We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Monday, 7 July 2014

It is time for the damage to be compensated

On 10 June 2014 the President of GICJ, Hans-C von Sponeck, held a presentation under the title “Iraq – What Next?” during a hearing at the UK House of Commons, London. In his role as former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, he provided two detailed observations about the externally-driven Iraq politics during the period 1990-2014.
Image: Volker M√ľnch

Observation 1

Hans von Sponeck began his presentation by explaining that today’s tragic Iraq reality can only be understood if the additive impact of the years before and the years following the US/UK Governments’ illegal invasion and occupation is fully taken into account. To this end he distinguished 3 distinct time periods that all together have contributed to the current calamity.
Sanctions and inadequate humanitarian support
The 13 years of sanctions imposed on Iraq were the most comprehensive economic and financial sanctions ever levied on a country by the UN Security Council (UNSC). Initially the UNSC did not provide any social safety net whatsoever. The Iraqi people were at the mercy of voluntary external donations and these turned out to be well below the minimum estimated by the UN Secretary General to sustain life.
Supposed to be an UN humanitarian exemption, the oil-for-food programme, began only in December 1996. It provided important but severely inadequate subsistence support, amounting to a paltry.51 cents (US) worth of supplies/person/per day. This ‘humanitarian’ programme authorized by the UN Security Council was entirely (!) financed from Iraq’s own resources (oil revenue) and the word ‘humanitarian’ is therefore a misnomer!
One compelling statistic of misery resulting from this reality is that during the years of UN sanctions, Iraq’s child mortality rates were as high as 132 of 1000 children dying before reaching 5 years of age. Together with Afghanistan these rates were among the highest in the world. (UNICEF) A sobering conclusion about the irresponsibility of the UN Security Council was presented in 2000 to the Council by the Ambassador of Malaysia to the United Nations, Dato Agam Hasmy:
“How ironic is it that the same policy that is supposed to disarm Iraq from its weapons of mass destruction has itself become a weapon of mass destruction!”
An illegal invasion and subsequent occupation
The 2003 illegal invasion and 8 years of occupation constituted a period of dismantling every fiber of Iraqi society. There is evidence of horrific violations of the Hague and Geneva Conventions by the occupying powers symbolized by the “Iraqi man with the hood” in the Abu Ghraib jail. People’s courts and tribunals concerning Iraq held in many parts of the world have credibly established the culpability of western leaders, especially former US President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The most detailed evidence has been compiled by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) of which Denis Halliday and I are members. We would like to present to Lord Megginnes of Drumglass of the House of Lords and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and George McDonald as well as other participants two volumes of torture and war-crimes related evidence compiled by the KLWCC.
Chaos and violence
Since the departure of US and other foreign forces from Iraq, social and political chaos has further intensified in the country. The Kurdish-Arab divide is deeper than ever before. Sectarianism and the danger of disintegration remain. Civil-war like conditions in central Iraq have increased. Terrorism and criminal violence have become part of daily life in many parts of the country. National re-building following wars, sanctions and occupation is far below people’s rightful expectations.
National human balance sheet 2014
Total population of Iraq: 33 million people
  • 23% living in poverty (although Iraq is an immensely oil-rich country)
  • 600.000 children live in a streets (new phenomena, unknown before 1990)
  • Iraq ranks 178th out of 181 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International)
  • 14% of Iraqis are orphans, most since 2003
  • Increasing hash and heroin abuse (Rare before 2003)
  • Illitracy rate almost 23% (World Bank, 2007. In 1982 Iraq had been awarded by UNESCO for eradicating illiteracy)
  • 5 million school-age children were not in school. (World Bank, 2007)
  • Serious health problems have arisen because of occupation forces’ use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus.
Credible data and additional indicators are available from a wide variety of international sources. One must ask how much can a people endure?

