WASHINGTON – Serious human rights abuses occurred under the interim Iraqi government installed by the United States after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, including torture, illegal detention by police and forced confessions, according to a State Department (search) report.
Though the interim government did reverse "a long legacy of serious human rights abuses" under Saddam, the report said that "corruption at all levels of government remained a problem" during the period and Iraqis continued to be victimized by police, courts and others in authority.
Iraqi officials were correcting these practices, the report said. It said the January elections and continuing struggle against insurgent violence had helped "create momentum for the improvement of human rights practices."
The report, in which the State Department assesses the state of human rights around the world, said that tens of thousands of people across the world suffered last year at the hands of repressive governments, some of them — like Iraq — friendly to the United States.
Under the interim Iraq government, there were reports of local police and other government agents killing members of Saddam's Ba'ath Party, a mother and daughter accused of prostitution and kidnappers of police officers, the State Department noted. It cited a report by Human Rights Watch (search) that said "torture and ill treatment of detainees by police was commonplace."
The report, released Monday, did not address incidents in Iraq in which Americans were involved, such as the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (search).
In the Iraqi judicial system, the reported noted, defendants were generally given short shrift. There were no jury trials; a defendant's guilt or innocence was decided by a three-judge panel and those convicted were sentenced immediately after the verdict.
And while various laws and regulations were in place to prevent forced child labor, the report said "children were routinely tapped as an additional source of labor or income for the family unit."
A total of 196 countries were monitored by the State Department, but not the United States.
Overall, the findings were similar to those in three decades of annual human rights reports to Congress. "Freedom and the ability to choose one's government still elude many people and many portions of the globe," Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky said.