The abuses US officials allegedly authorized in the early years of the war in Iraq, and their tacit or direct complicity in Iraqi abuses throughout the occupation, are all partly responsible for the entrenchment of weak and corrupt institutions in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said.
Similarly, despite growing numbers of claims of serious abuse of detainees in British custody in Iraq, UK authorities have neither set in motion a full and comprehensive public inquiry into the abuse, nor held senior-level officials accountable for war crimes committed in Iraq.
“The US legacy in Iraq reflects abuses committed with impunity by American and Iraqi forces throughout the US-led occupation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The abuses set in motion over 10 years ago by the Bush administration’s ‘torture memos,’ and the brutal detention policies that followed, facilitated Iraq’s creation of a system that is today either unwilling or incapable of delivering justice to its citizens.”
New information emerged as recently as early March 2013 indicating that the US government is pursuing a policy of engagement with Iraqi security forces accused of responsibility for torture and other abuses, with little if any consideration of accountability for those abuses. A Wall Street Journal report said that the CIA is “ramping up support” to the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service (CTS) to “better fight Al-Qaeda affiliates.”
“If correct, the report that the US intends to support the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service underscores the poor US record on addressing allegations of abuses by Iraqi security forces,” Whitson said. “The CTS, though accused of committing serious abuses against detainees, worked closely with US Special Forces before the US troop withdrawal in 2011.”
In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported former detainees’ allegations that the CTS had held them in secret jails and had tortured and committed other abuses against them. The alleged abuses included beatings, applying electric shocks to their genitals and other body parts, repeated partial asphyxiation with plastic bags until they passed out, and suspension by the ankles.
The US authorities should make public the nature of US military and intelligence agency cooperation with the CTS and other Iraqi security forces that are alleged to have committed serious abuses but have escaped accountability, Human Rights Watch said. The US should also conduct public investigations into allegations of complicity of US military personnel and coalition forces in torture and other abuses by Iraqi security forces during the occupation and prosecute those responsible, including senior-level officials.
The US government should reevaluate its decision not to hold senior government officials accountable for US knowledge of and complicity in abuses of detainees in US and Iraqi custody, Human Rights Watch said. US citizens complicit in torture should be prosecuted. The US should condition future aid on the Iraqi government’s meeting the human rights standards outlined in the Leahy Law, which prohibits US military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.
“The failure of successive US governments to investigate numerous allegations of abuses by US and Iraqi forces has set an ominous precedent and helped to root a culture of impunity as one of the core features of the US legacy in Iraq,” Whitson said. “Whether the US failures were due to willful ignorance or a deliberate desire to cover up its role, 10 years on, the people of Iraq deserve better from the US.”