GENEVA, (Reuters) – Torture is rampant in Iraqi prisons and police detention centres, and may be worse than under Saddam Hussein’s rule, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Thursday.
“The situation as far as torture is concerned in Iraq is now completely out of hand,” Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and cruelty, told reporters in Geneva.
“The situation is so bad that many people say that it is worse than in the times of Saddam Hussein,” he said.
Nowak, who has not visited Iraq, said he had credible reports of torture in facilities run by Iraqi forces, as well as by the militias and insurgents who have kidnapped and killed hundreds of people since Saddam’s overthrow in 2003.
“The situation as such is extremely serious, but it is not just torture by the government,” Nowak said. He also cited reports of inhumane treatment in U.S.- and foreign-run detention centres, but said conditions there seemed to have improved since an international furore over mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison. Abu Ghraib was handed over to Iraqi control three weeks ago. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq on Wednesday urged the Iraqi government to invite Nowak to come and look into allegations of torture in prisons run by the U.S.-led multinational force as well as by the Interior and Defence ministries and by militias.
Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue “often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones — back, hands and legs –missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails,” the mission said.
Nowak, who was in Geneva to address the U.N. Human Rights Council, said he had held talks with Iraqi authorities in June about a fact-finding mission, but had not yet received an invitation.
Nowak has a mission scheduled for Oct. 9-20 to Russia, including visits to Chechnya and North Ossetia, and will travel to Sri Lanka at the end of January. He has also received an invitation from Indonesia for a mission in 2007, following a request first made in 1993.