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3/28/04 - TORTURE COMMON IN SADDAM’S IRAQ - 2004-03-29

It has long been known that Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime brutally persecuted Iraq’s majority Shia population. A year after Saddam Hussein was removed from power, the world is still learning the extent of these abuses.

The Boston-based research and advocacy group, Physicians for Human Rights, surveyed nearly two-thousand Shia men and women in three major cities in southern Iraq. Nearly half reported that human rights abuses were committed against members of their families between 1991 and 2003. These abuses included torture, killings, disappearance, forced military service, beating, shootings, kidnappings, and ear amputation. Baath Party groups were identified most often as the perpetrators. The Physicians for Human Rights report also reveals that some Iraqi doctors were forced to commit acts of torture and falsify reports about torture. Some were even forced to remove organs from dead -- and living -- patients without consent. Dr. Amer al-Khuzaie, deputy health minister in Baghdad, said Saddam Hussein "tried everything to terrorize the Iraqi people, and he used mean and brutal methods to oppress the people. One of these methods,” he said, “was the use of doctors to cut ears and tongues of opponents and army deserters, and other illegal and unethical practices. The aim of doctors is to end the suffering, but in Saddam's time, the opposite happened."

Dr. Lynn Amowitz, who led the research project, told the Voice of America that the effects of the years of torture are still being felt by the Iraqi people. Dr. Amowitz says it is important to build a network of mental health services to help the many victims of Saddam Hussein’s cruelty. It is also important to establish a system of justice and accountability to punish those responsible for the brutal crimes against the Iraqi people.