THE TORTURE PAPERS: THE ROAD TO ABU GHRAIB
The ICRC Report
REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (ICRC) ON THE TREATMENT BY THE COALITION FORCES OF PRISONERS OF WAR AND OTHER PROTECTED PERSONS BY THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS IN IRAQ DURING ARREST, INTERNMENT AND INTERROGATION
Table of Contents
In its "Report on the Treatment by the Coalition Forces of Prisoners of War and other protected persons in Iraq", the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) draws the attention of the Coalition Forces (hereafter called "the CF") to a number of serious violations of International Humanitarian Law. These violations have been documented and sometimes observed while visiting prisoners of war, civilian internees and other protected persons by the Geneva Conventions (hereafter called persons persons deprived of their liberty when their status is not specifically mentioned) in Iraq between March and November 2003. During its visits to places of internment of the CF, the ICRC collected allegations during private interviews with persons deprived of their liberty relating to the treatment by the CF of protected persons during their capture, arrest, transfer, internment and interrogation.
The main violations, which are described in the ICRC report and presented confidentially to the CF, include:
Serious problems of conduct by the CF affecting persons deprived of their liberty are also presented in the report:
According to allegations collected by ICRC delegates during private interviews with persons deprived of their liberty, ill-treatment during capture was frequent. While certain circumstances might require defensive precautions and the use of force on the part of battle group units, the ICRC collected allegations of ill-treatment following capture which took place in Baghdad, Basrah, Ramadi and Tikrit, indicating a consistent pattern with respect to times and places of brutal behavior during arrest. The repetition of such behavior by CF appeared to go beyond reasonable, legitimate and proportional use of force required to apprehend suspects or restrain persons resisting arrest or capture, and seemed to reflect a usual modus operandi by certain CF battle group units.
According to the allegations collected by the ICRC, ill-treatment during interrogation was not systematic, except with regard to persons arrested in connected with suspected security offences or deemed to have an "intelligence" value. In these cases, persons deprived of their liberty under supervision of Military Intelligence were at high risk of being subjected to a variety of harsh treatments ranging from insults, threats and humiliations to both physical and psychological coercion, which in some cases was tantamount to torture, in order to force cooperation with their interrogators.
The ICRC also started to document what appeared to be widespread abuse of power and ill-treatment by the Iraqi police which is under the responsibility of the Occupying Powers, including threats to hand over persons in their custody to the CF so as to extort money from them, effective hand over of such persons to the custody of the CF on allegedly fake accusations, or invoking CF orders or instructions to mistreat persons deprived of their liberty during interrogation.
In the case of the "High Value Detainees" held in Baghdad International Airport, their continued internment, several months after their arrest, in strict solitary confinement in cells devoid of sunlight for nearly 23 hours a day constituted a serious violation of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
The ICRC was also concerned about the excessive and disproportionate use of force by some detaining authorities against persons deprived of their liberty involved during their internment during periods of unrest or escape attempts that cause death and serious injuries. The use of firearms against persons deprived of their liberty in circumstances where methods without using firearms could have yielded the same result could amount to a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law. The ICRC reviewed a number of incidents of shootings of persons deprived of their liberty with live bullets, which have resulted in deaths or injuries during periods of unrest related to conditions of internment or escape attempts. Investigations initiated by the CF into these incidents concluded that the use of firearms against persons deprived of their liberty was legitimate. However, non-lethal measures could have been used to obtain the same results and quell the demonstrations or neutralize persons deprived of their liberty trying to escape.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has regularly brought its concern to the attention of the CF. The observations in the present report are consistent with those made earlier on several occasions orally and in writing to the CF throughout 2003. In spite of some improvements in the material conditions of internment, allegations of ill-treatment perpetrated by members of the CF against persons deprived of their liberty continued to be collected by the ICRC and thus suggested that the use of ill-treatment against persons deprived of their liberty went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered as a practice tolerated by the CF.
The ICRC report does not aim to be exhaustive with regard to breaches of International Humanitarian Law by the CF in Iraq. Rather, it illustrates priority areas that warrant attention and corrective action on the part of CF, in compliance with their International Humanitarian Law obligations.
Consequently the ICRC asks the authorities of the CF in Iraq:
- to respect at all times the human dignity, physical integrity and cultural sensitivity of the persons deprived of their liberty held under their control
1. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is mandated by the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to monitor the full application of and respect for the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. The ICRC reminds the High Contracting Parties concerned, usually in a confidential way, of their humanitarian obligations under all four Geneva Conventions, in particular the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions as far as treatment of persons deprived of their liberty is concerned and under Protocol 1 of 1977 additional to the Geneva Conventions, confirmed and reaffirmed rules of customary law and universally acknowledged principles of humanity.
The information contained in this report is based on allegations collected by the ICRC in private interviews with persons deprived of their liberty during its visits to places of internment of the Coalition forces (CF) between March and November 2003. The allegations have been thoroughly revised in order to present this report as factually as possible. The report is also based on other accounts given either by fellow persons deprived of their liberty inside internment facilities by family members. During this period, the ICRC conducted some 29 visits in 14 internment facilities in the central and southern parts of the country. The testimonies were collected in Camp Cropper (Core Holding Area, Military Intelligence section, "High Value Detainees" section); Al-Salihiyye, Tasferat and Al-Russafa prisons; Abu Ghraib Correctional Facility (including Camp Vigilant and the "Military Intelligence" section); Umm Qasr and Camp Bucca, as well as several temporary internment places such as Tallil Trans-Shipment Place, Camp Condor, Amarah Camp and the Field Hospital in Shaibah.
