Denmark forsook Iraqi prisoners amid evidence of torture

Legal expert: Stopping oversight of detainees was against international law

In 2004, the Venstre-Konservative government exempted itself from overseeing the conditions of prisoners captured by Danish soldiers and handed over to the Iraqi authorities, shortly after reports of torture in the country’s prisons, Politiken reports.

READ MORE: Army accused of allowing prisoner abuse

Reports of abuse
In June 2004 a Danish military lawyer reported to the Danish authorities a number of cases of torture involving “strikes with cable-like objects” and “genital abuse”.

Just days later, Denmark suspended the supervision of nine prisoners captured by Danish forces, meaning that Danish military lawyers, doctors or military police would no longer pay attention to their conditions.

Details of the nine prisoners in question are contained in documents obtained by Politiken from the Iraq commission, which was closed by the current government, but it is possible there were more cases.

Shouldn’t have been exempt
Denmark’s grounds for suspending the oversight was that Iraq became a sovereign state on 28 June 2004, but according to Peter Vedel Kessing, an expert on international law at the human rights organisation Institut for Menneskerettigheder, this does not exempt the country from responsibility and Denmark’s actions were in violation of international law.

“It doesn’t change Denmark’s responsibility. Denmark was still responsible for the prisoners,” he said.

“That is the basis for the Geneva Conventions: the state that captures a person is responsible for that person going forward and all the way through.”

 





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