Observation 2

The second observation Hans von Sponeck addressed the question of how to build ‘necessary bridges’ (HoL) to facilitate a return to a human-rights minded political climate in Iraq, which he wholeheartedly supported. Justice, peace and accelerated nation re-building must be the priority of the moment. There was no UN Security Council commitment in this respect when himself and his colleague and close friend, Denis Halliday, served in succession in Iraq, von Sponeck said and this was the reason that both of them subsequently resigned.
The tragedy of Iraq and its implications
It is crucial to realize that the Iraq tragedy has wider implications for the way in which the community of nations lives together. There is great urgency for UN reforms. The perpetrators of 24 years of continuous mistreatment of a people are known. Large amounts of evidence in this regard has been collected. Sir John Chilcot’s demand to have key evidence of possible war crimes by occupation forces published should be respected. The same applies to other evidence involving years of sanctions and occupation. The United Nations and member countries should no longer be allowed to make excuses to avoid releasing such evidence to the public.
Ending impunity
To arraign perpetrators involved during any of the three time periods identified above and the preparation of court cases must no longer be considered utopian. Ending impunity remains a serious demand from civil society. Qualified individuals are available to prepare specific court cases and time lines as well as to mount campaigns to obtain civil society funding. The ICC must be made increasingly aware that their reluctance to accept the mandate and responsibility for hearing Iraq cases against former senior US and UK officials has become unacceptable. The submission by Public Interest Lawyers in the UK of cases of military abuse in southern Iraq is a significant step in challenging the ICC to accept the Iraq file.
Time to pay compensation
Iraq continues to pay compensation for damages resulting from its 1990 invasion into Kuwait. As of April 2014 $46 billion have actually been paid. The UN Compensation Commission must begin to consider counterclaims by Iraqi society for the physical and mental damages afflicted on Iraqi citizens as a result of two wars, sanctions, occupation and the illegal use of munitions. Continued support from both houses of the UK Parliament will give the credibility a justice-for-Iraq process requires and the respect Iraqi society deserves.

See also

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Why Did Mosul Welcome ISIL?

By Haifa Zangana
Published in Al-Quds 
Translated by Mundher Adhami

Streets crowded with pedestrians and cars. Markets busy, with clothing and household provisions shops open, and vegetables and fruit stalls in their spots of old. The smell of fresh bread wafting from the bakery. Women and men shopping or going to work. A strange sense of time and place. People no longer late for work because of blocked streets and military checkpoints chocking them and the whole city over the last 10 years. There is the sense of confusion of the prisoner just released, taking his or her first steps outside the prison walls. How does one moves in his city without military checkpoints? Without a bunch of recruits or mercenaries who cover their ignorance and inferiority complexes by humiliating the people of the city at every turn?
Are we in the capital, Baghdad, protected by «democratic government» which provides citizens with reassurance and stability? Maintaining the dignity and heritage and history? Keeping the heart of Iraq, its unity and diversity of the pulsating ethnic groups and religions and doctrines? Is it Baghdad with the promise of freedom and democracy fulfilled ? Is it Baghdad where we heard at the time of the invasion : “ give us a period of six months only and we will get rid of the occupation as we get rid of the tyrant” ? Is it Baghdad where life was reduced to merely staying alive, with the hope of waking up on the morning to a day without assassinations, arrests and torture for someone dear or near?
No, this is not Baghdad, supposed to be living in safety, with security layers guarding the headquarters of the ruling party with its army , its ‘golden brigade’ , and its special forces. Next to the US headquarters of the largest embassy in the world. Fort Green Zone.
The image that I am talking about is the reality of the city of Mosul, as described by Mosul people themselves. They testified so in the past few days to the few courageous media who dared to pass on the details through the barrier of censorship and global accusations of aiding ISIL terrorism.
But, why would the people of Mosul, the second-largest of Iraqi cities and provinces, a city of culture, science and long history, the city that gave Iraq so many of its doctors, academics and historians, welcome ISIL terrorism? Has their moral compass to human values ​​and civilization been damaged to the extent of expressing satisfaction for the presence of members of the organized barbarism in their midst? Why?
Here, we must look carefully at the picture of what has happened, and is happening now, in the city of Mosul, with a population of nearly two million. The event was extraordinary and astounding to everyone. The army senior officers had shed, within a few hours, their uniforms which they swore on their honour to wear in defence of homeland and people. The soldiers, on seeing their generals fleeing asked what they should do. The reply, and I quote was: «deal with it yourself ». ( in colloquial Arabic : ‘ Dabbur Halek!’) . So the soldiers looked after themselves and fled, leaving behind modern weapons, equipment and machines for which Iraqis and Americans paid billions of dollars.
Testimonies from many Mosul people who fled the city during the first two days of its fall is that they fled because of the reputation of ISIL barbarism, because of the flight of soldiers and the expected shelling of the city. But the refugees decided to return after hearing how calm life is, and that the fighters have encouraged residents to return to their jobs. The fighters had carried out in days what the Maliki system and the occupiers before it, with their huge resources and budgets, did not mange in 10 years: providing electricity, water supply and cleaning the city. Another point underscored by the people of the city, contrary to what is common to hear, is that there is calm and that they did not witness any assaults on people because of his ethnic and religious affiliations.
But how can ISIL, these terrorist, barbaric, brainwashed throat-cutters and eaters of human livers and hearts, mange to behave in this civilized and efficient way, not seen in the armies of the civilized world? Just compare that to the behaviour of the two armies in Iraq, the U.S. and the British, with their record of massacres, arrests and rape of men and women, during the occupation of Iraq. How can the city actually " fall" in hours to a few hundred ISIL fighters? Doesn’t that raise serious questions about the truthfulness of the story promoted by the Maliki regime and the U.S. administration and its allies in the media, who suddenly rolled up their sleeves to defend its citizens against terrorism?
Nuri al-Maliki is selling the very same goods manufactured in Washington, labelled «war on terror». Its hallmark was the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Under the same banner stand the rulers of scores of countries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt , to shield themselves and their age-old corruption. It is the ever-present stick to terrorize their people. The media and the intellectuals oblige the rulers either really scared by the stick or because of the carrots. So now even researching the truth is labelled terrorism, and an investigative reporter would not be proven innocent. Iraqis have long lived this suffocating situation. Those who dared to raise their voices in protest are either called an insignificant bubble or nests for the terrorist ISIL, in the words of al-Maliki. Often he regurgitated such phrases in his weekly broadcasts, repeatedly humiliating decent people and provoke their anger. As if the arrests, torture , executions and indiscriminate shelling are not enough.
You have to wonder why should the people of Iraq need ISIL to come with foreign fighters across the border in order to rise up to get rid of the sectarian unjust system? Is it really ISIL who liberated the city and been welcomed by the locals? Or is it the people of Mosul themselves that liberated the city , having exhausted all avenues of reasoning with a corrupt sectarian system? According to credible reports, several local and national old resistance factions, together with local tribal fighters, have worked with former Iraqi army officers to form the Military Council General of the Revolutionaries in Iraq. The media ignores this message, and the Council relies on websites and social networking.
ISIL ,with its low numbers, are a double edged sword. Used by the Maliki regime to get U.S. support, but also used by insurgents to terrorize the regime and its army. This is what had actually happened in Mosul. Inflating ISIL had terrorised the military command and the soldiers of the Maliki army and hastened their flight. On the other hand the General Military Council of the Revolutionaries distance themselves from ISIL, especially the council members themselves had fought Al Qaeda previously.
The overriding fear, today, in various parts of Iraq, is of the Maliki and US use of air power to destroy cities without discrimination, especially after the regime officially resorted to request the assistance of America. The signs point to the possibility of air strikes, and use of drones, as well as special operations teams. This has been legitimised the “ war on terror” discarding the right of the oppressed and humiliated people to rebel.
The realization of democracy in Iraq must and will be carried out by Iraqis themselves, without foreign or regional intervention, or ISIL. The lessons of Iraqis politicians inviting intervention by the US and the UK for regime change must now be clear to all.