The ICRC conditions for such visits to persons deprived of their liberty in internment facilities are common for all countries where the organization operates. The can be expressed as follows:
Each visit to persons deprived of their liberty is carried out in accordance with ICRC's working procedures expressed as follows:
2. The aim of the report is to present information collected by the ICRC concerning the treatment of prisoners of war by the CF, civilian internees and other protected persons deprived of their liberty during the process of arrest, transfer, internment and interrogation.
3. The main places of internment where mistreatment allegedly took place included battle group unit stations; the military intelligence sections of Camp Cropper and Abu Ghraib Correctional Facility; Al-Baghadadi, Heat Base and Habbania Camp in Ramadi governorate; Tikrit holding area (former Saddam Hussein Islamic School); a former train station in Al-Kha´m, near the Syrian border, turned into a military base; the Ministry of Defense and Presidential Palace in Baghdad, the former mukhabarat office in Basrah, as well as several Iraqi police stations in Baghdad.
4. In most cases, the allegations of ill-treatment referred to acts that occurred prior to the internment of persons deprived of their liberty in regular internment facilities, while they were in the custody of arresting authorities or military and civilian intelligence personnel. When persons deprived of their liberty were transferred to regular internment facilities, such as those administered by the military police, where the behavior of guards was strictly supervised, ill-treatment of the type described in this report usually ceased. In these places, violations of the provisions of International Humanitarian Law relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty were a result of the generally poor standard of internment conditions (long term internment in unsuitable temporary facilities) or of the use of what appeared to be excessive force to quell unrest or to prevent attempted escapes.
5. Protected persons interviewed by ICRC delegates have described a fairly consistent pattern with respect for times and places of brutality by members of the CF arresting them.
6. Arrests as described in these allegations tended to follow a pattern. Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property. They arrested suspects, tying their hands in the back with flexi-cuffs, hooding them, and taking them away. Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped and sick people. Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles. Individuals were often led away in whatever they happened to be wearing at the time of arrest -- sometimes in pyjamas or underwear -- and were denied the opportunity to gather a few essential belongings, such as clothing, hygiene items, medicine or eyeglasses. Those who surrendered with a suitcase often had their belongings confiscated. In many cases personal belongings were seized during the arrest, with no receipt being issued (see section 6, below).
7. Certain CF military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% and 90% of persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units.
8. In accordance with provisions of International Humanitarian Law which oblige the CF to treat prisoners of war and other protected persons humanely and to protect them against acts of violence, threats thereof, intimidation and insults (Art. 13, 14, 17, 87, Third Geneva Convention; Art. 5, 27, 31, 32, 33 Fourth Geneva Convention), the ICRC asks the authorities of CF to respect at all times the human dignity, physical integrity and cultural sensitivity of the persons deprived of their liberty held under their control. The ICRC also asks the authorities of CF to ensure that battle group units arresting individuals receive adequate training enabling them to operate in a proper manner and fulfill their responsibilities without resorting to brutality or using excessive force.
9. In almost all instances documented by the ICRC, arresting authorities provided no information about who they were, where their base was located, nor did they explain the cause of arrest. Similarly, they rarely informed the arrestee or his family where he was being taken and for how long, resulting in the de facto "disappearance" of the arrestee for weeks or even months until contact was finally made.
10. When arrests were made in the streets, along the roads, or at checkpoints, families were not informed about what had happened to the arrestees until they managed to trace them or received news about them through persons who had been deprived of their liberty, or ICRC Red Cross messages. In the absence of a system to notify the families of the whereabouts of their arrested relatives, many were left without news for months, often fearing that their relatives unaccounted for were dead.
11. Nine months into the present conflict, there is still no satisfactory functioning system of notification to the families of captured or arrested persons, even though hundreds of arrests continue to be carried out every week. While the main places of internment (Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib) are part of a centralized notification system through the National Information Bureau (and their data are forwarded electronically to ICRC on a regular basis), other places of internment such as Mossul or Tikrit are not. Notifications from those places therefore depend solely on capture or internment cards as stipulated by the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
Since March 2003 capture cards have often been filled out carelessly, resulting in unnecessary delays of several weeks or months before families were notified, and sometimes resulting in no notification at all. It is the responsibility of the detaining authority to see to it that each capture or internment card is carefully filled out so that the ICRC is in a position to effectively deliver them to families. The current system of General Information Centers (GIC), set up under the responsibility of the Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Centers (HACC), while an improvement, remains inadequate, as families outside the main towns do not have access to them, lists made available are not complete and often outdated and do not reflect the frequent transfers from one place of internment to another. In the absence of a better alternative, the ICRC's delivery of accurate capture cards remains the most reliable, prompt and effective system to notify the families, provided cards are properly filled out.
The ICRC has raised this issue repeatedly with the detaining authorities since March 2003, including at the highest level of the CF in August 2003. Despite some improvement, hundreds of families had had to wait anxiously for weeks and sometimes months before learning of the whereabouts of their arrested family members. Many families travel for weeks throughout the country from one place of internment to another in search of their relatives and often come to learn about their whereabouts informally (through released detainees) or when the person deprived of his liberty is released and returns home.
12. Similarly, transfers, cases of sickness at the time of arrest, deaths, escapes or repatriations, continue to be notified only insufficiently or are not notified at all by the CF to families in spite of their obligation to do so under International Humanitarian Law.
