Iraq’s Police Force: Murderers’ Row

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The NYT’s Edward Wong and Paul von Zielbauer report that the efforts of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior to purge the police and internal security forces of Shiite militiamen and criminals is not going well.

The ministry recently discovered that more than 1,200 policemen and other employees had been convicted years ago of murder, rape and other violent crimes, said a Western diplomat who has close contact with the ministry. Some were even on death row. Few have been fired…

There is little accountability. The government has stopped allowing joint Iraqi and American teams to inspect Iraqi prisons. No senior ministry officials have been prosecuted on charges of detainee mistreatment, in spite of fresh discoveries of abuse and torture, including a little-reported case involving children packed into a prison of more than 1,400 inmates. Internal investigations into secret prisons, corruption and other potential criminal activity are often blocked.

The report does contain some good news—”Death squads in police uniforms no longer kidnap and kill with absolute impunity in parts of Sunni-dominated western Baghdad, many Iraqis say. The American military estimates there was a 52 percent drop in the daily rate of execution-style killings from July to August.”*—but on the whole the details are most disturbing.

*Update (or rather backdate, from Wong’s story the previous day):

There has been a surge in the number of Iraqis killed execution-style in the last few days, with scores of bodies found across the city despite an aggressive security plan begun last month. The Baghdad morgue has reported that at least 1,535 Iraqi civilians died violently in the capital in August, a 17 percent drop from July but still much higher than virtually all other months.

American military officials have disputed the morgue’s numbers, saying military data shows that what they refer to as the murder rate dropped by 52 percent from July to August. But American officials have acknowledged that that count does not include deaths from bombings and rocket or mortar attacks.

And don’t even get me started about the trenches around Baghdad plan.

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