Monday, June 27, 2005

The World Tribunal on Iraq as noted outside the mainstream media

Ali Abbas lives in the Al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad and worked in civil administration. So many of his neighbors were detained that friends urged him to go to the nearby US base to try and get answers for why so many innocent people were being detained. He went three times.
On the fourth he was detained himself. Within two days he was transferred from the military base to Abu Ghraib, where he was held over three months without charges before being released.
"The minute I got there, the suffering began," said Abbas about his interrogator, "I asked him for water, and he said after the investigation I would get some. He accused me of so many things and asked me so many questions. Among them he said I hated Christians."

He was forced to strip naked shortly after arriving, and remained that way for most of his stay in the prison.
"They made us lay on top of each other naked as if it was sex, and beat us with a broom," he said.
In addition to being beaten on their genitals, detainees were also denied water and food for extended periods of time, then were forced to watch as their food was thrown in the trash.
Treatment also included having a loaded gun held to his head to prevent him from crying out in pain as his hand-ties were tightened.
"My hands were enlarged because there was no blood because they cuffed them so tight," he told me, "My head was covered with the sack, and they fastened my right hand to a pole with handcuffs. They made me stand on my toes to clip me to it."
Abbas said soldiers doused him in cold water while holding him under a fan, and oftentimes, "They put on a loudspeaker, put the speakers on my ears and said, 'Shut Up, F**k F**k F**k!" In this manner Abbas's interrogators routinely deprived him of sleep.
Abbas said that at one point, "Two men came, one a foreigner and one a translator. He asked me who I was. I said I'm a human being. They told me, 'We are going to cut your head off and send you to hell. We will take you to Guantanamo.'"
A female soldier told him, "Our aim is to put you in hell so you will tell the truth. These are the orders we have from our superiors, to turn your lives into hell."
Abbas added, "They sh*t on us, used dogs against us, used electricity and starved us."
He told me, "Saddam Hussein used to have people like those who tortured us. Why do they put Saddam into trial, but they do not put the Americans to trial?"

The above is from Dahr Jamail's testimony to the World Tribunal on Iraq. Did you follow the Tribunal? If so, congratulations to you because you are enterprising and resourceful. You had to be since the domestic mainstream media in the United States didn't want to touch this story.

So what was was the Tribunal?

From Dahr Jamail's "More Evidence Indicts U.S." for IPS:

New evidence on U.S. war crimes and violations of international law was presented at the concluding session of the World Tribunal on Iraq at hearings in Istanbul Sunday.
The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) is a 'peoples' court' set up by academics, human rights campaigners and non-governmental organisations to take an independent look at the Iraq record of the United States and other occupying powers such as Britain. The tribunal was inspired by the Russel Tribunal of the Vietnam war days.
The three-day tribunal, the 21st in a series of meetings held over the last two years, was held against a background of another spurt of violence that left 41 people dead in bombings Sunday. The dead included four U.S. soldiers, three of them women.
The tribunal says it derives its legitimacy from the fact that a war of aggression was launched on Iraq "despite the opposition of people and governments all over the world." It adds: "However, there is no court or authority that will judge the acts of the U.S. and its allies. If the official authorities fail, then authority derived from universal morals and human rights principles can speak for the world."

Need more information? Don't feel bad if you do, again there's been a black out on the Tribunal in the United States mainstream media.

From Democracy Now!:

A seventeen-member Jury of Conscience at the Tribunal heard testimonies from a panel of advocates and witnesses who came from across the world, including from Iraq, the U.S., and Britain. The jury delivered its verdict and recommendations at a news conference today. The preliminary verdict read in part, (quote), "Recognizing the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country and to develop independent institutions and affirming that the right to resist the occupation is the right to wage a struggle for self-determination, freedom and independence as derived from the charter of the United Nations, we, the Jury of Conscience declare our solidarity with the people of Iraq."

Still need more? From's "Truth Out Special" (which is a great resource page and deserves high praise):

WTI is a horizontal network of local groups and individuals worldwide that work together in a non-hierarchical system. The project consists of commissions of inquiry and sessions held around the world investigating various issues related to the war on Iraq, such as the legality of the war, the role of the United Nations, war crimes and the role of the media.

Okay, you've got a grasp of the Tribunal itself. Now you're asking why? Why hold a Tribunal?

Democracy Now! viewers, listeners and readers heard Arundhati Roy answer that question today:

To ask us why we are doing this, you know, why is there a World Tribunal on Iraq, is like asking, you know, someone who stops at the site of an accident where people are dying on the road, why did you stop? Why didn't you keep walking like everybody else?

What was it like at the Tribunal?

