Friday, April 01, 2011

He's a private dancer





Human Rights Watch declared today that the announced (March 14th) plan to close the secret Iraqi prison Camp Honor is "only a first step" and that Iraq needs to do much more. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the whilte Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq. Such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call the use of secret prisons out while Nouri continued to deny them. In the middle of this month, the world was supposed to forget all the denials and rejoice that (yet again) Nouri had been caught operating a secret prison and that he was saying (yet again) he would close one and saying that (yet again) secret prisons did not belong in the 'new' Iraq and would not be part of it. The lie would continue until March 15th.
Iraqi officials should establish an independent body with authority to impartially investigate the torture that occurred at Camp Honor and other sites run by the 56th Brigade, also known as the "Baghdad Brigade," and the Counterterrorism Service - the elite security forces attached to the military office of the prime minister. The investigating body should recommend disciplinary steps or criminal prosecution of everyone of any rank implicated in the abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
"Shutting down Camp Honor will mean little if detainees are shuffled to other facilities to face torture again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "There needs to be a genuine, independent investigation and criminal prosecution of everyone, regardless of rank, responsible for the horrific abuses there."
The Justice Ministry announced on March 14 that it would close Camp Honor after members of a parliamentary investigative committee, consisting largely of parliament's Human Rights Committee members, found evidence of torture during a spot inspection of the facility five days earlier. Investigative committee members told Human Rights Watch that they had observed 175 prisoners in "horrible conditions" at the prison, in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. They said they saw physical "signs of recent abuse, including electric shocks" and marks on detainees' bodies, including long scars across their backs.
Detainees described to committee members the torture they endured there and said that more than 40 other detainees had been hastily moved from the facility less than an hour before members of the committee arrived.
Iraq's Minister of Justice Hussein al-Shammari told Human Rights Watch on March 29 that all of Camp Honor's detainees - between 150 and 160 - had been moved to three other facilities under the control of his ministry. According to the parliamentary committee, however, the number of detainees held at Camp Honor was higher. The committee, established by parliament on February 8 after a Human Rights Watch report and a Los Angeles Times article documented the abuse of detainees at Camp Honor, said it had officially requested from prison authorities a list of all the detainees' names, but had received no information as of March 29.
In response to repeated allegations of serious abuse at Iraqi detention facilities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a statement on March 19 reiterating that "there are no secret detention centers, and all prisons and detention centers are open to regulatory authorities and judicial authorities, which must report any violations found, if any, and notify judicial authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators."
However, the February 1 report by Human Rights Watch described a new secret prison within Camp Justice, a sprawling military base in northwest Baghdad, run by the same forces in charge at Camp Honor - the 56th Brigade and the Counterterrorism Service - both of which report directly to the prime minister's military office. The Counterterrorism Service works closely with US Special Forces.
The issue of prisons and prisoners in Iraq is huge and a major motivator in the protest movement taking place there -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul). However, the shotgun marriage of xenophobia and lazy meant that the protests would be protrayed differently to the outside world which ran with the nonsense that Iraqis were just sitting around, unaware and uninformed until one day, sitting in front of their satellite TVs, they saw what was taking place in Egypt and said, "Hey, that looks fun, let's try that!" Iraqi protests were going on, unreported by the western media, in 2010. The same western media then flocking to Egypt had no interest in the protests taking place in Iraq -- possibly due to the fact that western reporters rarely go anywhere in Iraq other than Baghdad and the KRG. Basra and Mosul aren't spots they frequent let alone other hotbed areas. But the first Iraq protests in 2011 took place far from Baghdad and the issues were the prisons, the families being unable to see their loved ones, the denial of trials, the denial of rights. The calls against corruption and for reform include the prison and justice (or 'justice') system in Iraq. All one ever had to do was listen to the protesters but a narrative got imposed by the press and what was at stake to the Iraqi people mattered far less to the press than its own narrative.
Friday, in Baghdad's Liberation Square, protests again took place but were largely ignored by the western media. Among the groups protesting were the wives, mothers and sisters of prisoners. (See Sunday's "And the war drags on . . ." for some screen snaps of the women from videos which can be found at The Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page). For those women to be present, they had to overcome physical hurdles such as closed bridges, barbed wire, a ban on traffic and a light rain. They joined with other women protesting to account for the largest female presence at a Baghdad protest so far this year. They carried photos of their imprisoned loved ones and cried out for justice.
Urgent Appeal to the United Nations, represented by the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon because of the suffering of the IRaqi people and the demonstrators were killed, tortured and displaced by the government-proclaimed by the US occupation in 2003, and all participants in this campaign, asking for immediate intervention in the Iraqi situation now.
Among those joining the call is Nabeel Alnabeel who writes, "We are with you all, the heart, soul and body are one for Iraq and for support for the rights of Iraq." Sarah Adeeb adds her support to the campaign and wonders over the the assault in Salah al-Din Province Tuesday (Tikrit's provinical government offices), "Why parliament or provincial councils has not suspended its meetings, even for one day??? Why did not stand a minute of silence for the souls of all those that lost their martyrs in the provinces of Salah al-Din??? Is sectarianism?? Who died or are not Bhranyen??? [. . . .] [Ahmed] Chalabi, who collects donations for Baharain."

