Monday, June 29, 2009

Ned Parker looks at Iraqi 'justice'

Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) has long carved out Iraqi justice has his territory. He's reported on it repeatedly and usually been the only one doing so. When others attempted to, they either embarrassed themselves (Michael Gordon) or were pale copies of what Parker was reporting. Today he offers "Corruption plays key role in Iraqi justice" and, as usual for a Ned Parker Iraqi justice report, it relies on leg work and not being spoon fed. Sunni Sheik Maher Sirhan is the article's entry point. The sheik was told he could remain in prison (which he's chosen to do, refusing to pay extortion money) and be tortured or he could pay US equivalent of $50,000. He was in prison supposedly for "terrorism." But charges are trumped up and once imprisoned, you wait and wait for hearings (forget justice) that never arrive. The sheik's account is not the only supporting evidence Parker provides of the corruption, rivalries and political disputes that determine who sits in jail and who is freed. Parker notes, "Questions of collusion between corrupt security forces and judges who issue warrants are so great that Iraq's Supreme Judiciary Council ordered an inquiry into the matter this month, the official and a Western advisor to the Iraqi government confirmed." He also reminds that 100 'off the books' prisoners were recently discovered in Mosul.

About the only known event not covered in the article is the assassination this month (June 12th) of Iraqi MP Harith al-Obeidi (also spelled Obaidi) outside his mosque. The day before he was assassinated, he had called for an independent investigation into reports of abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons. We'll again note the statement Amnesty International issued:

Iraq: Amnesty International calls for an independent investigation into the assassination of Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi

In a letter sent to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamil al-Maliki, Amnesty International has expressed grave concern at the killing of Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi, Vice-President of the Human Right Committee of the Iraqi parliament, and requested urgent clarification as to what steps the government has undertaken to investigate the murder. The organization has also called for an independent investigation into reports of torture of detainees in a prison in the city of al-Diwaniyah.

Dr al-'Ubaidi, who also headed the Sunni Accord Bloc in parliament, was shot dead at the end of Friday prayers on 12 June 2009 at al-Shawwaf Mosque in the Baghdad district of al-Yarmuk. After firing at Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi with a pistol the killer is reported to have thrown a hand grenade at other prayer attendees, killing five people and injuring 12 others, before he was shot and killed by police.

A number of Iraqi parliamentarians have since denounced the killing and attributed Dr Hareth al-'Ubaidi's murder to his human rights work, especially his recent exposure of cases of torture, including rape, of detainees following a visit he undertook a few weeks ago to a women's prison in al-Kadhmiya in Baghdad. Dr al-'Ubaidi told the media that several women detained at the prison told him that they had been raped during interrogation.

Further evidence of torture of detainees is reported to have been brought to light by a human rights body affiliated to al-Diwaniyah Governorate, which has accused the security authorities of torturing detainees during interrogation in order to extract "confessions". Investigators from the Interior Ministry are reported to have identified bruising on 10 of the 170 prisoners in al-Diwaniyah Prison that may have been caused by torture or other ill-treatment.

In its letter, Amnesty International has requested prompt clarification of the steps being taken by the Iraqi authorities to investigate the attack on Dr al-'Ubaidi and other worshippers at al-Shawwaf Mosque, which it strongly condemns, and to establish whether it was perpetrated by a gunman acting alone or with the active assistance of others. Further, the organization has requested prompt clarification of the steps being taken by the Iraqi authorities to investigate the allegations of torture cited above and to bring to justice those responsible for such abuses. In accordance with Iraq's obligations under international human rights law, including the UN Torture Convention (CAT), such investigations should be independent, impartial and conducted and completed without delay. The outcome should be made public and anyone found responsible should be brought to justice through fair trial procedures and without recourse to the death penalty.

The organization has called on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that all detainees have access to regular medical care, families, lawyers of their own choosing and the right to challenge the legality of their detention. In addition, all persons in custody should either promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences and trial in accordance with international standards of fair trial, or released. Public Document

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Turning to the issue of the June 30th 'pull-out' and starting with this from Alice Fordham (Times of London), "The June 30 deadline was made in a status of forces agreement between the US and Iraq at the start of the year. A national holiday has been declared for that day, although a curfew may be imposed." That's noted in Thursday's snapshot and we're noting it again because on Friday an outlet (NYT) reported on the holiday for the first time and has since gotten credit (unearned) for being the outlet to break that news. Alice Fordahm had already reported it. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) quotes wary Iraqi Jbory stating, "I will celebrate when I see my country living in peace. I will celebrate when there is electricity and clean water, when people go to the park and feel safe. I'll celebrate when kids on the street look clean and are wearing new clothes. I will celebrate when people can earn a living." Londono's report continues:

Violence has spiked in recent days as insurgents have sought to make calls for jubilation seem like hubris. A string of bombings last week, including powerful ones in Kirkuk and the eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City, killed more than 200 people.
"We are not happy now," said Abu Noor, a college student, standing outside a market in Ur, a neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad. "Why should we be happy? We know that things will turn upside down after maybe a week of the withdrawal. We all know that the militias are hiding because they know the Americans are inside the cities and are ready to be there at a moment's notice."

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes in headlines today that the "pull-out" actually is just US forces encircling areas. For those who missed that fact, we'll drop back to Friday's snapshot:

As for the pull-out from Iraqi cities, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reveals, that instead of being in the cities, US forces will "encircle them," "put in place in the belts around those cities and in areas that are potential flashpoints of Kurdish-Arab tension. . . . The plan keeps US advisers within the cities, and in Mosul redeploys battalions that had been within the city to the surrounding areas." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that while "[t]housands of U.S. combat troops will remain at a handful of bases in Baghdad and on the outskirts of other restive cities, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, in nothern Iraq, past the June 30 deadline" and that this has US military officials worried that US service members as well as Iraqis will be put at risk in the new holding pattern Barack's created. Stop the holding pattern, just bring the troops home.

Jim Muir (BBC News -- podcast option as well as text) has a lengthy essay exploring the state of Iraq which concludes:

Do people really feel attached to the Iraqi nation, or, are they just waiting for the Americans to go, so they can get on with pursuing the interest of their own sect, clan or tribe?
The truth is, nobody really knows, but a lot more needs to be done in the meantime, if people are to feel confident.

Derrick Henry's "U.S. Commander Says Iraq Forces Ready" (New York Times) covers Gen Ray Odierno's appearances on Fox and CNN yesterday and buries what should be on the front page:

Meanwhile, Qassim Daoud, an independent Shiite legislator and a former national security adviser, said the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States should be extended to 2020 or 2025. The agreement, which the Iraqi Parliament ratified in November, calls for American troops to pull out of most Iraqi cities by this summer and sets the end of 2011 as the date by which all American troops must leave the country.

Meanwhile June 30th is not the only thing getting attention. Tamsin Carlisle (The National) observes:

The world will be watching Iraq this week as it broadcasts a unique live auction of oil contracts.
What is certain is that billions of dollars will be put on the table to develop some of the country’s biggest oilfields. But little else is assured. Even nature intervened to delay the bidding, as a sandstorm engulfed Baghdad yesterday and shut down the city’s airport.
The two-day event, now postponed by one day to tomorrow and Wednesday, is bound to end with a cliffhanger. In the balance is the future of Iraq’s oil industry, which is expected to fuel the economic engine behind the country’s recovery after decades of war and sanctions.

The postponing, Robert Tuttle and Anthony DiPaola (Bloomberg News) explain, is due to a sandstorm.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barry & Bully" went up last night.
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