No respite for Iraqi people after five years of conflict

(dpa) - Five years after the invasion of Iraq, human rights abuse in the country is widespread and millions of people rely on emergency aid to survive, Amnesty International said in a report published in London Monday.

The report, entitled Carnage and Despair, says that attacks and sectarian killings by armed groups, torture and ill-treatment by Iraqi government forces and the continuing detention of thousands of suspects by US and Iraqi forces have had a devastating impact.

The situation had led to more than four million Iraqis being displaced from their homes while many detainees are held without charge or trial.

Millions of dollars had been spent on security, but two out of three Iraqis still has no access to safe drinking water and almost one in three of the population - some 8 million people - need emergency aid to survive, Amnesty said.

"Saddam Hussein's administration was a byword for human rights abuse," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"But its replacement has brought no respite at all for the Iraqi people."

Smart said political opponents had been detained without trial and so-called honour crimes remained a deep-seated problem which the authorities criticized but had failed to address adequately.

Amnesty said no-one knows exactly how many people have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

A survey carried out jointly by the World Health Organisation and the Iraqi government published last January said more than 150,000 people had been killed by June 2006.

The UN reported that almost 35,000 people were killed in 2006.

Amnesty said trials were "routinely unfair," with convictions on evidence allegedly obtained under torture, and hundreds of people had been sentenced to death.

"This is one of the most worrying aspects for the future," said Smart.

"Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of torture under their watch, the Iraqi authorities have failed to hold the perpetrators to account and the US and its allies have failed to demand that they do so."

According to the report, even in the relatively peaceful Kurdish region of northern Iraq, economic improvement had not been accompanied by greater respect for human rights.

"Arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture continue to be reported even from the Kurdish provinces," said Smart.

"And peaceful political dissent is scarcely tolerated," he added.

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