London, Dec. 2 (Reuters): Britain accused President Saddam Hussein today of gross human rights violations, from acid baths and eye-gouging to rape and mass execution, as it sought to harden public opinion ahead of possible war with Iraq.
Six days before a deadline for Saddam to hand over details of his alleged weapons of mass destruction, foreign office officials unveiled a 23-page human rights dossier outlining “the barbarity of his regime”.
“We’re publishing this because it is important people understand the comprehensive evil which is Saddam Hussein,” foreign secretary Jack Straw said. “There is systematic terror which is perpetrated by Saddam on a daily basis against his own people.”
Three or four million Iraqis, about 15 per cent of the population, had fled their homeland rather than live under his rule. Those who remained faced his “cruel and callous disregard for human life and suffering”, the report said.
In Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, 100,000 Kurds were killed or disappeared in 1987-88 alone, the report quoted human rights organisations as saying.
Iraqi Shias had endured a “systematic attack” on religious and tribal leaders. Hundreds died when security forces fired on a peaceful demonstration in early 1999, it said.
Political prisoners faced “inhumane and degrading” conditions, the report said. Some prisons were “cleansed” of prisoners, including the Abu Ghraib prison where 4,000 prisoners were executed in 1984.
“Fear is Saddam’s chosen method for staying in power,” the report said.
At the Mahjar prison in central Baghdad 600-700 prisoners are split between underground cells and former dog kennels, it said.
Two large oil tanks have been built nearby to flood the prison with petrol and burn it down in an emergency.