Iraq, 2013: The Horrors Remain the Same -- Rape, Executions and Torture Abound
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"They forced me to drink huge amounts of water and then would tie up the head of my penis so I could not urinate. This was really harmful to me," said Hassan.
Another method was to "take off my fingernails with a pair of pliers, one by one" so Hassan would "make confessions for things I did not do", he said.
Hassan said he was also hung upside down from his feet with his head placed in a bucket of water while he was whipped with plastic rods.
Jassim told Al Jazeera of one of his close friends who was detained and tortured similarly.
"When he was released, he told me he was hung by his ankles and tortured by electricity," he said of his friend who was detained during a home raid by Iraqi SWAT forces in his predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Al-Adhamiyah.
Stories of detentions and torture and executions are everywhere in today's Iraq.
Sheikh Khaled Hamoud Al-Jumaili, one of the leaders of the ongoing demonstrations in Fallujah against the Maliki government, told Al Jazeera there that "thousands of Fallujans have been detained and we don't know how many are now dead or on death row."
"The fighting from 2004 has never stopped," he added. "We simply switched from fighting the Americans to now we are fighting Maliki and his injustice and corruption."
Another Fallujah sheikh, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera he was detained and tortured by "Maliki's forces" in 2012.
"I was taken to the Khadamiyah prison [in Baghdad] and tortured there," he said while pulling up his shirt to reveal dark puncture wounds across his back. "I was beaten with sticks, punched, starved, spit upon, and hung by my ankles and then wrists. Maliki is even worse than the Americans."
An Iraqi law known as Article Four gives the government of Prime Minister Maliki broad license to detain Iraqis. Article four and other laws give the government the ability to impose the death penalty for nearly 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and murder, but also for offenses such as damage to public property.
This is why Iraq currently has one of the highest rates of death sentences in the world, but also why so many Iraqis, primarily Sunnis, are being detained.
Stories like those from Jassim and Hassan are exactly the kind referenced in the recent Amnesty International report.
"Torture is rife and committed with impunity by government security forces, particularly against detainees arrested under anti-terrorism while they are held incommunicado for interrogation," reads the report.
"Detainees have alleged that they were tortured to force them to "confess" to serious crimes or to incriminate others while held in these conditions. Many have repudiated their confessions at trial only to see the courts admit them as evidence of their guilt, without investigating their torture allegations, sentencing them to long term imprisonment or death."
Executions and International Condemnation
Saadiya Naif, 60 years old, has had three of her sons executed – two of them by American forces during the occupation, and one of them in 2008 by Iraqis.
"Baker was arrested by Iraqi police and held for one and a half years," she told Al Jazeera, while weeping. "He was only 19 when they executed him. I tried to use lawyers to get him out of prison, but all three of them received death threats. Then, after one and a half years in prison, he phoned me to say goodbye, because he was to be executed the next day."
According to international human rights groups, at least 3,000 Iraqis have been given the death sentence since 2005, which was the year capital punishment was reinstated after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
At least 447 prisoners have been executed since 2005, and hundreds of prisoners await execution on death row. In addition, 129 prisoners were hanged in 2012.
The government of Prime Minister Maliki has been strongly criticized by both the UN and several other human rights groups for the number of executions being carried out.
Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said last year he was alarmed by reports of individuals who remain at risk of execution. "I am appalled about the level of executions in Iraq. I deeply deplore the executions carried out."
The surge in state-sanctioned killings has also drawn sharp criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who called it "a sharp increase from previous years."
"Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, this is truly a shocking figure," Pillay said.
Human Rights Watch's deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, said Iraq "has a huge problem with torture and unfair trials."
Lisa Hajjar is a professor of sociology at University of California Santa Barbara and a visiting professor at American University Beirut. Her work focuses on torture and detention issues in the context of war.
She said the situation in Iraq is common in ongoing civil wars, with the regime in power attempting to eliminate opponents from the past. Hajjar described the executions and torture as "intentional state terror."
"I call it terroristic torture," Hajjar told Al Jazeera. "When people are tortured or there are extrajudicial executions, the purpose is to dissuade others. The goal is to create a visible spectacle, and the purpose is to terrorize communities into quiescence."
In response to this kind of international criticism, Iraq's Justice Ministry said torture might happen in isolated incidents, and the media exaggerates it.
"The international community has not been fair with the Iraqi people," Justice Ministry spokesman Haider al-Sadee recently told Al Jazeera. "When there is an explosion in America the whole world is rocked and countries are invaded as a result. But when Iraq defends its rights and executes a person after convicting him of a crime, international organisations condemn it."
"Speaking as an Iraqi citizen," he added. "I believe the least that should be done to show justice to the families of victims is to execute them publicly."
This cavalier attitude, along with increasing rates of detentions, reports of ongoing torture, and increasing executions, have factored largely into why predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq, like Baghdad's Al-Adhamiyah neighbourhood and much of Al-Anbar province, are holding regular demonstrations against Maliki's government.
Every Friday in Fallujah, for three months now, hundreds of thousands have demonstrated and prayed on the main highway linking Baghdad and Amman, which runs just past the outskirts of that city.
People in Fallujah, and the rest of Iraq's vast Anbar province, are enraged at the government of Prime Minister Maliki because his security forces, heavily populated by members of various Shia militias, have been killing and detaining Sunnis in Anbar Province, as well as across much of Baghdad.