'Release or charge him by Christmas' plea
The wife of a British man held without charge in Iraq for a year is calling on the UK government to step up its efforts to secure the release of her husband.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was arrested by security officials in a relative’s house in the city of Mosul on 7 December 2009.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, who had travelled to Iraq to try to secure the release of his detained son ‘Omar, was first held in total secrecy for nearly four months before being able to phone his wife in London. He has told his wife of how he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags.
Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for Ramze Shihab Ahmed to be released unless he is charged with a recognisable criminal offence and fairly tried, as well as insisting that the alleged torture is fully investigated. Amnesty supporters have sent some 6,000 messages to the Foreign Secretary William Hague (www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze) asking him to put pressure on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that Ramze Shihab Ahmed is treated in line with international human rights standards and the Iraqi constitution.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed’s wife, Rabiha al-Qassab, a 63-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in north-west London, said:
“I can hardly believe that a whole year has gone by with my husband in jail like this. It’s disgraceful what they’re doing to him. He doesn’t even know what he’s accused of.
“An Iraqi judge recently visited my husband and assured him that the ‘confession’ that the interrogators tortured out of him will be disregarded and that they’ll re-investigate the case.
“This is better news but I want to see the Iraqis say either we’re charging him or - much more likely - we’re going to release him.
“The UK ought to be saying this as well. I appreciate the fact that William Hague has raised the case with the Iraqi authorities, but I’d really like to see more being done now that a year has passed.
“Why couldn’t Mr Hague insist that he must be either released or properly charged by Christmas?”
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“This shocking case has dragged on for far too long and we need to see the Iraqi authorities resolving it without further delay.
“This man and his family have suffered enough. The torture allegations must be investigated and Ramze should be properly charged or released. The sooner, the better.”
After his arrest last December Ramze Shihab Ahmed was held in a secret prison at the old Muthanna airport in Baghdad, before being relocated to Baghdad’s al-Rusafa Prison where he is still held. He has been interrogated about alleged links to al-Qa’ida and reportedly forced to make a false confession following torture and while blindfolded.
Last month Iraq ratified the United Nations’ convention banning ‘disappearances’ (the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance), a move welcomed by Amnesty. Ramze Shihab Ahmed's original treatment appears to amount to enforced disappearance and the organisation believes that the Iraqi authorities should treat it as such and thoroughly investigate it.
In September Amnesty published a report showing that an estimated 30,000 detainees were held without trial in Iraq, many of whom had recently been transferred from US custody. There are fears that many, like Ramze Shihab Ahmed, have suffered torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Thousands of these detainees continue to be detained despite judicial orders issued for their release and a 2008 Iraqi Amnesty Law which provides for the release of uncharged detainees after between six and 12 months.
In other news in anti-justice Iraq, ABC News reports:
A brief paragraph in the mountain of Wikileaks documents shed a sliver of light on what officials claim is a viscious and coldly efficient Iranian campaign of revenge on Iraqi air force pilots who bombed Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
"Many former Iraqi fighter pilots who flew sorties against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war were now on Iran's hit list (NOTE: According to [Name removed], Iran had already assassinated 180 Iraqi pilots. END NOTE)," the Dec. 14, 2009 confidential U.S. cable stated.
The released cables on Iraq are put together by Intellpuke for "At Sea In The Desert - U.S. Diplomats Bewildered And Bamboozled in Baghdad" (Free Internet Press):
Maliki the Biased
For example, Maliki only rarely had anything good to say about Iraq's Sunnis or neighboring Sunni countries. His suspicions continuously fell on al-Qaeda, a Sunni organization, and its alleged supporters in Syria, a predominantly Sunni country -- even when his own interior minister and General David Petraeus, the supreme commander of the U.S. troops in Iraq, contradicted him. In a protocol from November 2009, the general conceded to Maliki that al-Qaeda had become stronger, but "he added that foreign fighter flows from Syria were down and more should be done to counter malign Iranian influences."
What's more, in early 2010, Maliki tried to purge 36 staff members -- including a conspicuously large number of Sunnis -- from the headquarters of Iraq's intelligence agency for allegedly having ties to Saddam's banned Baath Party. At the same time, he installed 47 members of his own Islamic Dawa Party -- all of whom were Shiites -- in key positions at the intelligence agency.
According to one embassy dispatch: "In the hyper-sensitive atmosphere surrounding elections, each of these moves by the prime minister is being looked at with high suspicion across the entire political spectrum." It went on to say that "by drumming out experienced and proficient officers," he had caused "serious harm" to Iraq's intelligence institutions.