13. In accordance with provisions of both the Third Geneva Convention (Art. 70, 122, 123) and the Fourth Geneva Convention (Art. 106, 136, 137, 138, 140), the ICRC reminds the CF of their treaty-based obligation to notify promptly the families of all prisoners of war and other protected persons captured or arrested by them. Within one week, prisoners of war and civilian detainees must be allowed to fill out capture cards or internment cards mentioning at the very least their capture/arrest, address (current place of detention/internment) and state of health. These cards must be forwarded as rapidly as possible and may not be delayed in any manner. As long as there is no centralized system of notifications of arrest set up by CF, it is of paramount importance that these capture cards be filled out properly, so as to allow the ICRC to transmit them rapidly to the concerned families.
14. The same obligation of notification to families of captured or arrested persons applies to transfers, cases of sickness, deaths, escapes and repatriation and identification of the dead of the adverse party. All these events must be notified to the ICRC with the full details of the persons concerned, so as to allow the ICRC to inform the concerned families (Art. 120, 121, 122, 123 Third Geneva Convention; Art. 129, 130, 136, 137, 140 Fourth Geneva Convention).
15. The ICRC collected several allegations indicating that following arrest persons deprived of their liberty were ill-treated, sometimes during transfer from their place of arrest to their initial internment facility. This ill-treatment would normally stop by the time the persons reached a regular internment facility, such as Camp Cropper, Camp Bucca or Abu Ghraib. The ICRC also collected one allegation of death resulting from harsh conditions of internment and ill-treatment during initial custody.
16. One allegation collected by the ICRC concerned the arrest of nine men by the CF in a hotel in Basrah on 13 September 2003. Following their arrest, the nine men were made to kneel, face and hands against the ground, as if in a prayer position. The soldiers stamped on the back of the neck of those raising their head. They confiscated their money without issuing a receipt. The suspects were taken to Al-Hakimiya, a former office previously used by the mukhabarat in Basrah and then beaten severely by CF personnel. One of the arrestees died following the ill-treatment [Name redacted], aged 28, married, father of two children). Prior to his death, his co-arrestees heard him screaming and asking for assistance.
The issued "International Death Certificate" mentioned "Cardio-respiratory arrest -- asphyxia" as the condition directly leading to the death. As to the cause of that condition, it mentioned "Unknown" and "Refer to the coroner". The certificate did not bear any other mention. An eyewitness description of the body given to the ICRC mentioned a broken nose, several broken ribs and skin lesions on the face consistent with beatings. The father of the victim was informed of his death on 18 September, and was invited to identify the body of his son. On 3 October, the commander of the CF in Basrah presented to him his condolences and informed him that an investigation had been launched and that those responsible would be punished. Two other persons similarly deprived of their liberty were hospitalized with severe injuries. Similarly, a week later, an ICRC medical doctor examined them in the hospital and observed large haematomas with dried scabs on the abdomen, buttocks, sides, thigh, wrists, nose and forehead consistent with their accounts of beatings received.
17. During a visit of the ICRC in Camp Bucca on 22 September 2003, a 61-year-old person deprived of his liberty alleged that he had been tied, hooded, and forced to sit on the hot surface of what he surmised to be the engine of a vehicle, which had caused severe burns to his buttocks. The victim had lost consciousness. The ICRC observed large crusted lesions consistent with his allegation.
18. The ICRC examined another person deprived of his liberty in the "High Value Detainees" section in October 2003 who had been subjected to a similar treatment. He had been hooded, handcuffed in the back, and made to lie face down, on a hot surface during transportation. This had caused severe skin burns that required three months hospitalization. At the time of the interview he had been recently discharged from hospital. He had to undergo several skin grafts, the amputation of his right index finger, and suffered permanent loss of the use of his left fifth finger secondary to burn-induced skin retraction. He also suffered extensive burns over the abdomen, anterior aspects of lower extremities, the palm of his right hand and the sole of his left foot. The ICRC recommended to the CF that the case be investigated to determine the cause and circumstances of the injuries and the authority responsible for the ill-treatment. At the time of writing the results of the report were still pending.
19. During transportation following arrest, persons deprived of their liberty were almost always hooded and tightly restrained with flexi-cuffs. They were occasionally
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haematoma and linear marks compatible with repeated whipping or beating. He had wrist marks compatible with tight flexi-cuffs.
The ICRC also collected allegations of deaths as a result of harsh internment conditions, ill-treatment, lack of medical attention, or the combination thereof, notably in Tikrit holding area formerly known as the Saddam Hussein Islamic School.
22. Some CF military intelligence officers told the ICRC that the widespread ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty during arrest, initial internment and "tactical questioning" was due to a lack of military police on the ground to supervise and control the behavior and activities of the battle group units, and the lack of experience of intelligence officers in charge of the "tactical questioning".
23. In accordance with provisions of International Humanitarian Law which oblige the CF to treat prisoners of war and other protected persons humanely and to protect them against acts of violence, threats thereof, intimidation and insults (Art. 13, 14, 17, 87, Third Geneva Convention; Art. 5, 27, 31, 32, 33 Fourth Geneva Convention), the ICRC asks the authorities of CF to respect at all times the human dignity, physical integrity and cultural sensitivity of the persons deprived of their liberty held under their control.
The ICRC also asks the authorities of CF to ensure that battle group units transferring and/or holding individuals receive adequate training enabling them to operate in a proper manner and fulfill their responsibilities without resorting to brutality or using excessive force.
