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State Dept Releases 2006 Human Rights Report
Iraq Chapter a Bureaucratic Account of Extreme Suffering
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/07/2007 11:48 AM ET
The State Department released it 2006 Human Right Report yesterday, with a chapter on Iraq that attempts to translate all the human suffering of the past year into a dry bureaucratic narrative tinged by diplo-speak.

The annual reports can provide a helpful snapshot of the state of human rights in a particular country, but diplomatic limitations and/or US policy requirements often restrain the criticism of allies. This year's Iraq report should be assessed with that in mind, most particularly with regard to its mentions of government-affiliated death squads.

In the opening summary, the report describes a situation where, "predominantly Shi'a militias with some ties to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), targeted Sunnis in large-scale death squad and kidnapping activities. While the law provides for civilian authorities' control over the security forces, there were many instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently."

Violence is later ascribed to "errant government agents," though it also mentions "MoI-affiliated death squads" in a paragraph citing measures the Ministry has taken to crack down on the problem.

Overall, the report stops short of implying, or even seriously considering, that higher levels of the Iraqi government play any role in giving orders to the "MoI- affiliated death squads" who have operated with such brutality against the civilian population.

Given its reporting on torture and arbitrary detention, it does not seem that State restrained itself for the diplomatic nicety of not criticizing the Iraqi government.

"During the year, local and international human rights organizations continued to report that detainees held in several MoI and MoD detention facilities, as well as in KRG security forces detention facilities, were tortured and abused. Incidents of abuse included application of electric shocks, fingernail extractions, and other severe beatings. In some cases, police threatened and sexually abused detainees and visiting family members."

The torture of detainees is nothing that needs disturb the current state of relations between the US and Iraq--particularly in light of exposed American abuses at Abu Ghraib.

However, if the State Department were to even publicly contemplate that the official strategic plan of top elements of the Iraqi government might include the mass murders and kidnappings that have acted as a driving force behind the sectarian strife, it would put tremendous pressure of the Bush Administration to confirm or refute the charges, and to pull support for Maliki's regime if true. While Maliki still satisfies American interests, the USG will ignore persistent rumors that the death squads operate with official approval.

Rather than delving into this more complicated, but important, aspect of human rights abuses in Iraq, the report instead, somewhat ironically, positively cites that, "The Ministry of Interior (MoI) and Ministry of Defense (MoD) both increased the numbers of trained security forces, which can be directed to establish an improved rule of law environment."

Of course trained security forces "can be directed to establish an improved rule of law environment," but they can also be used to carry out clandestine extrajudicial measures if the Iraqi government wanted to obscure its direct involvement. For now, it remains to be conclusively determined how they are being employed by the MoI and MoD.

The file is available for download here: 2006_DOS_HR_Iraq.pdf

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