Human rights group warns on treatment of Iraqi prisoners

07 April 2003
New York-based Human Rights Watch on 4 April urged Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to treat surrendering Iraqi soldiers according to international law on prisoners of war. As Kurdish forces have agreed to place themselves under the command and control of US forces, they have become one of the warring parties and under international law are obliged to take responsibility for the welfare of prisoners, the group said. About 130 Iraqis are believed to have given themselves up to the Kurds so far, fleeing the US bombardment in the north and their own commanders' treatment. Human Rights Watch expressed particular concern that the duty to protect prisoners from 'public curiosity' be observed, in the light of the Iraqis' fears that their families might be subject to reprisals for their desertion. However, the organisation said that Kurdish forces had so far dealt well with the prisoners and most had been registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On the same day, Human Rights Watch published details of the alleged ill-treatment of Iraqi soldiers by their military leaders. Speaking to the group's representatives in northern Iraq, troops complained of being paid about $2 a month, if at all, and of serious food shortages. Others spoke of beatings, and the public execution of deserters.

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