Ibrahim al Jaafari”s government should bear the full responsibility for the torture of detainees in Iraqi prisons and the attempts by some ministers to downplay the issue. Their behaviour is wholly unacceptable. The problem is not one of numbers or figures. It does not matter whether a hundred detainees were mistreated or only five. What is important is the principle itself. The huge sacrifices by the people of Iraq against the former despotic regime were made under the banner of defending human rights and rejecting detention, torture and mass graves.
Reports alleging that militiamen are detaining and torturing people are very worrying. There is little or no difference between the intelligence services under Saddam, which acted as a state within a state, and armed groups once they transform themselves into a force outside the rule of law even if they continue to advocate nationalism, patriotism and piety.
Non-governmental organizations in Iraq need to speak out and act to stop this abuse of power. The people of Iraq should also punish those involved, particularly now that they can have their say through the ballot box, and bring to justice all those implicated in such heinous acts.
Iraqis dream of a homeland to replace the big prison that they have lived in, and dream of a state where the law reigns supreme, of impartial courts, the rights of citizens to defend themselves and the respect of legal procedures such as detention, internment and a just trial. These principles ought to apply to everybody, including criminals, terrorists and remnants of the Baath party. Indeed, a state ruled by law treats all its citizens equally and without favouritism. The principles of human rights are universal and are independent of politics and criminality.
The biggest murderer, Saddam Hussein, currently on trial, has a team of lawyers defending him and the right to defend himself, in spite of the countless crimes. Such evil deeds committed do not need require substantiating given that his victims are everywhere and thousands of documents prove he is guilty. Those who loathe Saddam Hussein but approve of his trial do so in an attempt to establish a country ruled by law where freedom and justice prevail. It is crucial that cases of torture do not go unpunished.