POW Mistreatment an Issue between US and Iraq, Denmark and UK
Death Penalty Condemned by Danish Defense Minister
Danish Colonel Henrik Flach said Tuesday, “The British treat their prisoners in a manner which does not, as we think in Denmark, conform with the Geneva Conventions.” The 500-strong Danish contingent was condemned by a Danish army investigation for treating prisoners badly for subjecting “Iraqi prisoners to ill-treatment including verbal humiliation, forcing them to maintain painful postures and restricting access to food, water and toilets . . .” Flach said British practices were significantly worse, including hooding prisoners and shouting in their faces [implied: to frighten them].
The Danish government is disturbed by the reinstitution of the death penalty in Iraq. The Danish used to just hand any prisoners they captured over to the British, but they are now afraid the British will in turn surrender them to the Iraqi government, which may execute them. The countries of the European Union have abolished the death penalty and generally consider it to be a human rights abuse.
Meanwhile, Mike Francis of the Oregonian reports that Senator Ron Wyden is demanding an investigation into a June 29 incident in which Oregon National Guards in Iraq witnessed Iraqi police torturing prisoners, intervened to stop it, and then were ordered by US officers to withdraw.
The chain of events started when a National Guard scout witnessed Iraqi guards beating bound and blindfolded prisoners on the grounds of Iraq’s Interior Ministry. The scout radioed his commanders at Patrol Base Volunteer, and a squad of soldiers led by the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Dan Hendrickson, raced to the detention area.
When they arrived, the soldiers began disarming the guards and giving aid to the prisoners, whose backs, arms and legs were marked with welts and bruises. They moved prisoners into the shade and distributed water bottles.
Inside a guardhouse in the compound, soldiers found more prisoners bound and blindfolded and showing evidence of abuse. They also found rubber hoses, chemicals and exposed electrical wires, which prisoners said had been used in the “interrogations.”
The Iraqi guards began arguing with the Americans, and Hendrickson radioed his superior officers to ask for instructions. That’s when higher-ups ordered him to take his men and withdraw from the detention yard, leaving the prisoners to their captors.
The Allawi caretaker government has shown a penchant for Baathism Lite, using techniques similar to those of Saddam but much less brutally. It has brought back the death penalty, kicked satellite news service al-Jazeerah out of the country for a month, authorized an American invasion of the shrine of Ali, and may be marginalizing potential rivals via the courts. How the Iraqis run their affairs should ordinarily be their business. But the US more or less put Allawi in power and supports him, so this story is disturbing. Nearly 1000 US troops haven’t died in Iraq so that some unelected government could torture people.
The Bush administration had its own prisoner torture scandal, of course, but so far is maintaining that the mistreatment was the work of a small handful of rogue pfc’s.