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Iraqi Women 'Tortured And Raped' In Detention
Women in Iraq are facing torture, sexual abuse and are being arrested illegally by the country's security forces, a leading human rights organisation has claimed.
Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of women who said they were raped, forced to sign confessions and had family members threatened whilst in detention.
They also found evidence that women were subjected to abuse, not just for crimes they allegedly committed, but to intimidate male members of their family and community.
One former detainee, who was re-named Fatima to protect her identity, tearfully describes how she was assaulted by a security official.
"A man handcuffed both my hands and feet, and made me lay on my stomach. He took my clothes off and started to hit my face and my eyes."
Fatima alleges she was later coerced into confessing to a crime she didn't commit.
"You've just been raped, beaten and insulted and then they say they will do the same to her daughter if you don't confess what they tell you.
"What can you do then? You will surely say you have committed those crimes. You will say whatever they want to protect your child."
Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of women for their new report entitled: 'No One Is Safe': Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System.
One detainee, waiting on death row in a Baghdad prison, told the organisation she needed crutches after enduring more than a week of beatings and electric shocks.
Despite subsequent medical reports supporting her allegations of torture she was executed seven months later.
Iraq's prison population is overwhelmingly male, but women are more vulnerable to facing sexual assault and harassment once arrested and the majority do not have access to a lawyer before, during or after their interrogation.
HRW's Director of Middle East and North Africa, Sarah Leah Whitson, says it is the responsibility of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reform the country's criminal justice system and crack down on abuses from security forces.
"In Iraq still there is an abiding sense of absolute impunity for the security services which is blessed and sanctioned by the Government.
"Until (Prime Minister) Maliki makes clear that he will not tolerate torture and abuse either in Iraq's prisons or Iraq's police stations we can expect this to continue."
It is more than a decade since the US led invasion of Iraq, and much of the country is struggling to restore law and order.
Fighting between the army and al Qaeda extremists in Anbar province forced more than a 140,000 people to flee their homes.
The military's response has led some residents to claim they were being targeted rather than terrorist groups.
In the capital, Baghdad, the security situation is deteriorating with car bombs and sectarian violence killing dozens each week.
Parliamentary elections are due at the end of April, but with civilians fearing mistreatment from the security forces entrusted to protect them, the prospects for stability look bleak.
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