Monday, December 17, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri shuts down a satellite channel critical of him -- shuts down by using the military, tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil, the United Nations acknowledges receiving daily reports of torture in Iraqi prisons, a US Senator passes away, and more.
Iraq was slammed with violence today. Al-Shorfa notes that "Iraqi security forces raised their alert to the maximum level on Monday." AFP observes today's "violence comes after a string of attacks killed 19 people and wounded 77 yesterday." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also notes today is the "second day of deadly attacks." Kitabat sees today as one when terror spreads across Iraq. AFP counts 48 dead and UPI counts over one hundred injured. Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) offers, "The explosions are a sign of the tensions simmering in Iraq nearly one year after the exit of U.S. troops. No armed group immediately said it was responsible for the attacks, according to news service reports, but outside analysts say mounting violence has been fueled by spiraling tensions in the Kurdish north and as Sunni Arab militants try to reassert control across the country."
Today's violence included car bombings, roadside bombings, sticky bombings, mortars and shootings. Alsumaria reports a Ramadi car bombing claimed 4 lives and left seven injured and the photo shows blood flowing in the street while a double bombing in Tuz Khurmato left 5 dead and twenty injured. All Iraq News adds that, en route to Samarra, a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims was targeted with a car bombing resulting in eleven of them being injured (it was a suicide car bombing -- the driver of the car is dead). Reuters notes four bombs went off in Baquba resulting in 1 death and five people being injured. Al Bawaba reports an armed attack to the west of Tikrit that left 1 police officer dead and three more injured and that a car bomb then went off killing 4 more people and injuring two more police officers. Al Bawaba also reports, "Three Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Al-Buslaibi village near Baghdad while on patrol, according to the military." BBC News emphasizes a truck bombing outside Mosul which resulted in 7 deaths in a Shabak village, "The Shabak, who number about 50,000 and live between the Mosul plane and Baashiqa, have their own distinct language and belief system." Al-Shorfa notes that the Ministry of Defence is boasting that they stopped a bombing targeting power transmission towers in Diyala.
Baghdad, 17 December 2012 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler, strongly condemned the attacks that have claimed dozens of lives across Iraq since yesterday, in many cases targeting civilians.
"The attacks in the disputed internal areas further aggravate the tensions there," Mr. Kobler said. "I call on all parties to engage in inclusive dialogue and to urgently work on defusing the situation to prevent an escalation. The United Nations stands ready to facilitate if requested to do so."
Mr. Kobler extends his condolences to the families of those who were killed and his wishes for the speedy recovery of those who were injured.
As Mohammed Tawfeeq noted, Sunday was a day of violence as well. Iraq Body Count counts 17 dead on Sunday. Reuters noted that a Jalawla car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Peshmerga recruits and left twelve more injured including Cerwan Mohammed Ameen who states, "I woke up later to find myself in the hospital and I saw my friends near me." That was only one of many attacks in Iraq today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported that and also an armed attack on a Tarmiya military checkpoint which claimed 3 lives and left four people injured." Alsumaria reported a Kirkuk bombing and mortar attack left 8 dead and that the number injured is fifty-two, that a Kirkuk sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, a group of school children were kidnapped in Alrfieat, a Riyadh armed attack left one Sahwa injured, assailants stole 400 million Iraqi dinars from a Kirkuk bank, a Baji car bombing injured four police officers, a Qasim al-Khayyat roadside bombing injured a police officer and the brother of the Governor of Diwaniyah was shot dead. Of Kirkuk, Xinhua observes, "The oil-rich city has been the center of contention for recent weeks. The central government established a new operation command to cover the disputed area, which angered the Kurdish regional government who later sent reinforcement troops to the area, causing a military confrontation. The tension was then defused by President Jalal Talabani under whose mediation the two sides agreed to withdraw troops."
Citing the questionable Iraqi Ministries of Defense, Health and Interior, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes 166 people died in Iraq last month. Iraq Body Count counts 116 killed in violence this month through yesterday. if you add that to today's figure of at least 48 dead, you get 164. So at the half-way point of the month, the reputable death toll (that would be Iraqi Body Count) is two short of the government total for last month.
The prolonged days of violence come as Al Mada notes Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (the highest religious authority in Iraq) has warned Nouri that he is dangerously close to setting off a war inside Iraq and has called on him to stop making statements that could further inflame tensions between Erbil (capital of the Kurdish Regional Government) and Baghdad.
Along with violence, the weekend brought additional bad news. Saturday, The Iraq Times reported that cable channel Baghdadi was surrounded by the Iraqi military on Friday and they forced everyone out and then shut the station down. They also noted that Nouri ordered the closure. The Iraq Times reported that Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damalouji declared that Nouri is attempting to rebuild the Republic of Fear (a reference to the days of Saddam Hussein) and decried the closing of Baghdadiya TV.
