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US 'aware' of Iraq torture

Herman Grech / Times of Malta | February 20 2006

The US is "aware" of torture taking place in Iraqi prisons, according to the outgoing Maltese UN human rights chief in Iraq.

"Yes, torture is happening now, mainly in illegal detention places. Such centres are mostly being run by militia that have been absorbed by the police force," says John Pace, who retired last week as human rights chief for the UN assistance mission in Iraq.

In a frank interview with The Times, Dr Pace says photos and forensic records have proved that torture was rife inside detention centres. Though the process of release has been speeded up, there are an estimated 23,000 people in detention, of whom 80 to 90 per cent are innocent.

He says the Baghdad morgue received 1,100 bodies in July alone, about 900 of whom bore evidence of torture or summary execution. That continued throughout the year and last December there were 780 bodies, including 400 having gunshot wounds or wounds as those caused by electric drills.

Dr Pace expresses deep concern over the progress of the Saddam Hussein trial, saying he would have preferred to see the former dictator tried internationally.

After two years serving in Iraq, Dr Pace says that the non-existence of law and order has left society without any protection, clearly reflecting that the US invasion was not properly planned.

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