24. Arrests were usually followed by temporary internment at battle group level or at initial interrogation facilities managed by military intelligence personnel, but accessible to other intelligence personnel (especially in the case of security detainees). The ill-treatment by the CF personnel during interrogation was not systematic, except with regard to persons arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an "intelligence" value. In these cases, persons deprived of their liberty supervised by the military intelligence were subjected to a variety of ill-treatments ranging from insults and humiliation to both physical and psychological coercion that in some cases might amount to torture in order to force them to cooperate with their interrogators. In certain cases, such as in Abu Ghraib military intelligence section, methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information. Several military intelligence officers confirmed to the ICRC that it was part of the military intelligence process to hold a person deprived of his liberty naked in a completely dark and empty cell for a prolonged period to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion, against persons deprived of their liberty to secure their cooperation.
25. The methods of ill-treatment most frequently alleged during interrogation included
26. These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information or other forms of cooperation from persons who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offences or deemed to have an "intelligence value."
27. In mid-October 2003, the ICRC visited persons deprived of their liberty undergoing interrogation by military intelligence officers in Unit 1A, the "isolation section" of "Abu Ghraib" Correctional Facility. Most of these persons deprived of their liberty had been arrested in early October. During the visit, ICRC delegates directly witnessed and documented a variety of methods used to secure the cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogators. In particular they witnessed the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness, allegedly for several consecutive days. Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities. The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was "part of the process". The process appeared to be a given-and-take policy whereby persons deprived of their liberty were "drip-fed" with new items (clothing, bedding, hygiene articles, lit cell, etc.) in exchange for their "cooperation". The ICRC also visited other person deprived of their liberty held in total darkness, others in dimly lit cells who had been allowed to dress following periods during which they had been held naked. Several had been given women's underwear to wear under their jumpsuit (men's underwear was not distributed), which they felt to be humiliating.
The ICRC documented other forms of ill-treatment, usually combined with those described above, including threats, insults, verbal violence, sleep deprivation caused by the playing of loud music or constant light in cells devoid of windows, tight handcuffing with flexi-cuffs causing lesions and wounds around the wrists. Punishment included being made to walk in the corridors handcuffed and naked, or with women's underwear on the head, or being handcuffed either dressed or naked to the bed bars or cell door. Some persons deprived of their liberty presented physical marks and psychological symptoms, which were compatible with these allegations. The ICRC medical delegate examine persons deprived of their liberty presenting signs of concentration difficulties, memory problems, verbal expression difficulties, incoherent speech, acute anxiety reactions, abnormal behavior and suicidal tendencies. These symptoms appeared to have been caused by the methods and duration of interrogation. One person held in isolation that ICRC examined, was unresponsive to verbal and painful stimuli. His heart rate was 120 beats per minute and his respiratory rate 18 per minute. He was diagnosed as suffering from somatoform (mental) disorder, specifically a conversion disorder, most likely due to the ill-treatment he was subjected to during interrogation.
According to the allegations collected by the ICRC, detaining authorities also continued to keep persons deprived of their liberty during the period of interrogation, uninformed of the reasons for their arrest. They were often questioned without knowing what they were accused of. They were not allowed to ask questions and were not provided with an opportunity to seek clarification about the reason for their arrest. Their treatment tended to vary according to their degree of cooperation with their interrogators: those who cooperated were afforded preferential treatment such as being allowed contacts with other persons deprived of their liberty, being allowed to phone their families, being given clothes, bedding equipment, food, water or cigarettes, being allowed access to showers, being held in a lit cell, etc.
28. Since the establishment of Umm Qasr and its successor, Camp Bucca, persons deprived of their liberty undergoing interrogation, whether they had been arrested by British, Danish, Dutch or Italian armed forces were segregated from other detainees in a separate section of the camp designated for investigation. This section was initially operated by the British Armed Forces who called it Joint Field Intelligence Team (JFIT). On 7 April, its administration was handed over to the US Armed Forces, which renamed it Joint Interrogation Facility/Interrogation Control Element (JIF/ICE). On 25 September 2003, its administration was handed back to the British Armed Forces.
29. CF intelligence personnel interrogated persons deprived of their liberty of concern to them in this section. They were either accused of attacks against the CF or deemed to have an "intelligence value". They could be held there from a few days to several weeks, until their interrogation was completed. During a visit in September 2003, the ICRC interviewed in that section several persons deprived of their liberty that had been held there for periods from three to four weeks.
30. Initially, inmates were routinely treated by their guards with general contempt, with petty violence such as having orders screamed at them and being cursed, kicked, struck with rifle butts, roughed up or pushed around. They were reportedly handcuffed in the back and hooded for the duration of the interrogation and were prohibited from talking to each other or to the guards. Hooding appeared to be motivated by security concerns as well as to be part of standard intimidation techniques used by military intelligence personnel to frighten inmates into cooperating. This was combined with deliberately maintaining uncertainty about what would happen to the inmates, and a generally hostile attitude on the part of the guards. Conditions of internment improved according to the degree of cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty. Interrogated persons deprived of their liberty were held in two separate sections. Those under initial investigation were reportedly not allowed to talk to each other (purportedly to avoid exchange of information and "versions of events" between them). They were not allowed to stand up or walk out of the tent but they had access to water with which to wash themselves. Once they had cooperated with their interrogators, they were transferred to the "privileged" tent where the above-mentioned restrictions were lifted.
31. Persons deprived of their liberty undergoing interrogation by the CF were allegedly subjected to frequent cursing, insults and threats, both physical and verbal, such as having rifles aimed at them in a general way or directly against the temple, the back of the head, or the stomach, and threatened with transfer to Guantanamo, death or indefinite internment. Besides mentioning the general climate of intimidation maintained as one of the methods used to pressure persons deprived of their liberty to cooperate with their interrogators, none of those interviewed by the ICRC in Umm Qasr and Camp Bucca spoke of physical ill-treatment during interrogation. All allegations of ill-treatment referred to the phase of arrest, initial internment (at collection points, holding areas) and "tactical questioning" by military intelligence officers attached to battle group units, prior to transfer to Camp Bucca.
