A dossier of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Iraqi
regime, including torture and rape, has been released by the UK
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the report was needed so "people
understand the comprehensive evil that is Saddam Hussein".
It comes as United Nations weapons inspectors were carrying out a
surprise inspection at a plant in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
However, human rights organisation Amnesty International has
criticised the timing of the dossier´s publication, saying ministers
are exploiting the issues to justify their own ends.
The report contains graphic first-hand accounts by Iraqi victims of
torture, with methods including eye gouging, piercing of hands with
drills and acid baths.
It accuses Saddam Hussein of introducing severe penalties like
cutting off ears and tongue amputation for criminal offences and
speaking out against him.
Women are allegedly raped, tortured and summarily executed. Prisoners
at one jail are said to have been kept in steel boxes like those
found in mortuaries with only half an hour a day allowed for light
The dossier says Iraq "is a terrifying place to live" with "fear
Saddam´s chosen method for staying in power".
"Torture is systematic in Iraq. The most senior figures in the regime
are personally involved," the dossier begins.
The report concludes by describing the Iraqi leader as "ruthless",
adding: "A cruel and callous disregard for human life and suffering
remains the hallmark of his regime."
The dossier was launched six days before Baghdad must submit a full
declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, or
face "serious consequences" under United Nations resolution 1441.
Mr Straw said it was "worth reinforcing the case" that human rights
abuses in Iraq have happened in the past and "they are happening
"We are publishing this because it is important that people
understand the comprehensive evil that is Saddam Hussein," he told
BBC Radio 4´s Today programme.
"He has got these weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological
and probably nuclear weapons which he has used in the past against
his own people as well as his neighbours and could almost certainly
use again in the future.
"In addition to that, there´s the systematic terror which is
perpetrated by Saddam on a daily basis against his own people, which
is why there is this most unusual and outrageous political system
which simply goes back to one person.
"The only person worth dealing with is Saddam, because everybody
else, including his own cabinet, are in mortal fear."
Publication of the dossier is a move by the government to gain public
support for war on Iraq if the regime fails to comply with the
resolution, said BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.
He told BBC Radio 4´s Today programme the document made "harrowing"
reading, and was "a political document intended to achieve a
particular political effect."
Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons and anti-war on Iraq,
said: "I think that this highly unusual, indeed, unprecedented
publication is cranking up for war."
But Britain´s spokesman on Iraq denied the report was intended to
build a case for military action against Iraq.
Speaking in the Jordanian capital Amman on Sunday, Mark Sedwill
said: "There is a strong impression around in the Middle East that
Britain has a desire to prepare for military action on Iraq. It isn´t
"We want a peaceful way out of this."
Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan disagreed.
She said: "This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a
cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights
"Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to
Amnesty International´s reports of widespread human rights violations
in Iraq before the Gulf War.
"They remained silent when thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians ere
killed in Halabja in 1988."
A team of UN weapons inspectors has been in Iraq since last Wednesday
examining suspected arms sites.
The UN team has so far been allowed unfettered access to suspected
weapons sites and so far nothing incriminating has been found.
The dossier at a glance