The human rights situation in Iraq requires urgent action by the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led multinational force, the U.N.'s political chief said. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that the United Nations was concerned about the "increasingly disturbing reports in recent weeks" about human rights abuses.
He spoke a day after the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said at least 120 abused prisoners have been found since last month in two detention facilities run by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has repeatedly drawn attention "to the plight of human rights in Iraq, condemning terrorist, insurgent and paramilitary attacks against innocent civilians," Gambari said. Annan has also called on all sides to strictly observe their obligations under international humanitarian law.
"The situation requires not only our continued attention but, more importantly, urgent action, particularly by the Iraqi authorities and the multinational force," Gambari said.
The United Nations welcomes the commitment by the multinational force "to take initial corrective steps, particularly with regard to the issue of detainees," he said.
The U.N. urges the Iraqi government "to follow up on its announced actions to address this serious situation," Gambari said. Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie acknowledged Wednesday that his nation's police forces "have a problem" with prisoner abuse, and vowed the practice would be stopped.
"We understand that we have a problem," Sumaidaie said after briefing the Security Council. "We have a lot of people who were policemen and other people who were trained during the previous regime who were brought up in a culture of lawlessness."
Sumaidaie said that anyone who is found guilty of abusing prisoners will be punished.
"You know, habits die hard," Sumaidaie said. "It takes time to recondition people but the government is absolutely determined to pursue this because that's the only way we can go forward." Those remarks echoed comments out of Baghdad, where Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has suggested it would be unrealistic to expect the abusive practices and human rights violations to disappear quickly after decades of tyranny by ousted leader Saddam Hussein's Baath party, reports the AP. I.L.