Five years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the country is in disarray, the human rights situation is disastrous, a climate of impunity prevails, the economy is in tatters and the refugee crisis continues to escalate.
So says a new Amnesty International report, Carnage and Despair: Iraq five years on.
It says Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with hundreds of Iraqi civilians killed every month.
Since early 2006 violence has intensified, contributing to the displacement of over four million people, two million of whom are now refugees in Syria and Jordan.
Civilians are at risk from Multinational Forces (MNF) and Iraqi Security Forces, with many killed by excessive force and tens of thousands detained without charge or trial.
The death penalty was reintroduced in 2004 and hundreds of people have been sentenced to death.
At least 33 people were executed in 2007, many after unfair trials.
Economic conditions remain very poor, with most Iraqis suffering from lack of food, shelter, water, sanitation, education, healthcare and employment.
Oxfam reported in July 2007 that 70 per cent of Iraqis lack access to safe drinking water and 43 per cent live on the equivalent of less than a dollar per day.
Eight million Iraqis are in need of emergency assistance, with children the worst hit.
Child malnutrition rates have increased from 19 per cent during the period from 1991-2003, when international sanctions were imposed on the country, to 28 per cent in 2007.
The invasion of Iraq started on 19 March 2003, with US military strikes on Baghdad.
US President George W Bush declared the war over that May and, on 8 June 2004, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1546, declaring that Iraq’s occupation would end on 30 June 2004.
The Resolution stated that the MNF would stay in Iraq until the end of 2005.
Since then, the MNF’s presence has been extended on a yearly basis by the UN Security Council and the Iraqi government.
Carnage and Despair states: ‘Despite the US authorities’ introduction of various measures to safeguard detainees following the shocking Abu Ghraib prison scandal, torture and other ill-treatment by members of the MNF continue to be reported, albeit on a lesser scale than before 2004.
‘Former detainees held in Camp Bucca, where conditions are extremely harsh, have said that they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated by US guards.
‘US guards apparently used stun guns, among other things, and detainees were exposed to long periods of extreme heat and cold.
‘An eye witness told Amnesty International that in November 2005 a US guard at Camp Bucca used a stun gun against two detainees while they were being transferred in a vehicle to a medical appointment within the detention facility, shocking one on the arm and the other on his abdomen.
‘In prisons, detention centres and police stations under the control of the Iraqi security forces, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, are widespread.
‘Amnesty International has received numerous reports about detainees, especially those suspected of involvement in insurgency activities, being tortured by Iraqi security forces, particularly special forces belonging to the Interior Ministry.
‘Up to 35,000 inmates are languishing in inhumane conditions in hugely overcrowded Iraqi-run prisons, police stations and detention camps, many without access to lawyers.
‘Amnesty International continues to urge the US military authorities in Iraq not to transfer any detainees to the custody of the Iraqi authorities for fear of torture.
‘At the end of 2005, the former Deputy Commanding General, Major General Gardner, pledged that no detainees being held by the MNF would be transferred to the Iraqi authorities until the necessary safeguards were in place to guarantee detainees’ safety in Iraqi custody.
‘On 30 May 2006, a joint Iraqi-MNF team inspected Site 4 detention centre in Baghdad, where 1,431 detainees were held under the control of the Interior Ministry.
‘The inspection found that detainees had been systematically abused, in some cases amounting to torture, and were being held in unsafe, overcrowded and unhealthy conditions.
‘In November 2006, the Interior Minister announced that arrest warrants for 57 employees, including a police general, had been issued in connection with the abuses.
‘However, according to UNAMI (United Nations Mission Assistance for Iraq), of the 57 personnel identified, only one official was in custody at the end of March 2007.
‘On 4 March 2007, British troops and Iraqi special forces stormed the headquarters of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in Basra after they had reportedly received information that the headquarters was being used for torture.
‘The troops found about 30 prisoners, some reportedly showing signs of torture.
‘In 2007, former prisoners held in pre-trial detention facilities controlled by the Interior Ministry, including police stations, told UNAMI staff in Iraq that they had been tortured.
‘Methods of torture included “routine beatings with hosepipes, cables and other implements . . . prolonged suspension from the limbs in contorted and painful positions for extended periods, sometimes resulting in dislocation of the joints; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body; the breaking of limbs, forcing detainees to sit on sharp objects, causing serious injury . . . ”
‘In October 2007, an Iraqi human rights group, the Prisoners’ Association for Justice, stated that they had interviewed five children aged between 13 and 17 who said they had been tortured while held on suspicion of aiding insurgents and militia.
‘The children “showed signs of torture all over the bodies. Three had marks of cigarettes burns over their legs and one couldn’t speak as the shock sessions affected his conversation (speech).”
‘Under the human rights treaties that Iraq has ratified, the Iraqi authorities are obliged to ensure that all people under their jurisdiction are protected from torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
‘Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment . . .” The Iraqi government is also obliged to investigate all allegations of torture by the security forces, bring the suspected perpetrators to justice, and provide full reparation for victims.
‘Any evidence extracted under torture should not be used in proceedings against the detained.
‘Iraq is not a party to the UN Convention against Torture, one of the very few states in the region that has failed to ratify this treaty.
‘On 9 December, the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, urged the Iraqi government to ratify the Convention in 2008, saying this would send a strong message that democratic countries can “reach stability, fight terrorism” and respect human rights.
‘The Iraqi government invited the UN Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country in early 2008.
‘As of February 2008, the date of the visit has not been made public.
‘Even though Iraq is not a state party to the Convention against Torture, the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment is regarded as part of customary law, binding on all states, from which no derogation is allowed at any time, even in times of emergency or war.
‘International humanitarian law, which Iraq is bound to observe, also contains provisions that expressly prohibit torture and other ill-treatment during both international and non-international armed conflicts.’