The British Foreign Office said yesterday it was ‘aware of and deeply concerned’ by reports that Iraqi police commandos, the allies of British forces in Iraq, are regularly torturing prisoners.
Reports in the British press alleged abuses such as strangulation, hanging by the arms, burning, sexual abuse, the breaking of limbs and, in one case, the use of an electric drill for a knee-capping.
It was claimed that there is photographic evidence from post mortem examinations and hospitals to back up the allegations.
The reports also stated Iraqi police commando units carried out extra-judicial killings and that a secret network of detention centres has been established by the Iraqi authorities.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday: ‘We are aware and deeply concerned by reports of detainee abuse by Iraqi police officers and of men in police uniforms committing serious crimes, whether these men are genuine policemen or not.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman added: ‘As soon as we became aware of these allegations we raised them with the Iraqi government at the highest levels in Baghdad and Basra.
‘We hope and expect them to investigate abuse allegations promptly, prosecute those suspected of abuse and punish those found guilty, regardless of rank or background and take measures to prevent recurrence.’
Meanwhile, in Iraq yesterday it was reported that the new Egyptian ambassador to Iraq, Ihab al-Sharif, was kidnapped in Baghdad.
Sharif was taken from his home in Baghdad’s wealthy Mansur neighbourhood, just a month after taking up his post.
Police erected a tight security cordon around the embassy yesterday and kept journalists 30 metres away as reinforcements arrived.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo tried to play down the situation.
In a statement, it said: ‘The Ministry has initiated contacts this morning with the Iraqi Government and all other related parties to determine the veracity of reports circulating about the disappearance of ambassador Ihab al-Sharif, chief of the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Baghdad.
‘The Egyptian minister of foreign affairs hopes for a speedy clarification of the situation and the safeguarding of the security of the Egyptian diplomat who is charged with strengthening relations between the two brotherly peoples of Egypt and Iraq.’
Sharif was the first ambassador named by an Arab country to Iraq since US-UK forces deposed President Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made an unannounced single-day visit for talks with puppet prime minister Jafaari.
US Department of Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos claimed Gonzales would ‘be meeting with his counterparts in the Iraqi Government to offer his support for what they are doing in terms of reconstituting or rebuilding the judicial system in Iraq’.
Also, Switzerland has asked the United States for information on the death of a Swiss man in Baghdad, who was shot after his car was stopped by US soldiers.
Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivo Sieber said: ‘A citizen with Swiss-Iraqi double nationality died during an incident last Tuesday.’
The name of the dead man was not released.
Sieber added that the man’s brother, who was travelling with him, told Swiss authorities their car had been stopped by US soldiers and that the victim died from a gunshot wound.
There were no details about where the gunshot came from or who fired it, and the Swiss government has asked for more information from the US embassy in Iraq and from the State Department and Pentagon in Washington.
It has also demanded a police report on the incident from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.