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Amnesty International Details Killings and Torture of Palestinians In Iraq

01 October 2007

The human rights group Amnesty International says the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led multi-national forces must do more to protect Palestinians living in Iraq. In its latest report released today in London, Amnesty says scores of Palestinians are known to have been killed, while thousands languish in refugee camps and many others continue to live in fear inside Iraq. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

The Amnesty International report paints a dire picture of the dangers facing Palestinians in Iraq.

It cites the case of a 55-year-old blacksmith who goes out for a bite to eat and never comes back. Two days later his body is found in a morgue bearing marks of torture.

In another incident, a trader is abducted from his car by armed men. He is later shot and his body left lying in the street. A taxi driver is abducted by armed men. Two days later the abductors use his mobile phone to tell his family to collect his body from the morgue.

Amnesty says the exact number of Palestinains killed in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003 is hard to pinpoint, but researcher Said Boumedouha, tells VOA he believes the number may be in the hundreds.

"They get kidnapped and then tortured in a horrible way, with a drill, the bodies would be mutilated and found thrown in the streets or taken by the police to the morgue," said Boumedouha.

Palestinians have been living in Iraq for decades, many fled there after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. According to U.N. estimates, about 34,000 Palestinians used to live in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad.

But Amnesty says when the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Palestinians found themselves targeted, particularly by armed Shiite militia groups because of their ethnicity and because they were seen to have received preferential treatment under Saddam.

Thousands of Palestinians fled their homes, some managed to leave the country, but more than 2,000 continue to languish in squalid conditions in refugee camps on either side of the Iraq-Syria border.

The number of Palestinian victims in Iraq's sectarian and religious conflict pales in comparison to the death toll among Iraqis. But Amnesty researcher Boumedouha says the plight of the Palestinians has gone mostly unreported.

"They [the Palestinians] do not have anyone to defend them basically," said Boumedouha. "They do not have an armed group to protect them, unlike for example, the Shia and the Sunni. So, we wanted to draw attention of the international community to this small minority that is suffering in silence."

It is estimated there are now less than 15,000 Palestinians living in Iraq. Amnesty International is calling for the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led multi-national forces to do more to protect them, for neighboring countries to offer them a safe haven, and for the U.S. and British governments to help resettle them.

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