1.00pm - By BEN RUSSELL
Detailed accounts of systematic torture, rape, arbitrary arrests and killings are outlined in the British Foreign Office's 24-page dossier on human rights abuses in Iraq.
Beheading, eye gouging, acid baths, drilling through hands and other lurid examples of torture and execution are detailed to paint a picture of "a cruel and callous disregard for human life and suffering".
The document, a compilation of published accounts by human rights groups, media reports and the stories of exiles and dissidents, places the blame for abuse firmly at the door of Saddam Hussein and his immediate subordinates.
It concludes: "Iraq is a terrifying place to live. People are in constant fear of being denounced as opponents of the regime. They are encouraged to report on the activities of family and neighbours. The security services can strike at any time."
Much of the detail dates from the 1980s and 1990s, and quotes extensively from documents held by the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard University. It also draws heavily on reports by organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. There are also reports of harassment and intimidation among Iraqi dissidents in exile.
The dossier, a pamphlet-style publication, portrays Saddam as "ruthless in his treatment of any opposition", outlining examples of torture, death and ill-treatment as "a faithful representation of what ordinary Iraqis face in their daily lives."
The dossier warns: "These grave violations of human rights are not the work of a number of over-zealous individuals, but the deliberate policy of the regime. Fear is Saddam's chosen method for staying in power."
It adds: "This dossier does not include every Iraqi's personal story of suffering caused by Saddam's regime, known to the British government. There are sadly too many to mention them all."
The dossier insists that torture in Iraq is "systematic". In 1992, the Revolutionary Command Council, presided by Saddam, granted immunity for any member of the ruling Ba'ath Party who "cause damage to property, bodily harm and even death when pursuing enemies of the regime."
It points out that the council has established severe penalties for criminal offences and approved amputation of the tongue as a penalty for slander about Saddam or him family. Saddam's elder son Uday Hussein is said to have been repeatedly accused of the serial rape and murder of young women. He is accused of maintaining a private torture chamber, and of ordering the national football team to be caned on the soles of their feet after losing a World Cup qualifying match.
In one example of Iraqi torture, a family arrested two years ago were tortured over the sale of a vehicle said to have been used by opposition forces. The husband was shot at close range and hung from a hook on their ceiling. In a separate centre, the woman was stripped naked, beaten and burned with cigarettes in front of her children.
Torture techniques include electric shocks, sexual abuse, beatings, mock executions and acid baths.
Women have been tortured, ill-treated and summarily executed, according to Amnesty International reports quoted by the Foreign Office dossier. It argues that "under Saddam Hussein's regime, women lack even the basic right to life," citing a 1990 decree allowing male relatives to kill women in the name of honour.
It adds: "Human rights organisations and opposition groups continue to receive reports of women who have suffered psychological trauma after being raped by Iraqi personnel while in custody." The dossier claims to have evidence of an Iraqi official acting as a "professional rapist". A government personnel card, taken from an Iraq research project at Harvard University, describes a man's occupation as "violation of women's honour" .
An account by Nidal Shaikh Shallal, given in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington last month, said: "The heads of many Iraqi women have been publicly cut off in the streets under the pretext of being liars, while in fact they mostly belonged to families opposing the Iraqi regime. Members of Saddam Hussein's gang have raped women, especially dissident women.
Conditions in Iraqi jails are described as "inhumane and degrading". In one prison, the Mahjar jail in central Baghdad, "prisoners are beaten twice a day and the women regularly raped by the guards." The "Sijn Al-Tarbut" or casket prison, is set to keep prisoners in mortuary-style boxes, only being opened for half an hour a day for light and air. In another jail, the Qurtiyya, prisoners are said to be kept in steel boxes the size of tea chests, with open mesh floors acting as the only toilet.
The account of Ra'id Qadir Aghar, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was printed in the organisation's newspaper last month, and is reprinted in the dossier.
He said: "At first they put me in a compressed room less than one metre high and with the same width. You couldn't sleep, nor could you stand in it. You could only sit. The room had been made with a thick plate with only one hole in the ceiling, through which they would give us water."
The dossier reports that both General Abd Hamud, the head of Saddam's private office, and the president himself, have signed death warrants for prisoners. The report details mass killings of prisoners, including the death of 4,000 prisoners at one prison in 1984, and 2,500 deaths between 1997 and 1999.
It reports that 3,000 prisoners were machine-gunned to death at the Mahjar prison in Baghdad between 1993 and 1998. A 1991 document outlining methods for dealing with hostile demonstrations recommends killing 95 per cent of protesters, leaving five per cent for interrogation. It claims that references to "technical means" are "euphemisms for chemical weapons".
One letter from 1987 warns a commander: "There is no objection to cutting off the heads of traitors. But it would have been preferable had you also sent them to security for the purpose of interrogating them."
The report quotes Amnesty International estimates of 100,000 deaths among Kurds in 1987-88, and quotes Human Rights Watch research suggesting that 5,000 people were killed and 10,000 injured in chemical attacks on the town of Halabja. Claims that 94,000 Kurds have been expelled from their homes since 1991 are also repeated.
Hundreds of deaths among Iraq's Shia community are also detailed, along with the draining of southern Iraqi marshlands, forcing up to 500,000 people to flee their homes.
Kuwait Iraqi forces "committed robbery, raped Kuwaitis and expatriates, and carried out summary executions" after their invasion of Iraq in 1990. The dossier details how Kuwait citizens were arrested for "crimes" such as wearing beards.
It said: "Amnesty International listed 38 methods of torture used by the Iraqi occupiers, including beatings, breaking of limbs, extracting finger and toenails, inserting bottlenecks into the rectum and subjecting detainees to mock executions.
The dossier quotes a letter of February 1991 from General Hussein Kamil Hasan, the Iraqi minister of industry, asking officials to "transport from the governorate of Kuwait all possible materials, plant and equipment that can be carried".
Herald feature: Iraq