years and the worst since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

Royce said the militants were benefiting from "the alienation" of the country's Sunni population from its Shi'ite-dominated government, which also has strong ties with the Shi'ite leaders in Iran.

With reporting by AFP
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