Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, accused the Iraqi government yesterday of sanctioning the torture of political prisoners. Its findings were based on medical examinations of 15 Iraqi exiles in Western Europe.
The findings, along with other reports it has received about human rights violations in Iraq since August 1979, "suggest strongly that torture may be continuing and widespread in Iraq," Amnesty said in a 45-page report.
It called upon Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to issue a formal policy statement saying his government "condemns and will not permit torture" in agreement with Article 22 of its own constitution and Article 127 of the Iraqi judicial procedures law.
Amnesty said it "regularly" has received allegations of torture in Iraq dating back to before the present Baath socialist government took power 13 years ago. But, it added, only recently was it able to interview at length an Iraqi exile willing to have his case and name widely publicized.
The organization identified him as Burhan Shawi, 24, a journalist and writer who it said was examined for two days in October 1979 by a team of Danish doctors regarding his allegations of repeated torture over a nine-day period the previous year at the hands of Iraqi security officials.
Amnesty said the 14 others -- 11 men and three women -- were interviewed and examined in March 1980, regarding allegations of separate cases of torture that took place at different times and places within Iraq between September 1976 and August 1979.
The 15 Iraqis spent anywhere from one day to nine months in detention, Amnesty said. None would allow their names to be made public for fear of reprisals against them or their families, it said.
The report said the various forms of torture included the beating of bare feet with a rubber truncheon, "systematic electric shock torture," burnings, mock executions, sexual abuse, and physical assaults with fists, boots, sticks and whips.
Most of the torture was said to have been aimed at extracting information about the victims' political activities, forcing them to join the country's ruling Baath Party, or getting them to end their political affiliation with illegal parties. None was allowed access to a lawyer during detention and only two were ever formally charged and brought to trial, according to the report. Neither was found guilty of any offense, according to Amnesty.
The report on torture in Iraq followed the latest annual Amnesty report on worldwide human rights violations covering the period May 1979 through April 1980 in which the organization said it had received the names and some details of 114 persons believed to have been executed during this period in addition to the 26 executions officially reported by the Iraqi press. The number included Kurds charged with involvement in opposition groups, armed forces members accused of anti-Baathist activities and persons suspected of belonging to the secret Shiite organization, Al Dawa al Islamiya.
Among the Shiites reported to have been executed were Ayatollah Muhammed Baqr Sadr, 50, the chief religious leader and rallying point for the opposition to Saddam Hussein's government, and his sister, Bint Huda.
Amnesty said it had received reports the two were executed April 8 or 9, 1980, and so far had received no answer from the Iraqi government to its inquiries.