Maliki the Impulsive
The authors of the report repeatedly described Maliki as "impulsive." Two dispatches show just how radically he could alter his stances. For example, one from October 2006 discusses how Maliki had complained that, "I do not have enough forces and those I have are weak." Another one, from July 2008, recounts how, during a meeting of Iraq's National Security Council, Maliki ordered "an immediate freeze on the growth of Iraqi security forces."
The reason behind Maliki's change of heart could be gleaned from a statement that his defense minister once made: Iraq's military structure is the way it is, he said, to prevent another military putsch. And there's some truth in that: Rulers in modern Iraq have tended to be deposed -- or even executed -- by their own militaries.
WikiLeaks continues releasing information even though it remains under attack. Here are the nine most recent Tweets from WikiLeaks' Twitter feed:
- RT @doctorow #imwikileaks #imassange Today Westminster Magistarte's Court meet 13:30 http://www.justiceforassange.com #wikileaks #cablegate
- Today's actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won't affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal"
- Correction, UK has only received warrant, but may issue it shortly.
- WikiLeaks servers in Sweden under attack http://is.gd/iiofj
- WikiLeaks now hosted at 507 locations, planet wide http://wikileaks.ch/mirrors.html
- Julian Assange leads TIME 2010 Person of the Year http://is.gd/iikeR
- Same day Swiss defense fund is frozen, UK issues arrest warrant for Julian Assange http://tl.gd/7bg5kc
- PRESS RELEASE Tue 7 Dec 15.55 GMT Julian Assange Defense Fund frozen. The Swiss Bank Post Finance today issues (cont) http://tl.gd/7bg5kc
- Op Ed: WikiLeaks - The Internet Ideal Triumphs http://is.gd/ii3v8
The following community sites -- plus Tavis, On The Wilder Side and Antiwar.com -- updated last night and this morning:
We'll close with this from Chris Hedges' "Happy As A Hangman" (Information Clearing House):
I can imagine, should the rule of law ever one day be applied to the insurance companies responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans denied medical care, that there will be the same confused response from insurance executives. What is frightening in collapsing societies is not only the killers, sadists, murderers and psychopaths who rise up out of the moral swamp to take power, but the huge numbers of ordinary people who become complicit in state crimes. I saw this during the war in El Salvador and the war in Bosnia. It is easy to understand a demented enemy. It is puzzling to understand a rational and normal one. True evil, as Goethe understood, is not always palpable. It is “to render invisible another human consciousness.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book “The Gulag Archipelago” writes about a close friend who served with him in World War II. Solzhenitsyn’s defiance of the Communist regime after the war saw him sent to the Soviet gulags. His friend, loyal to the state, was sent there as an interrogator. Solzhenitsyn was forced to articulate a painful truth. The mass of those who serve systems of terrible oppression and state crime are not evil. They are weak.
“If only there were vile people ... committing evil deeds, and if it were only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them,” Solzhenitsyn wrote. “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
The expansions of public and private organs of state security, from Homeland Security to the mercenary forces we are building in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the burgeoning internal intelligence organizations, exist because these “ordinary” citizens, many of whom are caring fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, have confused conformity to the state with innocence. Family values are used, especially by the Christian right, as the exclusive definition of public morality. Politicians, including President Obama, who betray the working class, wage doomed imperial wars, abandon families to home foreclosures and bank repossessions, and refuse to restore habeas corpus, are morally “good” because they are loyal husbands and fathers. Infidelity, instead of corporate murder, becomes in this absurd moral reasoning the highest and most unforgivable offense.
The bureaucrats who maintain these repressive state organs, who prosecute the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or who maintain corporate structures that perpetuate human suffering, can define themselves as good—as innocent—as long as they are seen as traditional family men and women who are compliant to the laws of the state. And this redefinition of civic engagement permits us to suspend moral judgment and finally common sense. Do your job. Do not ask questions. Do not think. If these bureaucrats were challenged for the crimes they are complicit in committing, including the steady dismantling of the democratic state, they would react with the same disbelief as the camp guard at Majdanek.
Those who serve as functionaries within corporations such as Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil and carry out crimes ask of their masters that they be exempted from personal responsibility for the acts they commit. They serve corporate structures that kill, but, as Arendt notes, the corporate employee “does not regard himself as a murderer because he has not done it out of inclination but in his professional capacity.” At home the corporate man or woman is meek. He or she has no proclivity to violence, although the corporate systems they serve by day pollute, impoverish, maim and kill.
Those who do not carry out acts of rebellion, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, are guilty of solidifying and perpetuating these crimes. Those who do not act delude themselves into believing they are innocent. They are not.
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