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Rights abuses increasing in Iraq, HRW says

[JURIST] The Human Rights Watch annual report [PDF text] released Wednesday alleges an increasing amount of human rights abuses in Iraq, including torture of detainees and attacks on civilians, and assigns some of the blame to the US and its military. The report finds a deteriorating situation in Iraq partly due to US leadership in the country:

Counterinsurgency attacks by U.S.-led international and Iraqi forces further aggravated the human rights situation, resulting in the killing of civilians in violation of the laws of armed conflict. There was also continuing concern about the absence of basic precautions by the U.S. military to protect civilians, including at checkpoints ... the army had failed to implement lessons learned during two years of manning checkpoints.

Evidence of the torture and other mistreatment of detainees held in the custody of U.S. forces in 2003 and 2004 has continued to emerge in the wake of the Abu Ghraib revelations in April 2004. Some of the evidence is based on accounts by U.S. military personnel, who have described routine and severe beatings of detainees, including subjecting them to forced stress positions, sleep deprivation, extremes of hot and cold, denial of food and water, and the application of chemical substances to detainees' skin and eyes. The accounts show that abuses have resulted from civilian and military failures of leadership and confusion about interrogation standards and the application of the Geneva Conventions.
The report also questioned the fairness of the Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive], citing its reliance on Iraqi criminal law, which HRW says doesn't adequately protect the rights of the accused, and the defense counsel's lack of access to Hussein among its many problems. The White House responded to the report, which also addressed the human rights situation in Asia [JURIST report], on Wednesday, by dismissing the allegations [JURIST report] as "based on a political agenda." CNN has more.

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