32. On 1 April, the ICRC informed orally the political advisor or the commander of British Armed Forces at the CF Central Command in Doha about methods of ill-treatment used by military intelligence personnel to interrogate persons deprived of their liberty in the internment camp of Umm Qasr. This intervention had the immediate effect to stop the systematic use of hoods and flexi-cuffs in the interrogation section of Umm Qasr. Brutal treatment of persons deprived of their liberty also allegedly ceased when the 800th MP Brigade took over the guarding of that section in Umm Qasr. UK Forces handed over Umm Qasr holding area to the 800th MP Brigade on 09.04.03. The 800th MP Brigade then built Camp Bucca two kilometers away.
33. In May 2003, the ICRC sent to the CF a memorandum based on over 200 allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners of war during capture and interrogation at collecting points, battle group stations and temporary holding areas. The allegations were consistent with marks on bodies observed by the medical delegate. The memorandum was handed over to [Name redacted] US Central Command in Doha, Sate of Qatar. Subsequently, one improvement consisted in the removal of wristbands with the remark "terrorist" given to foreign detainees.
34. In early July the ICRC sent the CF a working paper detailing approximately 50 allegations of ill-treatment in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper, at Baghdad International Airport. They included a combination of petty and deliberate acts or violence aimed at securing the cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogators: threats (to intern individuals indefinitely, to arrest other family members, to transfer individuals to Guantanamo) against persons deprived of their liberty or against members of their families (in particular wives and daughters); hooding; tight handcuffing; use of stress positions (kneeling, squatting, standing with arms raised over the head) for three or four hours; taking aim at individuals with rifles, striking them with rifle butts, slaps, punches, prolonged exposure to the sun, and isolation in dark cells. ICRC delegates witnessed marks on the bodies of several persons deprived of their liberty consistent with the allegations. In one illustrative case, a person deprived of his liberty arrested at home by the CF on suspicion of involvement in an attack against the CF, was allegedly beaten during interrogation in a location in the vicinity of Camp Cropper. He alleged that he had been hooded and cuffed with flexi-cuffs, threatened to be tortured or killed, urinated on, kicked in the head, lower back and groin, force-fed a baseball which was tied into the mouth using a scarf and deprived of sleep for four consecutive days. Interrogators would allegedly take turns ill-treating him. When he said he would complain to the ICRC he was allegedly beaten more. An ICRC medical examination revealed haematoma in the lower back, blood in urine, sensory loss in the right hand due to tight handcuffing with flexi-cuffs, and a broken rib.
Shortly after that intervention was sent, the military intelligence internment section was closed to persons deprived of their liberty were transferred to what became the "High Value Detainees" section of the airport, a regular internment facility under the command of the 115th Military Police Battalion. From this time onwards, the ICRC observed that the ill-treatment of this category of persons deprived of the their liberty by military intelligence declined significantly and even stopped, while their interrogation continued through to the end of the year 2003.
35. The ICRC has also collected a growing body of allegations relating to widespread abuse of power and ill-treatment of persons in the custody of Iraqi police. This included the extensive practice of threatening to handover these persons to the CF for internment, or claiming to act under the CF instructions, in order to abuse their power and extort money from persons taken in custody. Allegations collected by the ICRC indicated that numerous people had been handed over to the CF on the basis of unfounded accusations (of hostility against the CF, or belonging to opposition forces) because they were unable or unwilling, to pay bribes to the police. Alleged ill-treatment during arrest and transportation included hooding. tight handcuffing, verbal abuse, beating with fists and rifle butts, and kicking. During interrogation, the detaining authorities allegedly whipped persons deprived of their liberty with cables on the back, kicked them in the lower parts of the body, including in the testicles, handcuffed and left them hanging from the iron bars of the cell windows or doors in painful positions for several hours at a time, and burned them with cigarettes (signs on bodies witnessed by ICRC delegates). Several persons deprived of their liberty alleged that they had been made to sign a statement that they had not been allowed to read. These allegations concerned several police stations in Baghdad including Al-Qana. Al-Jiran Al-Kubra in al-Amariyya, Al-Hurriyyeh in Al-Doura, Al-Salhiyye in Salhiyye, and Al-Baiah. Many persons deprived of their liberty drew parallels between police practices under the occupation with those of the former regime.
36. In early June 2003, for instance, a group or persons deprived of their liberty was taken to the former police academy after they had been arrested. There, they were allegedly hooded and cuffed and made to stand against a wall while a policeman placed his pistol against their heads and pulled the trigger In a mock execution (the pistol was in fact unloaded); they were also allegedly forced to sit on chairs where they were hit on the legs, the soles of their feet and on their sides with sticks. They also allegedly had water poured on their legs and had electrical shocks administered to them with stripped tips of electric wires. The mother of one of the persons deprived of liberty was reportedly brought in and the policemen threatened to mistreat her. Another person deprived of his liberty was threatened with having his wife brought in and raped. They were made to fingerprint their alleged confessions of guilt. which resulted in their transfer to the CF to be interned pending trial.