Iraq: All going to plan?

Reposted from One Small Window

On 10 June, the on-going violence in Iraq literally exploded back onto the international mainstream media’s radar, and consequently into the public conscience, when militants took control of Iraq’s second city of Mosul and expelled the Iraqi army. Since then, there has been talk of possible foreign military intervention to assist an Iraqi government that appears to have more support abroad than at home.
Explosions are not uncommon in Iraq. The United Nations’ conservative estimate of almost 8000 civilian casualties in 2013 made it the bloodiest twelve months in recent years; this figure does not include the injured. In the first half of 2014, that violence has continued to spiral out of control. At the end of May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Iraqi government’s indiscriminate strikes on Fallujah General Hospital and attacks on residential neighbourhoods with barrel bombs could “constitute a serious violation of the laws of war” in its intensifying struggle against armed groups opposed to it.
On 10 May, following information he received in this respect from Iraqi MP Leghah Vardi, Scottish Conservative MEP and President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq Struan Stevenson issued the following statement:
“We must not ignore her pleas for help. Nouri al Maliki is waging all-out war on men, women and children in Anbar Province, simply because they are Sunni. It is shameful that the West chooses to ignore this genocide and worse still, actively supports Maliki to the point of the US even supplying him with weapons, which he uses to kill his own people. The UN, US and EU seem to have fallen hook, line and sinker for his assertion that he is fighting against al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists (Daesh*). The photographs of dead and dying children in Fallujah expose this as a blatant lie.”
Iraq has long been in a state of war: the current focus grants politicians and the media a welcome respite from other crises, such as that in Afghanistan. Iraqis remain marginalised from the mainstream discourse about their country, yet the threat of sectarianism, balkanisation, and devastation and insecurity in the country are not recent concerns.
Iraqis call for peace and no foreign intervention outside London US Embassy, 21 June, photo credit: John Davies
Iraqis call for peace and no foreign intervention outside London US Embassy, 21 June, photo credit: John Davies
In 2010, a year before the US withdrawal from Iraq, US-backed candidate Nouri Al-Maliki became Prime Minister in elections that were reported to be fair and democratic, but produced no outright winner. The crackdown on dissidents started almost immediately. According toChelsea Manning, a former US army intelligence analyst serving in Iraq at the time, reports came in of “a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed”. His leadership started as it has gone on.
A few months later, in an energy-rich country, two people were killed in Basra when police opened fire on protesters complaining about severe power shortages during daily summer temperatures in excess of 50oC. In 2011, Iraq experienced its own ‘Arab Spring’ in protest against corruption and unemployment. Mass arrests, arbitrary detention and sentences, torture, a soaring execution rate coupled with a violent response to peaceful protest led to more protests in 2012 and the current out-of-control cycle of violence. The human rights situation has deteriorated considerably under Al-Maliki. Dissent has been quelled and debate on fundamental issues silenced through the labelling of any opposition as terrorism and the arbitrary use of the Counter-terrorism Law, in particular Article 4 which imposes the death penalty. In view of the on-going violence and mass internal displacement of Iraqis in various provinces, doubt has been cast over the result of the latest elections on 30 April, which saw a huge turnout and a solid win for Al-Maliki.
It is perhaps then ironic that on the very day that the world was suddenly reminded of the plight of the Iraqi people, a group of Iraqi activists in the UK, led by the Arab Lawyers Association and the Rafidain Centre for Strategic Studies, held a meeting, even more ironically subtitled “What Next?” on the 11th year of the occupation of Iraq in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to raise some of these issues.
The meeting was opened by one of its co-sponsors, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass who asked whether western governments and the media were ignoring the situation in Iraq as a result of a guilty conscience. He also questioned why the Iraqi people still lacked basic infrastructure facilities, and suffered mass unemployment and corruption. He accused Al-Maliki of creating a “Mafia-like network” in the country to silence dissent at all levels and that although he presents the current situation as sectarian strife, he has successfully marginalised other groups in the country too, such as the Kurds. Writing on 15 June in The Huffington Post, Maginnis placed the blame for the current situation in Iraq squarely on Al-Maliki’s shoulders and stated “What happened in Mosul and is now spreading towards Baghdad is a demand for accountability in Iraq. This is what the West including the UK and the US should be actively promoting. Maliki wants to declare a state of emergency in the country. One must immediately ask, “A state of emergency for whom, given that this uprising is a surge by the people of Iraq”.
He was followed by Iraqi lawyer Sabah Al-Mukhtar, who stated that the origins of the problem go all the way back to the first Iraq War in 1991. He accused the Al-Maliki regime of using three tactics – the illusion of sectarian strife, the gloss of democracy, and the claim that his democratic regime is fighting Al Qaeda to undermine the rights of the Iraqi people by calling any opponent of his a “terrorist”. With almost 1000 deaths each month, he described the violence the Iraqi people face every day – massacres, rape, executions, torture – as tantamount to a “war crime”. The situation in Iraq is not a natural disaster, but is completely man-made. He stated that even during international sanctions in the 1990s Iraq had a better and more viable infrastructure than it currently has even though the current government has an income in excess of $100 billion per year to provide such basic services as roads, hospitals and schools. He stated that the political system had been created by foreign powers – the US and Iran in particular – to ensure Al-Maliki remains in power. Like other speakers, he called for accountability and an end to impunity for crimes against the Iraqi people, as well as the reinstatement of a UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq.