Today Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri took to Facebook to insist that he closed Al Baghdadi as a result of "financial irregularities." He maintains that there are fees for transimission that were not paid. Nouri is said to have taken offense at their coverage of his Russian arms deal and his handling of the Central Bank. Earlier the Ministry of the Interior had attempted to fall on the sword. Al Rafidayn reports they issued a statement Saturday saying it was their decision and that of the court's to close the station. Of course, Nouri is in charge of the Ministry of the Interior. They have no minister because Nouri never nominated anyone for Parliament to vote on.
Today the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory issues a statement noting their deep concern over press freedom in Iraq and they call on Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to open an investigation immediately into the closure of satellite channel and radio station Al Baghdadi. The press organization states that the Parliament is the body responsible for ensuring the future of democracy in Iraq and the future for freedom of expression. They see the closure of the satellite TV channel and radio station as another means to reduce the role of media in Iraq and to prevent the exposure of corrutpion. They decry the use of armed forces on the station and the forced departures of the employees from the building.
Al Mada reports the National Union of Iraqi Journalists is also protesting the closure and saying it represents a reduction of freedom of the press and liberty. Moqtada al-Sadr is a cleric and movement leader with a significant bloc in Parliament. Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) weighs in noting:
Whoever advised the premier to order the closure should be sacked. But then, Maliki may have to sack himself, because in all likelihood he probably listened to his own advice, adding yet another blunder to his long list of blunders.
The decision lacks common sense, and gained nothing but more disgrace for a leader who has shown that he possesses only a single trait of leadership: Authoritarian rule – of a type that no longer has any place in Iraq.
Since the closure, social media pages have been chattering with praise for Baghdadiya and vitriol for Maliki, who is being likened to the ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. In order to silence the criticism about him on Facebook, maybe Maliki should consider clamping down on Iraq's 2.5 million Facebook users, or perhaps on the Internet itself.
The number of Baghdadiya viewers spiked after Maliki's order, with many viewers watching to learn about the premier's move. Even though Baghdadiya can no longer report from Iraq, it continues to report on the country from its Cairo headquarters and other venues. Maliki, in contrast, has no powerful medium to explain his side of the story.
Nouri's a tyrant. And among the scandals he faces is the reports of abuse in Iraqi prisons. Al Mada is reporting that Martin Kobler, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy in Iraq, is stating that UNAMI receives daily reports about abuses taking place in Iraqi prisons and that, in the next few days, they plan to issue a statment on the matter. It's just one scandal after another for Nouri and his attacks on the press will not stop the truth from coming out.
People leaving comments at the Iraq Times article about the closure note Sabah al-Saadi had revelations about Nouri to make and they see the closure as a way to silence him. As the week drew to a close, MP Sabah al-Saadi found himself suspended by Nouri's State of Law. That has not silenced him. Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that today he accused Nouri and his staff of stealing public money and abusing power. Citing documents noted in an Office of Financial Supervision report, al-Saadi says that, in the last six years, Nouri has managed to steal $42 million. Kitabat notes that the accusations were made at a press conference held in front of Parliament.
Though Nouri may dismiss the accusations, it's worth recalling that the week started with accusations against Nouri. Monday the Iraq Times reported Ahmed Chalabi was calling out Nouri's budget noting that Nouri's office alone has a budget eleven times greater than the budget for the Ministry of Planning.
And if you're not getting why Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the United Nations are expressing concern about the state of Iraq, remember that tensions also continue between Baghdad and Erbil over the disputed areas. Nouri sent Tigris Operation Command forces into the areas and that kicked off a new crisis which lead to them engaging in a military stand-off with the Peshmerga (elite Kurdish military force under the command of the Kurdish Regional Government). Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced Thursday that a deal had been agreed to. Saturday AP offered a very strong analysis by Adam Schreck of the disputes, the history and where things stand now. It stands not just as history because the tensions haven't vanished.
Saturday, All Iraq News reported Nouri was verbally attacking the KRG President Massoud Barzani while Alsumaria reported Barzani stated that Nouri has committed constitutional violations including by introducing the Tigris Operation Command into northern Iraq. Barzani most likely refers to Nouri failing to get Parliamentary approval on command of the forces -- the Constitution requires that. He may also be referring to the powers the Constitution left to the provinces, Nouri also violated that as well. But mainly, he refers to Article 140. Nouri became prime minister in 2006. The Constitution calls for Article 140 to be implemented to resolve the disputed areas (by census and referendum). For six years now, Nouri has refused to follow the Constitution and implement Article 140. As the two exchange statements, you may be reminded that Jalal said on Thursday this was over. It's back on (using the media to trade barbs) so that may call into question Jalal's confidence over the agreement supposedly reached as well. Even more so when you grasp that Barzani is stating Nouri is pushing a Kurdish-Arab war. As the Iraq Times reported yesterday, the 'truce' Jalal announced appeared to be over. Today Aseel Kami (Reuters) points out, "Neither Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki nor Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani stand to benefit from letting the standoff slide into conflict, but they may try to use troop movements to shore up support with their constituents, diplomats and analysts say."
