June 4, 2004
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. human rights commission credited the U.S.-led coalition Friday with ending years of systematic violations by Saddam Hussein's regime but also cited concerns about prisoner abuse by coalition forces.
A report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the coalition's invasion of Iraq ``removed a government that preyed on the Iraqi people and committed shocking, systematic and criminal violations of human rights.''
In particular, the commission noted Iraqis have greater freedom of expression now than they did under Saddam's regime.
But, the report added, ``after the occupation of Iraq by coalition forces there have, sadly, been some violations of human rights, committed by some coalition soldiers.''
The 45-page report referred specifically to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib detention facility near Baghdad. The publication of photographs showing U.S. guards abusing and humiliating detainees at the prison erupted into an international scandal in April.
Seven U.S. soldiers face military charges and the Defense Department said it was investigating more than 40 cases of possible misconduct against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
``Governmental leaders of the countries concerned have, at the highest levels, condemned these violations and have pledged to bring those responsible to justice and to uphold the rule of law. It is imperative that this be done, with accountability to the international community,'' the report said.
Iraq's interim government, set to take over sovereignty on June 30 from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, must ensure Iraqis do not face abuses in the future, the report said.
``The serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law that have taken place must not be allowed to recur,'' it said. ``Preventive and protection systems must be put in place.''
Acting U.N. human rights chief Bertrand Ramcharan ordered the broad investigation in April, saying he was concerned because Iraq has been unmonitored by the world body since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
The 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission scrutinized Iraq for years when Saddam was in power, but the issue was dropped after his ouster last year.
Human rights groups say monitoring is essential because ordinary Iraqis are suffering in the conflict between coalition forces and insurgents.
A U.N. team collected information from the coalition and individual governments involved in the occupation, including the United States and Britain. It also turned to foreign aid groups and Iraqi U.N. employees.
But the team did not travel to the Iraq largely because of security concerns, said Jose Diaz, Ramcharan's spokesman.
The United Nations withdrew its international staff from Iraq after the bombing of its offices in Baghdad last August. U.N. rights chief Sergio Vieira de Mello was among those killed in the blast.
The commission also suggested the Iraqi government organize a body similar to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to gather testimony and document human rights abuses and punishments under Saddam.
------ On the Net: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://www.unhchr.ch/ http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/international/AP-UN-Human-Rights-Iraq.html?ex=1087371445&ei=1&en=66b13046baae4817