Another speaker was former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Denis Halliday, who stated that the UN has consistently failed Iraq over the past 24 years and the country destroyed by those with interests in its oil and acquiring a strategic military presence for themselves in the Middle East. He called UN sanctions a “form of warfare” that were catastrophic for the country. He accused the UN and western powers of double standards on Iraq for the failure to admit their own fault and hold themselves and others accountable for the situation there. Instead, with on-going arms sales to the regime there, western powers have an interest in maintaining the violent situation. He called the situation unacceptable and called for accountability as well as demanding reparations for the Iraqi people. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq paid reparations in excess of $50 billion, yet ordinary Iraqi civilians who have been displaced internally, forced into seeking asylum abroad and whose country has been devastated have not been compensated for over two decades of foreign interference. Out of the 5 million Iraqis who are displaced within the country, over 80% are women and children, many of whom are widows and orphans.
Hans Christof Graf von Sponeck, who replaced Halliday when he resigned from the UN over sanctions against Iraq and later resigned for the same reason, spoke as well, also criticising the UN’s role in the current situation as well as the results of the humanitarian crisis it created. He illustrated this hypocritical stance by stating that the Oil-for-Food Programme, designed to curb Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, had itself became a weapon of mass destruction. It has in part led to the current humanitarian crisis which sees a large proportion of Iraqis living in poverty, without access to clean water, health care and education. He demanded an end to impunity and accountability for all those responsible for crimes in Iraq, and for Britain to publish the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry.
An interesting contribution was made by former Iraqi Oil Minister Issam Al-Chalabi who declared the 2003 war a war for oil, with the US interfering from the outset to break Iraq down into Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish areas. The US then started working on an Iraq oil law to award Iraqi oil concessions to international companies. As no political permission was given for such a measure, the US went ahead and made such contracts all the same, awarding over 80% of contracts to foreign companies, bypassing the legal process. Similar methods were then used in the Kurdistan region. Consequently, foreign companies now have control over Iraqi oil. Increasing oil prices have created greater profits for these companies but come at a larger cost to Iraqis who have to buy their own oil back from them. Iraqi oil has created revenue of over $700 million since 2003, but the country itself has nothing to show for it. Instead, Iraq imports power from Iran. It was Iran cutting off the power supply in 2010 that led to protests in Basra. On the other hand, the Kurdistan Region is exporting its oil. Dividing the country into three would see competition between the divided regions on oil exports and prices, driving down prices for buyers and generating less income for the selling region. For other oil-producing countries in the region, the current situation in Iraq is already proving favourable to their own oil industries.IMG_20140610_173725
Sunni cleric Dr Abdul Hakim Al-Saadi spoke about the unity of the Iraqi people which has existed for over a thousand years between different races and ethnicities, both under the Islamic state and the following secular state. He stated that they had all co-existed until 2003. However, under the new post-2005 constitution and new regime, laws have been introduced that include elements of racism, discrimination and sectarianism, removing human rights as a basis for civil rights. He stated that the new situation has allowed foreign states to interfere and spread racist and sectarian propaganda. This situation has worsened since the 2011 withdrawal. Dr Subhi Toma, an Iraqi Christian, largely backed up this thesis by stating that the diminishing number of Catholics and other Christian denominations in the country, as well as other religious minorities such as Sabians and Yezidis is largely a result of the chaos created by foreign intervention in the country since 2003. While the new order has promoted the position of Kurds and Shi’ites who live in oil-rich regions, Sunnis and other religious minorities have been marginalised.
The meeting clearly highlighted that in spite of decades of violence, Iraqis remain confident that peaceful, civil solutions can be found to the problems their country faces. For those solutions to have any effect, foreign powers must end their interference. Iran was widely identified as having a dominant hold on the situation in Iraq, with Iranian militias having been identified in recent fighting in Anbar province. Furthermore, there was a unanimous call for accountability and an end to impunity for the crimes faced by the Iraqis since at least 1991 through domestic and international courts. This would be a major step in enabling Iraq and the rest of the world to move on.
The next day further sessions were held in parliament between the organisers of this meeting, Iraqi activists of different ethnicities and religions and British politicians on the issues raised. At the end of the meeting, a consultative statement was put together by the 30 Iraqis attending on the future of the country, calling for Iraq’s full independence, respect for the rights of all citizens, women’s rights, the use of state resources for the public benefit and a rejection of terrorism and the restoration of civil peace: “terrorism is not a natural consequence of conflicts in our society but is rather created by foreign and domestic security agencies for their own purposes, it grows nevertheless as the result of marginalisation, exclusion and torture and stirs the sense of a rather exploited vengeance. We thereby reject all forms of religious, ideological and behavioural extremism and support mediation initiatives and efforts and the peaceful resolution of civil conflicts.”
The current media and political response is simply a continuation of the same policy since 2003. Unsolicited intervention and proxy wars are an established part of this policy. This policy is continued, however, at the expense of the Iraqi. Von Sponeck asked, “how much can a people take?” A rhetorical questions perhaps, but while the US, EU, Iran and other states in the Middle East may weigh up Iraq’s value in oil and dollars, a more accurate measure in response to that question could probably be given in blood and tears.
* Arabic acronym for ISIS

