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III. Methodology

Human Rights Watch interviewed ninety current and former detainees in Iraq between July and October 2004, of whom seventy-two alleged they had been tortured or ill-treated in detention.  At the time of the interviews, seventy-four of them were in custody and the remaining sixteen had been released.

This report focuses on three categories of detainees.  The first category comprises twenty-one people apparently arrested for their alleged affiliation with an armed group or an opposition political party or for reasons of state security that may be related to their political party affiliation.  The legal authority for such arrests was not specified. In cases investigated by Human Rights Watch,such persons were detained by the police or theintelligence service for an indeterminate period and then released without the case ever reaching the courts.  Human Rights Watch’s investigation of these detentions focused on suspected members or sympathizers of Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army (Jaysh al-Mahdi), an armed group established in June 2003 in contravention of CPA regulations governing armed forces and militias in Iraq,11 and of the Hizbullah Movement in Iraq, a political party established in Iran in 1982 in opposition to the Saddam Hussein government, and which abandoned armed opposition following its return to Iraq.  Human Rights Watch interviewed most of these persons after they had been released from detention without having been charged.

The second category comprises fifty-four criminal suspects whose cases were referred to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in Baghdad.  The CPA established the Central Criminal Court in July 2003 to hear serious criminal offenses, including terrorism, abduction, money laundering, drug trafficking and acts of sabotage.12  Suspected insurgents implicated in criminal offenses and organized crime members would normally be referred to the Central Criminal Court.  The court also has jurisdiction to hear serious offenses committed during a declared state of emergency.13  Most of these cases investigated by Human Rights Watch had been referred to the court by the Major Crimes Directorate and the Criminal Intelligence Directorate, while a smaller number had been referred by the Directorate of Ministry Security and Welfare (see Section V). 

The third category comprises fifteen detainees held at seven different police stations on various criminal charges, including theft and murder.14  Human Rights Watch interviewed them upon referral to one of Baghdad’s criminal courts other than the Central Criminal Court; they were in court for their investigative hearing or trial. 
Their accounts regarding treatment in detention were largely consistent with those obtained from detainees referred to the Central Criminal Court.  In this context, Human Rights Watch also met with five investigative judges at four of the criminal courts covering the al-Rusafa sector (eastern Baghdad) and the al-Karkh sector (western Baghdad).  Extracts from the accounts of five of these detainees are contained in the appendix to this report. 

All cases highlighted in this report involved male detainees, among them three children.15  Human Rights Watch did not have the opportunity to interview female detainees, having no access to places of detention where they were held and there being very few female referrals to the Central Criminal Court during the period in which the research was conducted. 

The kinds of allegations of physical abuse recorded by Human Rights Watch are consistent with medical reports detailing the types of external trauma identified by forensic doctors in typical cases involving defendants referred by the criminal courts to Baghdad’s Medico-Legal Institute.16 Of the thirty-seven cases examined at the Institute, medical records identified external injuries such as recent scar tissue, bruising, contusions, or skin discoloration in twenty of them.  Human Rights Watch also made its own observations of the physical condition of the detainees it interviewed, some of whom had visible injuries that appeared consistent with the type of treatment they alleged.  Information provided by investigative judges to Human Rights Watch on individual cases also supported the organization’s observations on the nature and scope of abuse taking place at the hands of the Iraqi police. 

This report does not address the treatment of the roughly 8,500 security detainees held by the United States military at three main prisons in Iraq and at temporary battlefield detention centers.17

While the types of allegations of torture and ill-treatment recorded by Human Rights Watch related to all categories of detainees, the largest group interviewed were the criminal suspects referred to the Central Criminal Court.  In addition to conducting interviews, Human Rights Watch also attended investigative hearings of dozens of others.  Most of the defendants were at the pre-trial stage and had been brought to court to have their statements taken down by the court’s judicial investigator (al-muhaqqiq al-‘adli) and then to face the charges against them before an investigative judge (qadi al-tahqiq).

In the course of documenting cases of torture and ill-treatment for this report, Human Rights Watch received many other allegations of police abuse that it was unable to follow up or verify.  Security conditions on the ground placed constraints on the organization’s ability to travel outside the Baghdad area to interview former detainees, family members, eyewitnesses or officials in other cities.  In the case of al-Najaf, for example, Human Rights Watch arranged for recently released detainees to travel to Baghdad to be interviewed.  Within Baghdad, the organization was able to interview several former detainees in al-Sadr City, but access to the district was limited due to ongoing armed clashes there.  Security conditions also prevented Human Rights Watch from following up cases at police stations, which remained prime targets for insurgent attacks.

[11] CPA/ORD/02 June 2004/91 (Regulation of Armed Forces and Militias Within Iraq).  Upon its establishment, Muqtada al-Sadr declared that the function of the Mahdi Army was to protect Shi’a religious authorities in al-Najaf.

[12] CPA/ORD/11 July 2003/13, as amended (The Central Criminal Court of Iraq).  The felonies falling within the Central Criminal Court’s jurisdiction are principally, but not exclusively: terrorism; organized crime; governmental corruption; acts intended to destabilize democratic institutions or processes; and violence based on race, nationality, ethnicity or religion.  The court also hears cases where a determination is made that a criminal defendant may not be able to obtain a fair trial in a local court (Section 18 (2) of CPA Order 13 as amended on April 22, 2004).  The CPA published its intent to establish the Central Criminal Court in a Public Notice (Regarding the Creation of a Central Criminal Court of Iraq and Adjustments to the Criminal Procedure Code), dated June 18, 2003.

[13]  Order for Safeguarding National Security, No. 1 of 2004, of July 3, 2004.  Article 7(1) reads: “The Central Criminal Court of Iraq shall assume the review of serious crimes committed during the period of the state of emergency, and which are referred by a judge of jurisdiction including crimes of murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, destruction, bombing or burning or damaging of public or private property, and possession of military weapons and their ammunition, or the manufacturing, transportation, smuggling or trading of such weapons.”

[14] The seven police stations are: al-Sa’doun, Balat al-Shuhada’, al-Masbah, al-Za’faraniyya, al-Muthanna, Baghdad al-Jadida, and Jisr Diyala.

[15] Consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iraq is party, Human Rights Watch defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years.

[16] The Medico-Legal Institute is Iraq’s principal center for forensic medicine.

[17] Douglas Jehl and Neil A. Lewis, “U.S. Said to Hold More Foreigners in Iraq Fighting,” New York Times,  Jan. 8, 2005.

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