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Prisons & Compensations

Amnesty International recently released a report  claiming wide-spread abuse in Iraqi prisons, 30,000 detainees and many of them without trials or even charges. Amongst them a dual UK/Iraqi citizen whose wife claims has been tortured in prison. The Iraqi government was quick to deny all the findings of this report and Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim told AFP “All of the people arrested or held in our prisons are held according to arrest warrants and accusations against them, there is no torture at all, and this international report is not true and it is baseless.”

It would be hard to believe that in any country, including the UK and US, there are no unlawfully detained people and “no torture at all”, let alone in a country like Iraq where allegations of wide-spread abuse surface every few months. Instead of taking the appropriate route of stating that the report will be studied carefully, mistakes will be rectified, and explaining that Iraq went through exceptional circumstances in the last few years that possibly increased the scope for abuse, the government, whose claims have very little credibility domestically and internationally, chose to accuse Amnesty International, an NGO which has nothing to gain from accusing of the government of prison violations, of being biased against it. What is more disturbing is that in Iraq, we have a Human Rights Ministry, whose Minister is part of the cabinet and takes her orders from the Prime Minister, when the simplest of minds would know that a Human Rights Commission should be a supervisory body separate from the executive branch. No wonder most abuses are denied by the “Ministry of Human Rights”.

On a separate note, The Iraqi government is reported to have agreed a compensation payout worth $400 mil to US victims of the 1991 Gulf War, during which Saddam Hussein held those US citizens hostage, and that is only fair since a crime had been committed against those innocent civilians during the illegal invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Now that begs the question, how much will the US pay Iraq for all the tens of thousands of innocent civilians that have been detained, all the innocent lives that have been taken by their reckless soldiers, and all the torture victims in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere during the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq? Not much it appears, as the US had a policy of making the innocent victims’ desperate families sign a release form giving up their rights to sue the US Army in return for a few thousand dollars!

7 Comments on “Prisons & Compensations”

  1. Anonymous September 16, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    I agree 100%. FYI – I spoke recently with some very senior members of the Iraqi judiciary, who were also adamant that there is no abuse in Iraqi prisons. For them, any detainee who claims to have been abused is simply a liar. They also repeated Maliki’s story about prisoners rubbing matches on their skin to fake scars. I was frankly surprised by all this because prisons are the responsibility of the MoJ and not the judiciary, so I can’t understand why they are so defensive about this.

    The other thing is that you are probably aware that, in theory, we should have a human rights commission at some point in Iraq. A law was passed in 2008 which provided for the establishment of a commission, and which probably lead to the elimination of the ministry, but so far, very little progress has been made to implement the law itself, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The law provides for the nomination by the government, the parliament, and the judiciary of a ‘committee of experts’, who will then select the commissioners. So far, the commtitee of experts has yet to be nominated so don’t hold your breath.

  2. Ali Rashid September 16, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Safwan, I agree with what you have said.
    On the issue of prisoners, I think the logic used is that Iraq is passing through some extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures to steady the ship. These arguments certainly hold more water in Iraq because it is susceptible to daily acts of terrorism, than it does in other countries in the region where “special powers” have been given to leaders for decades in order to “steady the ship”. But it is still a slippery road to take…there’s often a fine line between enforcing law and despotism.

    As for the reparations, again, I agree with you. I find it very disturbing that the government has not been able to put together a coherent strategy on the issue of culpability for Saddam-era crimes. This is not contained to reparations to Americans, but also things like paying back odious debts.

    • Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

      Ali – there is no logic that can justify illegal detention. If anything, this type of treatment merely exacerbates security difficulties. Remember, the conflict didn’t start overnight, it grew in intensity gradually over a period of years, partly as a result of this type of thing.

      • Mohammed Abdullah September 23, 2010 at 3:13 am #

        there is no logic that can justify illegal detention>
        assuming a sound legal system in place, it would be hard to disagree. The problem with Iraq is that people literally get away with murder.

        See, seven years on, we still have terrorists committing mass murder. You see these guys when they get caught – foreign Arabs who have come to Iraq for one purpose only, openly unapologetic about their intentions. There’s hardly room for ambiguity in such cases. If the system is so broken that these people are not held to justice, then indeed there is a logic for illegal detention, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Iraqi on the streets whos daily life is marred by the loss of life and limb views as little more than contemptuous, self-righteous pontifications the criticism of human rights violations in Iraq’s prisons by people who call for it from the safety and comfort of Western cities. To merely focus on one aspect of the problem without taking into account the other, doesn’t work. We need people to have their rights, and we need criminals to be punished. We can’t focus on one and neglect the other.

        One final point,

        >Remember, the conflict didn’t start overnight, it grew in intensity gradually over a period of years, partly as a result of this type of thing.>

        And partly not as a result of this type of thing at all. The Ba’athist and al Qaeda terrorists are motivated by political power and religion respectively, and the conflict did indeed start over night (or before hand) with them. There is no absolution of these groups on the back of Iraq’s governmental failures.

  3. Mohammed Abdullah September 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    RE: Ramze Shihab Ahmed, his wife on Democracy Now

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/20/iraqi_refugee_describes_torture_imprisonment_of

  4. Safwan Mudhafar September 21, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Anonymous, I couldn’t agree with you more but the fact is that most governments take extreme measures in extreme circumstances, and that exists in the form of martial law, or emergency laws but then that makes the detention legal, so you are right again, no illegal detention is justified. My point is that the government could have explained that these issues were mistakes committed as a result of extreme circumstances and it would try to correct them by releasing or charging all detainees and compensating those that have been detained illegally, instead of denying that there was not one single illegal detainee or one single case of torture!

    Mohammed,

    What a shocking account by the detainee’s wife, part of me doesn’t want to believe it. it brings to light the whole issue of deba’thification and what an absolute failure of a policy it has been, instead of purging security of forces of criminals from the Ba’th era and the current regime, it has been used for political purposes while keeping these vile people in security posts, all accused should be tried by a competent judicial system, not left to the discretion of Chalabi and Maliki.

  5. Anonymous September 23, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    Mohammed:

    I think we agree. The only point i would like to add is that many of the explosions or acts of terrorism are being carried out by Iraqis. People from Arab countries have played a part, but the lion’s share of the fighting and criminal activity has been carried out by Iraqis themselves.

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