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Sixty Nine Days In Fallujah General Hospital Emergency Department

Felicity Arbuthnot reports from Global Research (May 7th):
In Iraq there is an ongoing massacre. Below are the figures of the dead and wounded brought daily, to just one hospital in the country’s largest governorate, Anbar Province, the Emergency Department of the Fallujah General Hospital, between 28th February 2014 and 7th May 2014.
They are the victims of the US imposed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s militias.
The UN representative in Iraq is near silent, the varying Ambassadors in Iraq are silent, including those of the US and UK, whose actions and lies about fictional “weapons of mass destruction” are responsible for the ongoing, daily carnage. Eleven relentless years of death and heartbreak.
Normal services such as clean water, constant electricity are non-existent (imagine the nightmare of working with interruptions in a hospital of the machinery needed to keep patients alive, resuscitated, monitored, anaesthetized.) Wednesday 7th May: Government troops targeted the Doctors’ Residence at the hospital at 1 a.m., causing extensive damage, hit “by two projectiles.” It is the twelfth time the hospital has been bombed and the third time that the Doctors’ quarters have been hit.
Hospitals are afforded special protection under the 1949 Geneva Convention as are all staff, not alone medical, but drivers, clerical, cleaners, cooks, maintenance. Attacking one is a war crime. But the troops have learned well from the Americans who of course boasted of training them and who on Sunday 7th November 2004: “… stormed the Falluja General Hospital.

