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UN raises reported abuse with Iraqi officials

UN envoy raises reported abuse of detainees with Iraqi officials

The senior United Nations envoy in Iraq has several times brought up the issue of human rights violations with Iraqi officials, including the need for "structural changes" in the security system, a UN spokesman said today.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric had been asked about the UN position on reports of abuses such as those concerning an Iraqi detention centre where detainees were alleged to have been tortured.

"On the ground, our team there that is led by Mr. Qazi has brought up on a number of times directly to Iraqi officials, including the Defence Minister, the Interior Minister, the issues of human rights violations that have been reported to take place in some of the detention centres," Mr. Dujarric said, referring to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.

"Mr. Qazi has been advocating in his talks with the Defence Minister drastic structural changes in the Iraqi security system which, as you know, faces endemic problems of organization and discipline. So this is an issue that we are very much closely following," he added.

Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for an international investigation into conditions of detention in Iraq, saying the recent discovery in an Interior Ministry building of detainees who appeared to have been tortured pointed to widespread problems with the system of detention.

An international element would help the authorities address the situation in an impartial and objective way, which is crucial to fostering an environment of respect for human rights and, ultimately, to achieving national reconciliation, Ms. Arbour said.

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