Coalition military intelligence officials estimated that 70% to 90% of prisoners detained in Iraq since the war began last year "had been arrested by mistake," according to a confidential Red Cross report given to the Bush administration earlier this year.
Yet the report described a wide range of prisoner mistreatment — including many new details of abusive techniques — that it said U.S. officials had failed to halt, despite repeated complaints from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
ICRC monitors saw some improvements by early this year, but the continued abuses "went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered as a practice tolerated" by coalition forces, the report concluded.
The Swiss-based ICRC, which made 29 visits to coalition-run prisons and camps between late March and November last year, said it repeatedly presented its reports of mistreatment to prison commanders, U.S. military officials in Iraq and members of the Bush administration in Washington.
The ICRC summary report, which was written in February, also said Red Cross officials had complained to senior military officials that families of Iraqi suspects usually were told so little that most arrests resulted "in the de facto 'disappearance' of the arrestee for weeks or even months."
The report also described previously undocumented forms of abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody. In October, for example, an Iraqi prisoner was "hooded, handcuffed in the back, and made to lie face down" on what investigators believe was the engine hood of a vehicle while he was being transported. He was hospitalized for three months for extensive burns to his face, abdomen, foot and hand, the report added.
The ICRC report also describes torture and other brutal practices by Iraqi police working in Baghdad under the U.S.-led occupation.
It cites cases in which suspects held by Iraqi police allegedly were beaten with cables, kicked in the testicles, burned with cigarettes and forced to sign confessions.
In June, a group of men arrested by Iraqi police "allegedly had water poured on their legs and had electrical shocks administered to them with stripped tips of electrical wires," the report notes.
One man's mother was brought in, "and the policeman threatened to mistreat her." Another detainee "was threatened with having his wife brought in and raped."
"Many persons deprived of their liberty drew parallels between police practices under the occupation with those of the former regime," the report noted.
I am horrified that anybody would be treated this way. But to realize that 70% - 90% of the detainees are there by mistake makes it even more appalling.