Monday, 28 April 2014

On Bringing War Criminals to Justice

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout
President George W. Bush, right, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday, June 7, 2005. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times) President George W. Bush, right, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday, June 7, 2005. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)
This is part II of a series on Dahr Jamail's trip to the Iraq Commission conference in Brussels. Also see Part I: International Lawyers Seek Justice for Iraqis
Narmeen Saleh and her husband Shawki were detained by US military forces during a violent 2004 raid of their home in Baghdad.
Saleh spent 16 days in prison, where "the interrogations didn't stop for one minute." She was beaten, electrocuted and threatened with rape if she didn't "confess."
"They [US soldiers] tortured and beat me a lot, and when they found out that I was pregnant they told me they would kill the baby in my womb," she was quoted, as her testimony was read at the Iraq Commission conference in Brussels recently. "They then concentrated their beating and electricity on my abdomen area."
Her daughter, who is now 8 years old, has cerebral palsy, and her husband remains in custody of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the bogus charge of "illegally entering Iraq."
This shocking testimony was provided to international lawyers, journalists , and activists converged at a conference titled, "The Iraq Commission," held in Brussels, Belgium, April 16 and 17, with the primary aim of bringing to justice government officials who are guilty of war crimes in Iraq.
The conference represented the most powerful and most current organized movement in the world to hold accountable those responsible for the catastrophic invasion and occupation in Iraq, including UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George W. Bush, along with others in their administrations.
War Crimes in Iraq
Nawal al-Obaidi, an Iraqi academic and founding trustee of the International Action for Iraqi Refugees NGO, provided somber testimony about how her brother was killed by US forces.
Hazim al-Obaidi left his wife and four children at their home in Mosul to go to work at his grocery store one morning in January 2005.
That same evening, his wife became worried when Hazim had not returned home and began a search.
"The whole family could not sleep that night, wondering what had happened to Hazim and why he did not return back home," his sister Nawal told the audience. "As the curfew was in place, no one could leave the house until the next morning."
The next morning, family members searched the morgues of the main hospital, but to no avail. Two days later, they learned of his burned car.
Eyewitnesses informed the family of the car being attacked by US forces, who "started shooting at him and at his car, until the car exploded." What was left of the severely burned body was removed by family members, then, "to the bewilderment of his family, US troops stopped them after they had collected the body, uncovered it and took photos."
"Hazim was not a "terrorist" or a "Saddamist," al-Obeidi explained. "He was a cheerful family man who was wounded in the Iran-Iraq war and survived the harshness of the sanctions years by selling groceries. Who is going to investigate his killing, compensate his family, and help his children to make sense of their tragedy? Will it be the Iraqi government, or the US-led occupation? Judging by the human rights records of both, the answer is that neither of them will investigate Hazim's killing, or any other. [Hundreds of] thousands of civilians have been killed for no reason. One of them was my brother."
This writer, too, provided testimony: I spoke of several war crimes I witnessed during my reportage from Iraq during the US-led occupation.
In May 2004, I interviewed a man who had just been released from Abu Ghraib prison. Like so many I interviewed from various US military detention facilities who'd been tortured horrifically, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.
He began laughing when telling of how US soldiers made him beat other prisoners. He laughed because he told me he had been beaten himself prior to this and was so tired that all he could do to beat other detained Iraqis was to lift his arm and let it drop on the other men.
Later in the same interview, when telling of another story, he laughed again and said, "The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house."
Another story I reported to the international lawyers was that of 55-year-old Sadiq Zoman, who was tortured horrifically by US military personnel. I shared documentation of US military doctors, nurses and medics being complicit with that torture.
Sadiq Zoman was detained from his home shortly after the US occupation of Iraq began, but not charged with any crime. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)Sadiq Zoman was detained from his home shortly after the US occupation of Iraq began, but not charged with any crime. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
Zoman was detained from his home in Kirkuk in a raid by US soldiers that produced no weapons. He was taken to a police office in Kirkuk, the Kirkuk Airport Detention Center, the Tikrit Airport Detention Center and then the 28th Combat Support Hospital, where he was treated by Dr. Michael Hodges, a lieutenant colonel.
Hodges' medical report listed the primary diagnoses of Zoman's condition as hypoxic brain injury (brain damage caused by lack of oxygen) "with persistent vegetative state," myocardial infraction (heart attack) and heat stroke.
After one month in custody, Zoman was dropped off in a coma at the General Hospital in Tikrit by US soldiers.
A comatose Zoman was dropped off by US military personnel at the main hospital in Tikrit. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)A comatose Zoman was dropped off by US military personnel at the main hospital in Tikrit. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
Zoman's last name was listed as his first name on the report, despite the fact that all of his identification papers were taken during the raid on his home. Because of this, it took his family weeks to locate him in the hospital.
The medical report given by the US military medic did not mention the trauma on the back of Zoman's head. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)The medical report given by the US military medic did not mention the trauma on the back of Zoman's head. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