From Jodi Evans' "Shocking and Appalling Stories of US Illegalities at the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul" (The Huffington Post):

The hall is abuzz with the thrill of full-page spreads on the front page of every newspaper in Istanbul, and the woman next to me smiles that we are also on the BBC. The bank of cameras and the swarm of photographers have filled the room again this morning.
Still absent is any sign of the US media, except the cameras of Deep Dish TV. The website got 15,000 hits from more than 100 countries.
As the spokesperson for the Jury of Conscience, Arundhati Roy said earlier in the week, "This is what resistance looks like, if we don’t show those who resort to violence alternative methods, it will be one of our failings."
For they have been forced to resist an illegal invasion of their country, what would we do if they didn’t resist? Our witnessing together the facts, the experience of the lives in Iraq, and an evaluation by this jury in the void of no rule of law, this is our act of resistance.
But it is yet another non-event in the US of A.
The mood quickly changed from the thrills of approval as Dahr Jamail began his stories of torture in Iraq by the US Military. The hall was in deep grief in moments. He showed photo after photo of the tragedies in Iraq. Photographs of torture and the families that have been left without aid, the conditions in the hospitals and the streets if Iraq.

Does it matter? I mean if mattered, wouldn't the mainstream media be covering it?

From "Culminating Session Of World Tribunal On Iraq Starts In Istanbul:"

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Panel of Advocates, Richard Falk said, ''the WTI is remarkable for two principal reasons: WTI bears witness to the depth and persistence of the popular mobilization of people throughout the world in opposition to the Iraq War. Such a mobilization against a particular war has never occurred before on such a scale. It started with the massive street demonstrations before the war on Feb. 15th 2003 in which some 11 million people took part in 80 countries and more than 600 urban communities. The second reason for claiming historical significance on behalf of WTI relates to this initiative of, by, and for citizens to hold leaders accountable for severe violations of international law, especially in relation to matters of war and peace.
''Of course, this tribunal does not pretend to be a normal court of law with powers of enforcement. At the same time, it is acting on behalf of the peoples of the world to uphold respect for international law. The U.S. government told a pack of lies in its feeble attempt to find a legal justification for the invasion of Iraq. The WTI will expose these lies by presenting evidence and testimony,'' he stressed.
Falk noted, ''this tribunal differs from a normal court of law in the following main respects: it is an organ of civil society, not of the state, and its essential purpose is to confirm the truth, not to discover it.''
''The United States justifies every abuse by pointing to the September 11th attacks. These attacks, even if they are what is claimed, do not justify aggression against states or the torture of individuals,'' he said.

Confused as to what's going on? CODEPINK offers "Excerpts from the Jury's recommendation:"
1) The immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq;
2) Coalition governments to make war reparations to Iraq;
3) Laws/institutions established by the occupation deemed inimical by the Iraqis to be null and void;
4) The Guantanamo Bay prison/offshore US military prisons to be closed immediately;
5) Investigation of those responsible for crimes against humanity in Iraq, beginning with George W. Bush;
6) A process of accountability for journalists who deliberately lied, corporate media outlets that promoted racial, ethnic and religious hatred;
7) Actions against US and UK corporations that directly profit from this war;
8) Soldiers to exercise conscience and refuse to participate in an illegal war;
9) Dismantling all US military bases abroad to be reinforced;
10) That people around the world reject their government support to the occupation of Iraq.

Do you agree with the ten points? If so you can go to that web page and sign on as CODEPINK is requesting people to do.

You can also read CODEPINK's Jodie Evans' blog on the World Tribunal on Iraq.

And let's note Hannah over at Daily Kos who blogged on it Saturday in "World Tribunal on Iraq--Anybody Care?" and noted, among other things:

The part I was able to follow had testimony from four people, three Iraqi women (a couple of lawyers) and Tim Goodrich, co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Perhaps the reason the MSM is not interested, is because the presentations seem rather modest--no histrionics, even when speaking about the horrors that are being visited on Iraq.For any American it must be distressing to have torture of men, women and children described as "their version of democracy."

And let's also note that over at Peevish...I'm Just Saying, Anne gave a heads up on Friday.

I'm sure there were others. If you know someone who got missed, dash off e-mails and we'll note them. And remember that The World Tribunal on Iraq's home page is a great resource for information.

FYI: I'm changing the time on this post so that it will go up after the one that's currently the most recent.

The e-mail address for this site is

[Note: This post has been corrected to replace a word with "sh*t." I didn't catch that last night and wouldn't have caught it at all if Michael hadn't e-mailed me on it. He reposted it at his site, Mikey Likes It!, and e-mailed to ask if I'd missed it or done it intentionally. I missed it. My apologies.]