Excerpts from the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of "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"

February 2004

The 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…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….

The main violations, which are described in the ICRC report and presented confidentially to the CF, include:

* Brutality against protected persons upon capture and initial custody, sometimes causing death or serious injury
* Absence of notification of arrest of persons…to their families….
* Physical or psychological coercion during interrogation to secure information
* Prolonged solitary confinement in cells devoid of daylight
* Excessive and disproportionate use of force against persons deprived of their liberty resulting in death or injury during their period of internment

Serious problems of conduct by the CF that affected persons deprived of their liberty are also presented in the report

* Seizure and confiscation of private belongings…
* Exposure of persons deprived of their liberty to dangerous tasks
* Holding persons deprived of their liberty in dangerous places where they are not protected from shelling

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 ballet 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 the 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 groups.

According to the allegations collected by the ICRC, ill-treatment during interrogation was not systematic, except with regard to persons arrested in connection 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 supervision of the Occupying Power, including threats to hand over persons in their custody to the CF so as to extort money from them….

In the case of "High Value Detainees" held in Baghdad International Airport, the 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 … during periods of unrest or escape attempts that caused 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….

Since the beginning of the conflict, the ICRC has regularly brought its concerns 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 perpetuated 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 causes and might be considered as a practice tolerated by the CF.

* * *

The following is from the body of the report:

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-Baghdadi, Heat Base and Hubbania Camp in Ramadi governorate; Tikrit holding area (former Saddam Hussein Islamic School); a former train station Al-Khaim, 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.


Methods of Ill-Treatment

* Hooding, used to prevent people from seeing and to disorient them, and also to prevent them from breathing freely. One or sometimes two bags, sometimes with an elastic blindfold over the eyes which, when slipped down, further impeded proper breathing. Hooding was sometimes used in conjunction with beatings thus increasing anxiety as to when blows would come. The practice of hooding also allowed the interrogators to remain anonymous and thus to act with impunity. Hooding could last for periods from a few hours to up to two to four consecutive days, during which hoods were lifted only for drinking, eating or going to the toilets
* Handcuffing with flexi-cuffs, which were sometimes made so tight and used for such extended periods that they caused skin lesions and long-term aftereffects on the hands (nerve damage), as observed by the ICRC
* Beating with hard objects (including pistols and rifles), slapping, punching, kicking with knees or feet on various parts of the body (legs, sides, lower back, groin)
* Pressing the face into the ground with boots
* Threats (of ill-treatment, reprisals against family members, imminent executive or transfer to Guantanamo)
* Being stripped naked for several days while held in solitary confinement in an empty and completely dark cell that included a latrine
* Being paraded naked outside cells in front of other persons deprived of their liberty and guards, sometimes hooded or with women's underwear over the head
* Acts of humiliation such as being made to stand naked against the wall of the cell with arms raised or with women's underwear over the head for prolonged periods, while being laughed at by guards, including female guards, and sometimes photographed in this position
* Being attached repeatedly over several days, for several hours each time, with handcuffs to the bars of their cell door in humiliating (i.e. naked or in underwear) and/or uncomfortable position causing physical pain
* Exposure while hooded to loud noise or music, prolonged exposure while hooded to the sun over several hours, including during the hottest time of the day when temperatures could reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher
* Being forced to remain for prolonged periods in stress positions such as squatting or standing with or without the arms lifted

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."