Hodges' medical report did not mention the fact that the back of Zoman's head was bashed in, nor that he had electrical burn marks on the bottoms of his feet and genitals, or why he had lash marks across his back and chest.
Zoman's feet had point-burn marks from electrical shocks on the bottoms of his feet and genitals. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)Zoman's feet had point-burn marks from electrical shocks on the bottoms of his feet and genitals. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
Zoman remains in a coma, and there has been no compensation provided to his now-impoverished family for what was done to him.
Zoman's family has yet to receive any compensation for what US forces did to him. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)Zoman's family has yet to receive any compensation for what US forces did to him. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
Bringing Justice
Inder Comar, who testified at the commission, is the legal director at Comar Law in San Francisco, California.
"On March 13, 2013, my client, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, filed a class action lawsuit against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz in a federal court in California," Comar has written about his case.
"She alleges that these six defendants planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law by waging a 'war of aggression,' as defined by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, more than sixty years ago," Comar added. (The current complaint can be found here).
Comar's client, Sundus Shaker Saleh, is alleging "crime of aggression" in the San Francisco Federal Court against the aforementioned. "Crime of aggression" emanates from the Nuremberg Trials following World War II and is what Comar is arguing was committed in the Iraq War.
The lawsuit includes all Iraqis who have suffered harm as a result of the war, and Comar's firm is representing Saleh pro bono.
"This could be precedent setting," Comar told the commission. "And this is the first time a US court is looking at a crime of aggression since Nuremberg, since 1945. We're very curious to see how this judge will decide this issue."
Inder Comar is representing an Iraqi woman, who is charging Bush administration officials with "crime of aggression." (Photo: Dahr Jamail)Inder Comar is representing an Iraqi woman, who is charging Bush administration officials with "crime of aggression." (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
US courts have immunized many of the members of the Bush Administration, but Comar thinks his case is different and will not be subject to the same kind of immunity.
"The crime of aggression is part of international law, so we are arguing with good precedent that international law is part of federal law," he said.
Comar's case against Bush is based on the conduct of members of his administration prior to their coming into office, as well as conduct taking place during and after the events of September 11, 2001.
Evidence of premeditation abounds.
Years before their appointment to the Bush administration, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were vocal advocates of a militant neoconservative ideology that called for the United States to use its armed forces in the Middle East and elsewhere.
They openly chronicled their desire for aggressive wars through a nonprofit called The Project for the New American Century (PNAC). In 1998, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz personally signed a letter to then-President Clinton urging him to implement a "strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power," which included a "willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing."
On September 11, 2001, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz openly pressed for the United States to invade Iraq, even though intelligence at the time confirmed that Saddam Hussein was in no way responsible. Richard Clarke, former national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, famously told President Bush that attacking Iraq for 9/11 "would be like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor."
Comar's case states: "Defendants planned the war against Iraq as early as 1998; manipulated the United States' public to support the war by scaring them with images of 'mushroom clouds' and conflating the Hussein regime with al-Qaeda; and broke international law by commencing the invasion without proper legal authorization."
By comparison, more than 60 years ago, American prosecutors in Nuremberg, Germany, convicted Nazi leaders of the crimes of conspiring and waging wars of aggression. They found the Nazis guilty of planning and waging wars that had no basis in law and which killed millions of innocents.
The plaintiff in the case, Saleh, is thus seeking justice under the Nuremberg principles, as well as US law, for damages she and others like her suffered because of the defendants' premeditated plan to invade Iraq.
Comar detailed to the commission how the premeditation was obvious, showing slides from an article titled "Saddam Must Go," penned by Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad, as well as others titled, "Overthrow Him," "How to Attack Iraq" and "Bombing Iraq is not enough."
"When we talk about these war criminals, we need to employ the language of pirates in order to engage the basis of universal jurisdiction," Comar added. "Because when pirates go anywhere they have no safe haven from being held accountable for their actions."
Comar told Truthout that he decided to take this case because he was inspired by the Nuremberg judgment.
"That and my client's bravery to want to do this and be committed to her case," he explained. "In law school, I was fascinated by Nuremberg and the trail of facts."
Comar believes strongly in the morality behind the case.
"We have to use every avenue the law provides us to try to do something, and it's amazing that it took a single mother refugee from Iraq to press for justice for a war our leaders continue to want to ignore," he said. "What I'm doing can have a ripple, it might inspire other lawyers, it might cause people to start asking questions about the Bush administration."
According to Comar, his case represents the first time a US judge will hear about a crime of aggression since 1946, "So this case will be looked at internationally. We have to set the stage for other countries to start working to conform to principles of peace."
