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US, Iraq governments urged to investigate reports of detainee abuse

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called Saturday for the Iraqi and US governments to launch an investigation [press release] and prosecute those responsible for alleged detainee abuse [JURIST news archive] after thousands of previously classified documents detailing torture by US and Iraqi forces were posted on WikiLeaks [website]. The group said the leaked reports detail the US military's failure to prevent abuses, including beatings, burnings and lashings, of Iraqi detainees at the hands of their captors. HRW also claimed the US may have violated international law by transferring detainees into Iraqi custody despite being aware that torture and abuse was a common practice. The documents also allegedly reveal that US forces failed to investigate reports of alleged torture and often ignored the "extensive abuses" of detainees by Iraqi security forces over a six-year period. HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork called for an investigation into the abuse, which he claims the released documents reveal is "rampant and goes completely unpunished. It's clear that US authorities knew of systematic abuse by Iraqi troops, but they handed thousands of detainees over anyway." HRW's request for an investigation comes almost six months after the group reported on the repeated torture [JURIST report] of Iraqi detainees in a secret prison in Baghdad.

UN Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official website] also responded to the WikiLeaks documents last week, calling for the Obama administration to launch an inquiry [JURIST report] into the role of the US forces in the alleged human rights violations. He stated that the US is party to UN human rights treaties that compel the investigation of such allegations and the criminalization of any form of torture. He also claimed that the incidents documented in the release may constitute violations of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [texts and materials]. In July, Nowak's predecessor called for a similar investigation regarding an additional WikiLeaks release [JURIST report]. The request involved war crimes allegedly committed by Taliban [CFR backgrounder], US and British forces in Afghanistan. In addition to the HRW reports, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a similar report in September on the abuses of thousands of Iraqi detainees [JURIST report]. The report, "New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detention in Iraq" [text, PDF] estimates that more than 30,000 detainees are currently being held in Iraqi prisons where they are tortured and mistreated, have no access to legal representation and are held indefinitely without visits from family members.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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