UN investigator calls for inquiry into Iraq rights abuses

UN Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak called Oct. 23 for the Obama administration to launch an inquiry into the role of the US in human rights violations allegedly committed in Iraq. Nowak’s comments follow the release of government information on WikiLeaks that included thousands of previously classified documents. Many of the documents purportedly illustrate instances of abuse, torture and murder carried out by US and Iraqi forces.

Nowak stated that the US is party to UN human rights treaties that compel the investigation of such allegations and the criminalization of any form of torture. He also claimed that the incidents documented in the release may constitute violations of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In addition to abuses allegedly committed by coalition forces, Nowak stressed that the US must investigate instances where transferring detainees into the custody of other countries exposed them to an increased risk of facing torture. Absent a full investigation, Nowak claims that the US would be in breach of its international obligations.

Last month, Nowak’s predecessor Philip Alston called for a similar investigation regarding an additional WikiLeaks release. The request involved war crimes allegedly committed by Taliban, US and British forces in Afghanistan. Unlike the US, Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute, giving the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Afghan territory. Earlier this week, chairperson of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) Claudio Grossman urged nations to “reconnect with the values” of the Convention Against Torture and increase efforts to combat torture. Grossman stated that the need for heightened measures is particularly important in emergency situations where interrogators have little time to gain information from captives. The UN claimed that reports of rights abuse were found worldwide and that countries have grown increasingly apathetic to the use of torture as an interrogation technique.

From Jurist, Oct. 23. Used with permission.

See our last posts on US atrocities in Iraq, US atrocities in Afghanistan and the Wikileaks controversy.

  1. Israeli rightist calls for Iraq war crimes probe. Huh?
    File under “pot calls kettle black.” From the Jerusalem Post, Oct. 25:

    Ben-Ari asks UN to probe US for war crimes
    National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari wrote to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday to urge him to form a probe to investigate the actions of the American military in Iraq that the WikiLeaks web site alleged were war crimes.

    Ben-Ari suggested that the probe be headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, who investigated Israel’s handling of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

    “The latest revelation of US military documents regarding the war in Iraq detailing torture, summary executions, rape, and war crimes by US and US-led security forces in Iraq, paint a terrifying portrait of US abuse and contempt of international treaties,” Ben-Ari wrote.

    In his letter, Ben-Ari cited statistics from WikiLeaks indicating that there have been 100,000 civilian causalities in Iraq and that during the course of the war, 31 innocent Iraqi civilians, were killed every day.

    “That the Pentagon is looking to cover up these crimes from the world shows the US government has that much more to hide,” Ben-Ari wrote the secretary-general. “I look forward to your call for an urgent hearing at the UN regarding these latest abuses as well as the insidious attempt by the US government to sweep these crimes under the carpet.” Ben-Ari even suggested the use of arrest warrants against US government agencies and actors, including senior US military officers. Arrest warrants have been issued in Britain for top Israeli politicians and generals involved in Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War.

    “Fortunately, there are human rights organizations here in Israel that are experts in the investigation and judicious prosecution of war crimes,” Ben-Ari wrote. “[I have] no doubt that they too will be ready and eager to be at the United Nations’ service.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment about Ben-Ari’s letter. But a source close to the prime minister called it “crazy” and said it was liable to damage the fragile US-Israel relationship.