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12/20/02 - IRAQI USE OF TORTURE - 2002-12-20

For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has brutally silenced those Iraqis who question his rule. As the U.S. State Department points out in a new report, “Iraq: A Population Silenced,” torture is routinely and systematically used by the Iraqi security apparatus. Beatings, rape, breaking of limbs, and denial of food and water are common in Iraqi jails. Saddam Hussein’s regime has also employed many horrific methods of torture. They include applying electric shocks to a male’s genitals, pulling out fingernails, dripping acid on the skin, gouging out eyes, and burning victims with a hot iron or blowtorch.

After Iraq’s 1991 defeat in the Persian Gulf War, Gwynne Roberts of the London-based Independent newspaper visited a torture center in northern Iraq. “In one cell,” said Ms. Roberts, “pieces of human flesh -- ear lobes -- were nailed to the wall, and blood spattered the ceiling. A large metal fan hung from the ceiling and my guide told me that prisoners were attached to the fan and beaten with clubs as they twirled.” The reporter was also told that prisoners had been crucified, with nails driven through their hands into the wall.

Many foreigners have also been victims of Iraqi brutality. Large numbers of Kuwaiti citizens were murdered, tortured, and raped during the Gulf War. More than two-dozen torture centers were discovered in Kuwait City after the Iraqi occupation. Photographic evidence confirms reports of electric shocks, acid baths, and the use of electric drills on victims’ bodies. Many civilians were used as human shields.

Branding and amputations have also been used as methods of punishment in Iraq. In 1994, the Saddam Hussein regime issued at least nine decrees that established cruel punishments such as branding. Amputation has been used against Iraqi soldiers convicted of desertion. One Iraqi whose hand was cut off was paraded on national television as a means of instilling fear. Doctors who refused to perform these barbarous operations were threatened with reprisals, and many have been imprisoned. In 2000, a decree was issued authorizing amputation of the tongue of anyone criticizing Saddam Hussein or his regime.

For too long, as President George W. Bush told the United Nations in September, the people of Iraq have suffered “in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it.”