Amnesty International's damning report directs strong criticism at the occupying forces in the war-torn country.

The report was published on Sunday - hours after the bodies of two young children and their parents had been discovered by neighbours.

All four, found lying in pools of blood, were shot at virtually point blank range say witnesses. They added there was no apparent motive for the deaths which has shaken the immediate community.

The climate of fear caused by the mystery murders is typical of the rest of the country, according to the Amnesty report titled: "Iraq: the Need for Security".

Basra, under the control of British Forces, comes in for heavy criticism three months after the occupation began.
  
"Crime, often involving violence, remains much higher than before the occupation," the human rights watchdog says in the July report.

The London-based group, which says the climate of fear is "overwhelming" sent 24 delegates to Basra from 24 April. 
    
Documented interviews with lawyers, police and judges indicate that theft of public and private property is pervasive, in many cases accompanied by the use of firearms.
  
"Murders motivated by personal enmity or political revenge are reported to occur daily,” begins one section of the report.
  
"Kidnapping aimed at extorting large sums of money from the victims family is also common. Many women and girls no longer go out alone, terrified they will be the next victim of kidnapping, rape or other violence."
  
Duty to protect

Amnesty points out that British and US forces as occupying powers have "a duty to protect the fundamental rights of the Iraqi population ... restore and maintain public order and safety, in line with Article 43 of the Hague Regulations." 
  

Many Iraqis call for basic security,
as occupation forces are bound to
do by international law
Despite these duties, Amnesty charges that "the levels of planning and allocation of resources by the UK authorities to secure public and other essential institutions in Basra appear to have been completely lacking in what was required, both before the occupation and in its initial phase." 
  
The local police force continues to lack effectiveness, and the disorder in Basra and Iraq generally keeps on to threaten the well-being of the population, the report says.
   
The human rights group issued a series of recommendations, urging the international community to:

  • deploy experienced international civilian police to assist the Iraqi police
  • ensure UK forces do not violate human rights
  • despatch an independent investigations' body which is competent and impartial. 
      

Amnesty also called on the United Nations specifically to deply human rights monitors in Iraq as a matter of urgency and provide authoritative and timely information to the
international community on the human rights situation.

Another priority, it said, was the mobilisation of international efforts to rebuild the capacity of the civilian police force, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1483.