Briton ‘among thousands held without trial in Iraq’

A British man is among tens of thousands of people imprisoned without charge in Iraq, according to an Amnesty International report.  The human rights group said 30,000 detainees were being held without trial in Iraq, and criticised the Iraqis and the US for violating prisoners’ rights.  Ramze Shihab Ahmed, 68, a dual UK-Iraqi national, has been detained in Iraq since December 2009.  His wife claims he has been tortured in prisons in Baghdad.
Rabiha al-Qassab said her husband had suffered electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bag, and called on the government to increase its efforts to secure his release or push for a fair trial.

“What my husband has suffered at the hands of his interrogators is inhumane and sickening.  “I’m desperately worried about him. He already had health problems before all this,” she said.  “I’d like to see the UK government stepping up efforts to get Ramzi released or at least given a fair trial if there’s anything that could reasonably be held against him.  “The Iraqi authorities should either try or release him – not go through this disgusting charade of torture and false confessions.” Mr Ahmed was arrested after travelling to Iraq in an attempt to free his detained son Omar.  His whereabouts were unknown until March when he was able to make a short phone call to his wife in London.  Amnesty said the use of torture to extract confessions in Iraq was routine – and the confessions were frequently used as evidence in court.  The group also claimed several detainees had died while in prison, apparently as the result of torture or ill-treatment.

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and north Africa director, said the Iraqi authorities had “signally failed to take effective action to stop torture and punish the perpetrators, despite overwhelming evidence to its use”.  “They have a duty to investigate, to hold perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice, and to provide reparations to the victims.  “The Iraqi authorities’ failure to take such concrete steps sends a message that such violations are tolerated and can be repeated,” he said. Amnesty is appealing to Foreign Secretary William Hague asking him to increase pressure upon the Iraqi authorities to intervene in Mr Ahmed’s case. The Foreign Office said they were granted access to Mr Ahmed in April. He is now being visited regularly.  A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are very concerned by Mr Ahmed’s allegations of mistreatment, and raised them with the Iraqi authorities at a senior level as soon as we were aware of them.  “We have repeatedly made clear to the Iraqi authorities how seriously we take such allegations, and have requested that they be investigated.

“We expect the Iraqi government to follow through on its commitment to investigate these allegations.”  Amnesty said that couple escaped from Iraq several years ago. Mr Ahmed was part of a failed 1992 plot to oust Saddam Hussain.  About 10,000 of the 30,000 detainees being held without trial in Iraq had been recently transferred from US custody, following the end of US combat operations in the country. The US handed over control of the last remaining military-run detention facility to the Iraqi authorities in July.  Amnesty said it did so without proper assurances that prisoners’ rights would be respected.

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