Fury As Us Strips Thieves
Saturday 26 April 2003
America was at the centre of a new human rights row last night after four alleged Iraqi thieves were paraded naked in a Baghdad park by US troops.
The degraded prisoners had the words "Ali Baba, Haram'' - "Thief, Unclean" - scrawled in Arabic on their chests.
The humiliating spectacle of young men running to hide their shame was captured by a photographer for Norway's Dagbladet newspaper, which quoted a US officer as saying the deterrent was effective.
Last night Amnesty International in London criticised the inhumane treatment and promised to raise the matter urgently with the United Nations next week.
Director Kate Allen said: "If these pictures are accurate, this is an appalling way to treat prisoners. Such degrading treatment is a clear violation of the responsibilities of the occupying powers.
"Whatever the reason, these men must at all times be treated humanely. The US authorities must investigate this incident and publicly release their findings."
The four victims had their clothes burned before being publicly humiliated in the Zawra Park which is said be plagued by thieves trying to reach US weapons stores.
The Americans claim that over the last few days several hundred Iraqis have tried to get into the park and US troop patrols have been stepped up around the clock.
Group Commander Eric Canaday, of 10th Engineer Corps, is quoted in Dagbladet saying: "I think our job is to keep people out of the park to prevent theft of weapons.
"We have started doing several things and I don't think this is too much.''
Lt Canaday added: "We have talked with the Iraqi inhabitants. Some of them gave us the idea so we took the clothes and burned them before we pushed them out with thief written on their chest. It was quite successful.''
The US soldiers were seen chasing the Iraqi men shouting "Ali Baba, Ali Baba". All four ran as fast as they could to hide their nakedness, according to onlookers.
Three of the young men got away but 20-year-old Zian Djumma came back with his head bowed down after he put on grey shorts which he found in a looted house.
He told Dagbladet: "This was terrible. Now I only want to go home and find a hand grenade and throw it at the soldiers. Not only against those who did it to us but at everybody. I hate the Americans for this.''
Djumma said the four friends had gone into the park through an open gate looking for a missing 15-year-old boy.
But the Americans said the four were carrying a bag with spare parts for weapons.
The Geneva Convention states: "Protected persons are entitled to respect.
"They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected against insults."
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