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Iraqi details harsh treatment

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Iraqi details harsh treatment as Amnesty criticizes U.S. interrogation methods
By Jim Krane, Associated Press, 6/30/2003 16:44

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) An Iraqi businessman detained during a raid on his home says U.S. interrogators deprived him of sleep, forced him to kneel naked and kept him bound hand and foot with a bag over his head for eight days.

Khraisan al-Abally's story, told to an Associated Press correspondent, comes as an Amnesty International report released Monday harshly criticizes American interrogation techniques.

A U.S. Army officer confirmed receiving a complaint from al-Abally, but coalition officials declined to discuss his account. The activist group Human Rights Watch said it was trying to corroborate his story.

Seeking to quell a burgeoning uprising, U.S. soldiers have detained hundreds of Iraqis some of whom have endured days of strenuous interrogations, rights groups say. AP journalists have observed prisoners wearing only underwear and blindfolds, handcuffed and lying in the dirt 24 hours after their capture.

Interviewed June 20 and Monday, Al-Abally said U.S. troops stormed his home April 30, shooting his brother and taking al-Abally and his 80-year-old father into custody apparently believing they had information on the whereabouts of a top official in Saddam Hussein's regime, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

The three men were all low-level members of Saddam's Baath Party, but al-Douri was not a family acquaintance, Al-Abally said.

The brother, Dureid, shot at the troops breaking in, apparently mistaking them for looters, the family said. Al-Abally said he was told during his interrogation at Baghdad International Airport that his brother had died.

Al-Abally, 39, said that while he was bound and blindfolded, he was kicked, forced to stare at a strobe light and blasted with ''very loud rubbish music.''

''I thought I was going to lose my mind,'' said al-Abally, a burly man whose wrists are still scarred from plastic cuffs more than a month after his release. ''They said, 'I want you on your knees.' After three or four days it's very painful. My knees were bleeding and swollen.''

The U.S. military said it could not comment on the raid or its methods of interrogation, saying only that its soldiers adhere to the rule of law. Military and intelligence officials have said sleep deprivation, shackling prisoners in uncomfortable positions and noise abuse are considered legal methods.

''This is democracy?'' asked al-Abally, whose family operates a shipping business in Lebanon. ''No Iraqi would have thought the Americans were capable of this.''

The AP interviews with al-Abally were conducted mostly in English.

His interrogation came before a June 26 pledge by the Bush administration that U.S. officials would not use cruel treatment to gain information from detainees.

Several human rights groups including London-based Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch argue that current U.S. interrogation methods violate the pledge.

''When you talk of up to eight days' sleep deprivation, especially with hands and feet bound, that's already entering the realm of ill treatment,'' said Johanna Bjorken, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Iraq. ''When you combine it with loud music, strobe lights and hooding, it's very possible you've inflicted cruel treatment, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.''

She said her group is investigating al-Abally's allegations to see if the interrogation techniques he described can be corroborated.

A U.S. Army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. interrogators routinely used strobe lights. Bjorken said a U.S. military criminal investigator in Baghdad told her that loud music and sleep deprivation were acceptable interrogation techniques.

Amnesty International's report said the U.S. military appeared to subject Iraqi detainees to treatment that violates international law. The group said it was investigating the U.S. military's three-week detention of an 11-year-old boy and an incident in which U.S. shooting during a riot by detainees killed one and wounded seven.

A British spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Lt. Col. Peregrine Lewis, denied the coalition violates human rights.

''Coalition soldiers are expected to scrupulously adhere to the rule of law in the conduct of military operations,'' Lewis wrote in e-mail response to AP questions. ''Anything which suggests otherwise is inaccurate.''

U.S. Army Maj. Toney Coleman of the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion said he took a written complaint in May from al-Abally about his treatment and his brother's disappearance. Coleman said he has no knowledge of U.S. interrogation techniques or whether al-Abally's allegations are accurate.

Coleman said he searched military computers for the whereabouts of al-Abally's missing brother, Dureid, a 48-year-old retired diplomat.

''There's no record at all of that individual,'' Coleman said.

Amnesty International researchers in Baghdad said the techniques cited by al-Abally were similar to those described by Palestinian detainees interrogated by the Israeli military and Irish Catholic prisoners detained by British forces.

''These are known techniques that there have been a lot of debate on for the past 20 years, as to whether they constitute torture,'' said Elizabeth Hodgkin, Amnesty's Baghdad-based research director.

Britain halted such procedures after a European court in 1982 found they violated human rights law and Israel did so in 1999 when its supreme court banned the practice except in extreme situations, Hodgkin said.

Amnesty's report accuses U.S. forces in Afghanistan of performing similar ''stress and duress'' interrogations on detainees, a pair of whom died in U.S. custody. The deaths are being investigated as homicides.

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