37. The ICRC reminds the authorities of the CF that prisoners of war and other protected persons in the custody of occupying forces must be humanely treated at all times; they must not be subjected to cruel or degrading treatment; and must be protected against all acts of violence (Art. 13, 14, Third Geneva Convention: Art. 27, Fourth Geneva Convention). Torture and other forms of physical and psychological coercion against prisoners of war and other interned persons for the purpose of extracting confession of information is prohibited in all cases and under all circumstances without exception (Art. 17 and 87, Third Geneva Convention; Art. 5, 31 and 32, Fourth Geneva Convention). Confessions extracted under coercion or torture can never be used as evidence of guilt (Art. 99, Third Geneva Convention, Art. 31, Fourth Geneva Convention). Such violations of International Humanitarian Law should be thoroughly investigated in order to determine responsibilities and prosecute those found responsible (Art. 129, Third Geneva Convention and Art. 146, Fourth Geneva Convention).
38. The ICRC assessed the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in regular internment facilities by CF personnel as respectful, with a few individual exceptions due to individual personalities or occasional loss of control on the part of the guards. Abusive behavior by guards, when reported to their officers, was usually quickly reprimanded and disciplined by superiors.
39. The ICRC often noted a serious communication gap between detention personnel and persons deprived of their liberty, primarily due to the language barrier, which resulted in frequent misunderstandings. This was compounded by a widespread attitude of contempt on the part of guards, in reaction to which persons deprived of their liberty, which often complained of being treated like inferiors, adopted a similar attitude.
40. The ICRC occasionally observed persons deprived of their liberty being slapped, roughed up, pushed around or pushed to the ground either because of poor communication (a failure to understand or a misunderstanding of orders given in English was construed by guards as resistance or disobedience), a disrespectful attitude on the part of guards, a reluctance by persons deprived of their liberty to comply with orders, or a loss of temper by guards.
41. Disciplinary measures, included being taken out of the compound, handcuffed and made to stand, sit, squat or lie down in the sand under the sun for up to three or four hours, depending on the breach of discipline (disrespectful behavior towards guards, communication between persons deprived of their liberty transferring from one compound to another, disobeying orders); temporary suspension of cigarette distribution, and temporary segregation in disciplinary confinement sections of the detention facilities.
42. Despite the fact that reductions in the availability of water or food rations or, more commonly, cigarettes were occasionally observed, the prohibition on collective punishment provided for under International Humanitarian Law (Art. 26.6, 87.3, Third Geneva Convention and Art. 33, Fourth Geneva Convention) appeared to be generally respected by detaining authorities.
43. Since June 2003, over a hundred "high value detainees" have been held for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells devoid of daylight. This regime of complete isolation strictly prohibited any contact with other persons deprived of their liberty, guards, family members (except through Red Cross Messages) and the rest of the outside world. Even spouses and members of the same family were subject to this regime. Persons deprived of their liberty whose "investigation" was nearing completion were reportedly allowed to exercise together outside their cells for twenty minutes twice a day or go to the showers or toilets together. The other persons deprived of their liberty still under interrogation reportedly continued to be interned in total "segregation" (i.e., they were allowed to exercise outside their cells for twenty minutes twice a day and to go to the showers or toilets but always alone and without any contact with others). Most had been subjected to this regime for the past five months. Attempts to contact other persons deprived of their liberty or simply to exchange glances or greetings were reportedly sanctioned by reprimand or temporary deprivation of time outside their cells. Since August 2003, the detainees have been provided with the Koran. They have been allowed to receive books of a non-political nature, but no newspapers or magazines on current affairs; The internment regime appeared to be motivated by a combination of security concerns (isolation of the persons deprived of their liberty from the outside world) and the collection of intelligence. All had been undergoing interrogation since their internment, in spite of the fact that none had been charged with criminal offence.
On 30 October 2003, the ICRC wrote to the Detaining Authorities recommending that this policy be discontinued and replaced by a regime of internment consistent with the CF's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.
44. The internment of persons in solitary confinement for months at a time in cells devoid of daylight for nearly 23 hours a day is more severe than the forms of internment provided for in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions (investigation of criminal offences or disciplinary punishment). It cannot be used as a regular, ordinary mode of holding of prisoners of war or civilian internees. The ICRC reminds the authorities of the Coalition Forces in Iraq that internment of this kind contravenes Articles 21, 25, 89, 90, 95, 103 of the Third Geneva Convention and Articles 27, 41, 42, 78, 82, 118, 125 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The ICRC recommends to the authorities of the CF that they set up an internment regime which ensures respect for the psychological integrity and human dignity of the person deprived of their liberty and that they make sure that all persons deprived of their liberty are allowed sufficient time every day outside in the sunlight and the opportunity to move about and exercise in the outside yard.
45. Since March 2003, the ICRC recorded, and in some cases, witnessed, a number of incidents in which guards shot at persons deprived of their liberty with live ammunition, in the context of either unrest relating to internment conditions or of escape attempts by individuals:
Camp Cropper, 24 May 2003: In the context of a hunger strike, unrest broke out in the camp prior to ICRC visit. One person deprived of his liberty suffered a gunshot wound.
Camp Cropper, 9 June 2003: Six persons deprived of their liberty were injured by live ammunition after a guard opened fire on the group in an attempt to quell a demonstration.
Camp Cropper, 12 June 2003: Two, or possibly three, persons deprived of their liberty were shot at when they attempted to escape through the barbed wire fence. One of them, Akheel Abd Al-Hussein from Baghdad, was wounded and later died after being taken to the hospital. The other person deprived of his liberty was recaptured and received treatment for gunshot wounds.
Abu Ghraib, 13 June 2003; when unrest flared up, guards from three watchtowers opened fire at the demonstrators, injuring seven persons deprived of their liberty and killing another, Alaa Jasim Hassan. The authorities investigated the matter and concluded that the "shooting was justified as the three tower [guards] determined that the lives of the interior guards were threatened".
