Russia’s Foreign Ministry weighed in yesterday on the scandal surrounding the abuse of Iraqis detained by U.S.-led coalition forces. Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov called the reported “cases of torture” a cause for “deep concern.” He added: “Apart from the fact that these [cases of] torture are a direct violation of human rights, they complicate the process of bringing about a settlement in Iraq because they further alienate ordinary Iraqis from the foreign occupation.” Fedotov said that while U.S. officials have promised that the cases will be investigated and the culprits punished, the UNCHR’s special rapporteur on Iraq has recommended holding an “international investigation” into the abuses. “For our part, we believe this issue should come under the purview of the UN Commission of Human Rights,” he said (Russian agencies, May 5).
In an analysis of the Iraqi detainees scandal posted by the Politcom.ru website on May 5, Vladimir Tuchkov predicted that as a result of the revelations, coalition soldiers captured by Iraqi insurgents can expect “very harsh ordeals” and Muslim countries that are pro-U.S. will find it increasingly difficult to remain so. “Given that the ‘liberators’ differ little from Saddam’s secret police, all Iraqi terrorists, insurrectionists and saboteurs automatically turn into heroic liberators of the country from the foreign yoke,” Tuchkov wrote. He also predicted that the scandal would increase Al-Qaeda’s legitimacy in the Muslim world and the “political authority” of “radical” and “extremist” leaders inside Iraq. “The terrorist onslaught will intensify both against the United States and against citizens living abroad from this genuinely great country that fell for a muscular, air-headed president,” Tuchkov concluded.
Also on May 5, RIA Novosti published the accounts of several Iraqis who were detained in Abu-Greib, the prison west of Baghdad that has been at the center of the abuse allegations. The state news agency quoted Karim Rashid, described as an Iraqi tribal sheikh who spent several months in Abu-Greib after being accused of having given Saddam Hussein refuge, as saying that the U.S. personnel in the prison “frequently used sticks and gun butts to beat prisoners on the most sensitive parts of their bodies,” and that they also beat prisoners’ heads against the stone wall and floor. “Sometimes the Americans entertained themselves by watching trained guard dogs tear at the horror-stricken prisoners,” RIA Novosti reported. “Sheikh Karim also claimed local doctors were ordered to stitch the specially-made deep cuts without giving the prisoner painkillers, or poured a liquid that left burns, all of this to make the luckless men say what the Americans wanted to hear.”
Another former Abu Greib inmate, described as an Iraqi security service officer who did not reveal his name, claimed that some detainees were subjected to “flogging” and “finger-breaking” while others were hung from the ceiling and used as “punching bags.” RIA Novosti’s account about alleged abuse in Abu-Greib prison also ran on the Strana.ru and Pravda.ru websites on May 5.
The official comments and press accounts would suggest that Russian attitudes toward the U.S.-led coalition’s occupation of Iraq are highly negative. Indeed, a survey conducted April 23-26 by the Yury Levada Analytical Center found that 41 percent of those polled sympathized with the Iraqi insurgents, 43 percent supported neither the insurgents nor the U.S.-led coalition, and 7 percent supported the United States and its allies. Forty-one percent of those polled said that the defeat of the United States and its allies in Iraq would benefit Russia, while 29 percent said that a U.S.-led coalition victory over the Iraqi insurgents would be to Russia’s benefit. At the same time, 74 percent of those polled agreed with the proposition that “the problem of terrorism can be resolved only by destroying the terrorists themselves.” Nineteen percent agreed with the proposition that “it is necessary to negotiate with terrorists and try to find a solution that would satisfy everyone” (Russian agencies, April 29).