Stop Prisoner Rape Deplores Abuse and Sexual Degradation of Iraqi Prisoners, Notes That it Constitutes Torture

May 3, 2004

LOS ANGELES - The reported sexual degradation and physical abuse of  Iraqi prisoners of war is a deplorable violation of fundamental human rights that rises to the level of torture, the group Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) said today.

Lara Stemple, the executive director of the national human rights group, called recently reported allegations of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees by American and British soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad "shocking and lamentable."

"Stop Prisoner Rape deplores the use of sexual violence as a tool of intimidation and control in detention, no matter where it takes place," Stemple said. "Abuse of a sexual nature is often designed to uniquely humiliate and degrade victims."

SPR notes that this treatment is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and of international human rights treaties. Specifically, Stemple noted, sexual abuse of prisoners in many cases rises to the level of the torture under the terms of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was ratified by the United States in 1994.

A newly published SPR fact sheet on sexual violence as a form of torture is available online at

Allegations of sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners by coalition soldiers have been reported in The New Yorker, The New York Times, on CBS's 60 Minutes 2, by Amnesty International, and others. Among the specific abuses reported are instances of:

  • Pouring cold water on naked detainees;
  • Threatening male detainees with rape;
  • Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and/or a broomstick;
  • Forcing naked detainees to assume humiliating poses;
  • Forcing a naked, hooded detainee to masturbate;
  • Leaving male detainees in cells naked or wearing women's underwear; and
  • Forcing one detainee to simulate oral sex with another detainee.

"This is not the standard of behavior that we should be setting in Iraq," Stemple said. "Torturing prisoners is no way to demonstrate a commitment to freedom and human rights."