Abu Ghraib, late June 2003: During unrest, one person deprived of his liberty was injured by live ammunition when a guard opened fire.
Abu Ghraib, 24 November 2003: During a riot four detainees were killed by US MP guards. The killing took place after unrest erupted in one of the compounds (no. 4). The detainees claimed to be unhappy with the situation of detention. Specifically, lack of food, clothing, but more importantly the lack of judicial guarantees and, especially important during the time of Eid al-Fitr, lack of family visits or lack or contacts all together. The detainees alleged to have gathered near the gate whereupon the guards panicked and started shooting. Initially, non-lethal ammunition was used which was subsequently replaced by live ammunition.
The report handed over by the CF to the ICRC states that detainees were trying to force open the gate. It further states that several verbal warnings were given and non-lethal ammunition fired at the crowd, After 25 minutes deadly force was applied resulting in the death of four detainees.
[Four names redacted.]
The narrative report furnished by the CF does not address the reason for the riot in any way and does not give any recommendations as to how a similar incident could be avoided. It does not question the use of lethal force during such and incident.
Camp Bucca, 16-22 April 2003: ICRC delegates witnessed a shooting incident, which caused the death of one person deprived of his liberty and injury of another. A first shot was fired on the ground by a soldier located outside the compound in a bid to rescue one of the guards, allegedly being threatened by a prisoner of war armed with a stick; the second shot injured a prisoner of war in the left forearm, and third shot killed another prisoner of war.
Camp Bucca, 22 September 2003: Following unrest in a section of the camp, one person deprived of his liberty, allegedly throwing stones, was fired upon by a guard in a watchtower. He suffered a gunshot wound to the upper part of the chest, the bullet passed through the chest and exited from the back. The investigation undertaken by the CF concluded that "the compound guards correctly utilized the rules of engagement and that numerous non-lethal rounds were dispersed to no avail". The person deprived of his liberty "was the victim of a justifiable shooting". An ICRC delegate and an interpreter witnessed most of the events. At no point did the persons deprived of their liberty, and the victim shot at, appear to pose a serious threat to the life or security of the guards who could have responded to the situation with less brutal measures. The shooting showed a clear disregard for human life and security of the persons deprived of their liberty.
46. These incidents were investigated summarily by the CF. They concluded in all cases that a legitimate use of firearms had been made against persons deprived of their liberty, who, except perhaps in Abu Ghraib on 13 June 2003, were unarmed and did not appear to pose any serious threat to anyone's life justifying the use of firearms. In all cases, less extreme measures could have been used to quell the demonstrations or neutralize persons deprived of their liberty trying to escape.
47. In connection with the 22 September 2003 incident, the ICRC wrote on 23 October to the Commander of the 800th MP Brigade and recommended the adoption of crowd control measures consistent with the rules and principles of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and other applicable international norms relating to the use of force or fire arms by law-enforcement personnel.
48. Since May 2003, the ICRC repeatedly recommended to the CF to use non-lethal methods to deal with demonstrations, riots or escape attempts. In Camp Cropper. its recommendations were heeded. After initial deplorable incidents no further shooting of persons deprived of their liberty has occurred since November 2003. In mid-July, the ICRC witnessed a demonstration in that camp: in spite of some violence by the persons deprived of their liberty, the problem was efficiently dealt with by the camp commander without any excessive use of force. He called in anti-riot military policemen, refrained from any act that might have provoked further anger from the persons deprived of their liberty, waited patiently for the emotions to calm down and then sought to establish dialogue with the persons deprived of their liberty through their section representatives. The unrest was quieted down without any violence.
49. The ICRC reminds the authorities of the CF that the use of firearms against persons deprived of their liberty, especially against those who are escaping or attempting to escape is an extreme measure which should not be disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved (to apprehend the individuals) and shall always be preceded by warning appropriate to the circumstances (Art. 42 Third Geneva Convention). The CF detaining personnel should be provided with adequate training to deal with incidents in their internment facilities. Firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardizes the lives of others and only when less extreme measures are not sufficient to restrain or apprehend him (Article 3 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and Article 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials).
In every instance in which a firearm is discharged. a report should be made promptly to the competent authorities. All deaths or serious injuries of a person deprived of his liberty caused or suspected to have been caused by a sentry should be immediately followed by a proper inquiry by the Detaining Power which should ensure the prosecution of any person(s) found responsible (Art. 121, Third Geneva Convention; Art. 131, Fourth Geneva Convention).
50. The ICRC collected numerous allegations of seizure and confiscation of private property (money, cars and other valuables) by the CF in the context of arrests. In only a few cases were receipts issued to the arrested person or his family, detailing the items confiscated. This was perceived by persons deprived of their liberty as outright theft or pillage. The following examples will serve to illustrate the allegations:
51. In Camp Cropper, Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib, a system was gradually put in place whereby personal belongings in the possession of persons deprived of their liberty at the time of their arrival in these facilities which they could not keep with them (money, other valuables, spare clothing, identity papers) were registered and kept until their release. In these cases, a receipt was usually issued to the person deprived of his liberty and his belongings were returned when he was released. However, this system took no account of the property seized during arrest.
52. In response to property loss or damage caused to property by the CF during raids and also to complaints regarding pension or salaries, the CF established a compensation system open to everyone, including internees and the general public. Complaints could be filed at General Information Centers (GIC), set up under the responsibility of the Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Centers (HACC).
Supporting evidence, which is problematic given that arresting authorities rarely issue receipts, should back claims. The ICRC is not yet able to assess the efficiency of this compensation system although it has had the possibility to visit one of the GICs. There are nine GICs in the city of Baghdad and one In the city of Mosul. There are however none in the other parts of the country therefore depriving a large number of persons of the possibility to file complaints.
