Annan: Iraqis' right to life in peril

The right to life of civilians in Iraq has fallen victim to a combination of terrorism, violent crime and military excesses, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says.

    The UN chief said Iraqi civilians lacked adequate protection

    More than 80% of the 1100 bodies brought in to Baghdad's Forensic Institute during the month of July bore evidence of violent death, "far in excess of the averages in previous months", Annan told the Security Council on Thursday in a progress report on the world body's operations in Iraq.
       
    "These figures are indicative of a steadily deteriorating trend and provide an important indicator of the absence of protection of the right to life which prevails at this time in Iraq," his report said.
       
    In addition to attacks aimed at US-led forces, there was continuing concern about military operations by the US-led forces in Iraq that have resulted in "civilian deaths, injury and displacement caused by excessive or apparent indiscriminate use of force", he said.

    Excessive force
       
    The Iraqi security forces, which often lack training on how to treat persons and property, also use force to excess and conduct mass arrests "often without attention to due process".

    The UN report blames US-led
    forces for excesses

    First and second-hand reports from Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdish areas in northern Iraq "consistently point to the systematic use of torture during interrogations at police stations and within other premises, in many instances belonging to the Ministry of Interior", the report said.
       
    Annan said the UN remained concerned about the large number of detainees being held without due process.
       
    Citing Ministry of Human Rights figures, he said Iraq's Justice Ministry was holding 7300 prisoners, the Interior Ministry 2300 and the Defence Ministry 120. US forces held around 9600 detainees.
       
    The US military now runs three prisons in Iraq including Abu Ghraib, the site of last year's prisoner abuse scandal.
       
    It is authorised to hold Iraqi prisoners under an exception to the Geneva Conventions granted by the 15-nation Security Council. The Geneva Conventions, which govern the treatment of civilians in wartime, do not allow foreign military forces to hold prisoners in sovereign nations.
       
    When Annan first complained about the lack of due process for Iraqi prisoners last June, US officials insisted they complied with international requirements.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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