STATEMENT REGARDING THE ABUSE OF PRISONERS IN IRAQ

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, commented today on the situation of Iraqi detainees:

"Although the Methodist Church welcomes today's news about the release of some of the people held in Abu Ghraib, the accounts and images of abuse of prisoners in Iraq have shocked and concerned many around the world.  It adds to concern regarding the US-dominated administration in Iraq and the moves towards the 30 June handover of power.

"It is thought that 10,000 prisoners have been detained by coalition forces during the past year.  According to the information received by the UN Commission on Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the majority of persons in detention in Iraq have been arrested during public demonstrations, at checkpoints and in house raids. They are being considered 'security detainees' or 'suspected of anti-Coalition activities'. Leila Zerrougiu, the Working Group's Chairperson-Rapporteur, is seriously disturbed by the fact that these persons have not been granted access to a court to be able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, as required by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 9).

"If coalition forces are to contribute to the establishment law and order Iraq they must themselves be seen to be abiding by a set of just rules otherwise the task of establishing a wider justice will surely fail.  The Methodist Church continues to press the government to work closely with the UN in Iraq in advance of handover to an Iraqi Provisional Administration at the end of June."

The Revd Jake Watson, Secretary to the Forces Board, has spoken highly of the behaviour of the vast majority of British servicemen and women who operate in a difficult, dangerous and confused environment.  He stated:

"The nine Methodist chaplains who served during the fighting did excellent work in supporting and complementing the work of our troops. At least three of these are now back in Iraq or about to return to support the forces in their peace-keeping operation."

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