53. In accordance with international legal provisions, the ICRC reminds the authorities of the CF that pillage is prohibited by International Humanitarian Law (Art. 33, Fourth Geneva Convention), that private property may not be confiscated (Art. 46.2. 1907 Hague Convention No IV), and that an army of occupation can only take possession of cash, funds, and realizable securities which are strictly the property of the State. (Art. 53. 1907 Hague Convention No IV).
In addition, persons deprived of their liberty shall be permitted to retain articles of personal use. Valuables may not be taken from them except in accordance with an established procedure and receipts must be issued; (Art. 18, 68.2, Third Geneva Convention and Art. 97, Fourth Geneva Convention).
54. On 3 September 2003 in Camp Bucca, three persons deprived of their liberty were severely injured by the explosion of what apparently was a cluster bomb:
[Name redacted] (bilateral below-knee amputation)
[Name redacted] (bilateral above-knee amputation)
[Name redacted] (left above-knee amputation)
They were part of a group of 10 persons deprived of their liberty involved in voluntary work to clear rubbish along the barbed-wire fence of the camp. They were transferred to the British Field Military Hospital where they received appropriate medical treatment. Their injuries required limb amputations.
55. On 23 October 2003, the ICRC wrote to the officer commanding the 800th MP Brigade to request an investigation into the incident. The ICRC encouraged the CF not to engage persons deprived of their liberty in dangerous labour.
56. The ICRC recommends to the authorities of the CF that all three victims be properly compensated as provided for by both Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions (Art. 68, Third Geneva Convention and Art. 95, Fourth Geneva Convention).
57. Since its reopening by the CF, Abu Ghraib prison has been the target of frequent night shelling by mortars and other weapons. which resulted, on several occasions, in persons deprived of their liberty being killed or injured. During the month of July, the Commander of the facility reported at least 25 such attacks. On 16 August, three mortar rounds landed in the prison compound, killing at least five and injuring 67 persons deprived of their liberty. Subsequent attacks caused further deaths and injuries. An ICRC team visited Abu Ghraib on 17 August and noticed the lack of protective measures: while the CF personnel were living in concrete buildings, all persons deprived of their liberty were sheltered under tents in compounds which had no bunkers or any other protection, rendering them totally vulnerable to shelling.
Persons deprived of their liberty alleged that they had not been advised on what to do to protect themselves in the event of shelling. They were dismayed and felt that the authorities "did not care". After these attacks, security was improved around the prison compound to reduce the risk of further attacks. However, steps taken to ensure the protection of persons deprived of their liberty remained insufficient. The inmates were allowed to fill and place sandbags around the perimeter of each tent. By late October, sandbags had not been placed around all tents and those sandbags that were in place did not offer adequate protection from shelling or projectile explosions.
58. In accordance with International Humanitarian Law provisions. the ICRC reminds the authorities of the CF that the detaining power must not set up places of internment in areas particularly exposed to the dangers of war (Art. 23.1. Third Geneva Convention and Art, 83, Fourth Geneva Convention). In all places of internment exposed to air raids and other hazards of war, shelters adequate in number and structure to ensure the necessary protection must be made available. In the event of an alarm, the internees must be free to enter such shelters as quickly as possible (Art. 23.2 Third Geneva Convention and Art. 88, Fourth Geneva Convention). When a place of internment is found to be unsafe, persons deprived of their liberty should be transferred to other places of interment offering adequate security and living conditions in accordance with the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
59. This ICRC report documents serious violations of International Humanitarian Law relating to the conditions of treatment of the persons deprived of their liberty held by the CF in Iraq. In particular, it establishes that persons deprived of their liberty face the risk of being subjected to a process of physical and psychological coercion, in some cases tantamount to torture, in the early stages of the internment process.
60. Once the interrogation process is over, the conditions of treatment for the persons deprived of their liberty generally improve, except in the "High Value Detainee" section at Baghdad International Airport where persons deprived of their liberty have been held for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells devoid of daylight, an internment regime which does not comply with provisions of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
61. During internment, persons deprived of their liberty also risk being victims of disproportionate and excessive use of force on the part of detaining authorities attempting to restore order in the event of unrest or to prevent escapes.
62. Another serious violation of International Humanitarian Law described in the report is the CF's inability or lack of will to set up a system of notifications of arrests for the families of persons deprived of liberty in Iraq. This violation of provisions of International Humanitarian Law causes immense distress among persons deprived of their liberty and their families, the latter fearing that their relatives unaccounted for are dead. The uncaring behaviour of the CF and their inability to quickly provide accurate information on persons. deprived of their liberty for the families concerned also seriously affects the image of the Occupying Powers amongst the Iraqi population.
63. In addition to recommendations highlighted in the report relating to conditions of internment, information given to persons deprived of their liberty upon arrest, and the need to investigate violations of International Humanitarian Law and to prosecute those found responsible, the ICRC wishes particularly to remind the CF of their duty:
The practices described in this report are prohibited under International Humanitarian Law. They warrant serious attention by the CF. In particular, the CF should review their policies and practices, take corrective action and improve the treatment of prisoners of war and other protected persons under their authority. This report is part of the bilateral and confidential dialogue undertaken by the ICRC with the CF. In the future, the ICRC will continue its bilateral and confidential dialogue with the CF in accordance with provisions of International Humanitarian Law, on the basis of monitoring the conditions of arrest, interrogation and internment of persons deprived of their liberty held by the CF.
- End of report -