Aswat al-Iraq reports
that Osama al-Nujafi has led a moment of silence in Parliament this afternnon to remember the victims of the Tuesday assault on the Salahuddin provincial council building. Sarah Adeeb's point still stands because the Parliament took a ten day holiday (which they only concluded last weekend) to show solidarity with the protesters in Bahrain. Sarah Adeeb is correct to be offended that Iraqi politicians will take ten days off to show solidarity with non-Iraqis but make no time to demonstrate solidarity with the people they are supposed to be representing. The Economist notes the Parliament's response and shut down in a piece today:
Politicians from Iraq's Shia majority, including a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, castigated the Saudi intervention. Some Sunni, Kurdish and Christian members of Iraq's parliament also condemned the Saudis, but the speaker, Osama el-Nujaifi, who hails from a leading Sunni family in Mosul, Iraq's strongly Sunni city in the north, decided to close parliament down for ten days. Some Iraqi politicians, including Iyad Allawi, a Shia who leads the main Sunni block in parliament, said that a hiatus was required to stop sectarian tension boiling over in parliament.
But it is still bubbling. Politicians and religious leaders have continued to respond to events in Bahrain along sectarian lines. Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Iraqi Shia cleric with a big following who leads his movement from a temporary home in Iran, has castigated the intervention too. Members of his political party have called for Bahrain's embassy in Baghdad to be closed, whereas Haider al-Mulla, a Sunni MP, blames the uprising in Bahrain on Iranian interference and says that Iran's embassy in Baghdad should be shut.
No similar outcry from politicians followed the assault in Tikrit (this despite the fact that the assault can be seen as an assault on government itself). Alsumaria TV reports that AP released film of the Tirkit attack: "A soldier on the building's roof shows as pointing to the place of hostages while employees were seen going down the stairs to escape the building". Xinhua has posted video from CNTV of the assault and they note, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers."
Earlier this week, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quoted US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed."
Xinhua reports, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Witnesses said U.S. troops responded to the attack and entered the building with Iraqi forces trying to rescue the hostages. No U.S. casualties were reported, however, and it wasn't clear how many of the dead were hostages, gunmen or members of the Iraqi security forces. At least three of the gunmen were wearing explosive suicide belts, Iraq's Interior Ministry said."
So which is it? It's Hammoudi and Xinhua's version. The US military command has lied and a functioning press would be all over this story and how US forces -- well after Barack Obama's laughable claim that "combat operations" ended August 31st -- were rushing into a hostage situation with no knowledge of how many assailants were present in the building but knowing that the assailants had guns and bombs and had already demonstrated their willingness to use both. Combat didn't end, the Iraq War didn't end. If it ended, there'd be no need today for Hugh Fisher (Salisbury Post) to report, "Soldiers from Salisbury's National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks. About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas."
The Iraqi forces and the US military failed to save any hostage.

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