Comar added that his case in California serves as a template that could be used in every other US state.
Planning for Prosecutions
Sabah al-Mukhtar, the president of the Arab Lawyers Association, chaired the final session of the Iraq commission. The session investigated what the next steps should be toward bringing those responsible for the Iraq invasion and occupation to justice.
(Right to Left) Dirk Adriaensens, cofounder of the Iraq Commission and Brussels Tribunal, Sabah al-Mukhtar, chair of the Iraq Commission, and Michel Chossudovsky, Canadian economist at University of Ottawa. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)(Right to Left) Dirk Adriaensens, cofounder of the Iraq Commission and Brussels Tribunal, Sabah al-Mukhtar, chair of the Iraq Commission, and Michel Chossudovsky, Canadian economist at University of Ottawa. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
"The delegitimization of major war criminals is complete in terms of the understanding around the world that these successive wars that have been waged are in complete opposition to international law," Dr. Niloufer Bhagwat, professor of comparative constitutional law at the University of Mumbai and vice president of the Indian Lawyers Association in Mumbai testified.
She addressed the fact that there have been no reparations, the sanctions crimes need to be addressed, including the fact that the US government knowingly killed more than 500,000 Iraqi children via malnourishment and disease, and added, "The work we've done here has to be carried from country to country so the political formations adopt our viewpoint, that these wars of aggression can only come to an end when we have an overturning of the political and economic systems."
Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, a senior practicing lawyer and lead prosecutor of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunals on Iraq, believes that the people's tribunals that have been held on Iraq "are becoming an increasingly important tool for recapturing the lost space and jurisprudence over war crimes. We've had three war crimes tribunals and we intend to have more and to introduce this thinking into law schools like the one in which I teach."
He believes the next step toward justice is for countries to exercise universal jurisdiction as a means of charging war criminals.
"Three quarters of UN states have authorized their courts to exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes, so the stage is actually set," he said. "The challenge then is how to get these countries to institute charges against these war criminals on the basis of credible trials that have been conducted and ended up in convictions, either by peoples' tribunals or otherwise. The next step is to go country to country and begin to file charges in each of these jurisdictions."
Dr. Curtis F. J. Doebbler, an international lawyer who practices law before the International Court of Justice, shared an instance where there has already been some success.
"We suggested, for Syria, and I was in the room with the negotiators, that [US Secretary of State John] Kerry be advised that the use of force could lead to violations of international law, and there could be war crimes," he said. "So I think we're making some inroads."
Lindsey German, the convener of the British antiwar organization Stop the War Coalition, stated in her concluding remarks that Bush and Blair are "by far the most responsible persons for the Iraq war."
She added, "Blair is still the envoy for peace in the Middle East, of all things, for which they obviously didn't check his CV. We have to stress the connections between the wars and the political and economic systems under which we live. We can't have economic justice without bringing justice to the war criminals."
Comar addressed the "banality of militarism" in the United States, said he hopes that the work he is doing "is creating a vaccine for that" and stressed the need for confidence in international law.
"We in the US can work to take power back from the federal system on a state system and begin to incorporate international law into our own laws," he said. "Or maybe we can do this on a city level to criminalize this wrongdoing in a lawful manner so that we have more control. I look forward to sharing my court complaint with any other lawyer. We need to work together to help get people reparations from this war and to prevent the next war."
Dirk Adriaensens, a long-time Iraq activist and cofounder of the Iraq Commission, concluded the commission by calling for concrete proposals that will lead to global court cases regarding Iraq.
"If Inder Comar says that his court case can be replicated in all other 49 US states," he said, "then we can replicate this in every country around the world."
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Sue Townsend RIP

'In the build-up to the Iraq war I lost the ability to read due to diabetic retinopathy. Instead I became a close listener. I heard Blair distort and manipulate the English language so that, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, for him a word "means just what I choose it to mean".
The phrase "weapons of mass destruction" was ubiquitous. You knew he was talking it up. He had been given a grain of sand by the intelligence services and didn't stop talking it up until it was a boulder, hurtling, Tom and Jerry-like, down a mountain, flattening everything in its path.
I wept tears of shame, rage, and pity as British and American planes dropped their "strategic" bombs over Baghdad. I wondered if Blair was sitting on a sofa with his family watching shock and awe. Did they share a monster bag of Revels, and could he look his children in the eye when the transmission was over? I have never recovered from the shock of that night.
I have been told my fixation with Blair and his involvement with the invasion of Iraq is unhealthy – "that was all back in the day", get over it, "move forward". But I can't. I am a professional cynic, or sceptic if you prefer, but deep inside I romanticised the qualities of this country and its government. We had a reputation in the world for the moderation of our political system, the fairness of our judiciary, and, whether entitled to or not, we marched up the hill and built a fortress on the moral high ground. That lies in ruins now.'

Sue Townsend, writing in September 2010