Saddam Hussein has used torture, rape and terror to oppress the Iraqi people, the British government charged in a detailed dossier released Monday.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the Iraqi people live in fear, and that the 23-page report shows Saddam's regime is in breach of its international obligations.
"By disarming Iraq, we not only help those countries in the region which are subject to Iraqi threats and intimidation, we also deprive Saddam of his most powerful tools for keeping the Iraqi people living in fear and subjugation," Straw said.
He said the dossier, entitled "Saddam Hussein: crimes and human rights abuses," was the most detailed the British government had compiled on Iraq and included intelligence material, firsthand accounts of Iraqi victims of torture and oppression and reports by private organizations.
"The dossier makes for harrowing reading, with accounts of torture, rape and other horrific human rights abuses," Straw said in a speech to the Atlantic Partnership, a group that works on improving relations between Europe and North America.
"It makes it clear these are carried out as part of the deliberate policy of the regime. The aim is to remind the world that the abuses of the Iraqi regime extend far beyond its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in violation of its international obligations," Straw said.
According to the report, which did not appear to make any major new revelations, Iraq is a "terrifying place to live" where "arbitrary arrests and killings are commonplace."
Political dissidents are tortured, women lack basic human rights and are routinely raped by security personnel while in custody and political prisoners are kept in inhumane and degrading conditions, the report said.
It details Saddam's persecution of Iraq's ethnic Kurds and the Shia religious community and also provides a checklist of favored methods of torture, including eye gouging, electric shock and piercing hands with electric drills.
In an apparent bid to bolster Arab support for possible action against Saddam, the dossier estimates the "costs to fellow Muslims" of Saddam's regime — including a million dead and wounded Muslims in the Iran-Iraq war and 5,000 Kurds killed on March 16, 1988 in a chemical attack on the town of Halabja in northern Iraq.
"Saddam Hussein has been ruthless in his treatment of any opposition to him since his rise to power in 1979," the report concluded. "A cruel and callous disregard for human life and suffering remains the hallmark of his regime."
The United States has threatened to disarm Iraq — alone if necessary — if Baghdad holds back any information or fails to cooperate with U.N. inspectors, who recently returned to the country.
Amnesty International accused Straw of a "cold and calculated manipulation" of the human rights situation to back up the case for possible military action against Iraq.
"Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War," said the organization's secretary general Irene Khan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.