Sunday, February 16, 2014

Video the State Dept Doesn't Want You To See

Two Thursdays ago,  Human Rights Watch released their report entitled (PDF format warning) "'NO ONE IS SAFE: Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System."  The US State Department has ignored it and, in a conspiracy of silence, reporters present at the weekday daily press briefings have refused to ask about it.

The State Department, which is over the US mission in Iraq, really doesn't want you to know about the report and certainly doesn't want to be asked about it.  They just want to facilitate the White House's transfer of more weapons to Nouri al-Maliki's abusive tyranny.

The HRW video below reviews some of the report's findings.  For those who can't stream video or need closed captioning, a transcript is below the video.

Former detainee Fatma:  All in all, I was tortured for seven days. They tied my hands, stripped my clothes and covered my legs with ice.  This was during the month of February, so it was very cold.  I felt like my fingers were broken from the cold, the beating, the cursing and the insults. A man handcuffed both of my hands and feet, and made me lay on my stomach. He took my clothes off.  He started to hit my face and eyes.  He pulled me by my hair.  I couldn't scream or move because if I moved the handcuffs would hurt my hands and legs. Then the man raped me.  

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  The number of women in Iraq in prison right now is estimated to be just over a thousand, about 1100 women.  And the abuses that we've documented against them are often typical of the abuses that men often face which is torture, beatings usually designed to extract confessions.  But in addition, because they're women with the additional vulnerability, they have faced sexual assault and harassment.  

Former detainee Fatma:  You've just been raped, beaten and insulted and then they say they will do the same to your daughter if you don't confess what they tell you to.  What can you do then?  You will surely say that you committed those crimes.  You will say whatever they want to protect your child.  So the only option that prisoners are left with is to confess to crimes they didn't commit and hope they find a lawyer who will prove their innocence. 

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  We found dozens of cases of women who said they signed confessions due to torture.  We have ourselves documented their torture on their bodies, seen the marks left behind.  We have talked to judges who themselves have verified being put under pressure to convict women without evidence.

Former detainee Fatma:  The judicial order for my release was issued in January, but then I stayed in prison for 25 more days.

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  It is quite common -- not just for women, but also for men in Iraq who've been detained -- to be held beyond their detention, beyond the expiry of their sentences.  And I think it highlights the dysfunction of the Iraqi judicial system.

Former detainee Fatma:  I filed a complaint but I haven't seen any results. I was interviewed by the justice minister once.  He asked me what happened and I told him all of the details and that I didn't understand why I was tortured and raped. He said that they will look into my case and that they will take court action against those who abused me.  He also said they would compensate me for the torture I've been through and for the extra time that I spent in prison after I was supposed to be released.  But as of now, nothing has happened, and I'm afraid. 

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  In Iraq still there is an abiding sense of immunity for the security services which is blessed and sanctioned there.  Until Maliki makes clear that he will not tolerate torture and abuse either in Iraq's prisons or Iraq's police stations, we can expect this to continue. 

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