Al Mada explains this row is over Barzani's declaring the disputed areas are Kurdish, belonging to Kurdistan. If Nouri disagrees with that, you put it to rest by implementing Article 140. Until you do that, you're just a whiner. Al Mada's "Picture of the day" today is of a smiling Barzani and a smiling Moqtada al-Sadr (cleric and movement leader) shaking hands. Meanwhile, Nouri's State of Law staged a walk-out during today's session of Parliament with Alsumaria explaining it was over a law on judges.
Dropping back to Monday's snapshot: Today Nouri pretended to care about Palestinians. I'm not in the mood to cover his propaganda. He has been prime minister for over six years now. And Palestinians in Iraq were herded into camps, really unprotected from the elements and treated worse than animals. (Here and here for more on the topic.) When they've managed to leave those camps, it has not been pretty. Just a few months ago, Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada) was reporting on one group of Palestinian refugees. In an attempt to muster some regional support for his iffy position, Nouri wanted to grandstand on the back of Palestinians after being behind their mistreatment in Iraq for over six years now.
(Baghdad) -- Iraqi authorities should investigate allegations of torture and unfair trials of Palestinians in Iraqi prisons. A recently concluded conference in Baghdad attended by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed concerns about Palestinians held in Israeli jails, but did not examine allegations of serious abuses against Palestinians in Iraqi custody.
The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, opened the Baghdad conference on December 11, 2012, declaring support for "the rights of the Palestinian prisoners who languish in Israeli occupation jails," and stated that Iraq "is determined to be at the forefront of the efforts advocating peoples' rights and freedoms." Neither he nor other Iraqi officials commented on prisoners' and family members' allegations that Iraqi courts convicted two Palestinians based on coerced confessions that the men recanted in court, Human Rights Watch said. One of the men received a death sentence and has been transferred to a prison where the Ministry of Justice usually carries out executions.
"Prime Minister al-Maliki's claim to support Palestinian prisoners is brutally ironic given Iraq's record of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in its own prisons, including Palestinians held there," saidJoe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The prime minister should order an immediate investigation into the Palestinians' credible claims of torture and unfair trials and cancel any plans to execute them."
Ahmad Amer Abd al-Qadir Mohammed, 30, a Palestinian born in Iraq, was sentenced to death in May 2011. The Rusafa Criminal Court verdict said that Iraqi security forces arrested Mohammad on July 21, 2006, in the al-Zayouna district of Baghdad. The first time his family received news of his whereabouts, they said, was over a year later, when a police officer contacted the family, informed them that Mohammad was in prison, and demanded US$200 to allow them to speak to him.
Mohammad's family visited him at a detention center in the Baladiyat district of Baghdad in August 2007. They told Human Rights Watch that they were horrified to see him in what one family member said was "very bad shape." His body bore "marks of torture," including visible scars from burns. Mohammad told his family that his interrogators had drilled through his left hand, broken his right foot, poured scalding hot tea on his body, and put salt on his burns. To end the torture, Mohammad confessed that he was a member of an armed group that intended to plant explosives.
Baghdad's Rusafa Criminal Court sentenced Mohammad to death following a trial that led to allegations of serious violations of his right to a fair trial. The defense lawyers said that witnesses gave conflicting testimony. Mohammad withdrew his confession in court, stating that it had been coerced with torture, and the court took note of a forensic medical report by the Ministry of Health documenting scars on his body consistent with torture.
The court convicted Mohammad based on his withdrawn confession, however, according to court documents Human Rights Watch obtained. In October, he was transferred to a prison in Camp Justice, notorious for its death row. He remains there awaiting a decision on his lawyers' petition for a retrial alleging flagrant irregularities in his case.
Iraqi authorities should suspend the death sentence and conduct a full and independent investigation into Mohammad's allegations of torture, Human Rights Watch said.
Mahmoud Mohammad Kamal Ahmad, a 30-year-old Iraq-born Palestinian, also was convicted based on a recanted confession. Sources close to Ahmad told Human Rights Watch that he was initially detained on March 17, 2007, when he presented a fake ID at a police checkpoint in the height of Iraq's sectarian conflict. Ahmad has told these sources that interrogators tortured him "in many ways" for six months to force him to "admit to killing Iraq troops and raping Iraqi women." His interrogators broke his leg, dislocated his shoulder, broke some of his teeth, and threatened to kill his mother and sister, he said.
Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of a medical examination by the Ministry of Health's Forensic Medical Institute conducted on August 10, 2008, more than a year after his arrest and initial interrogation. The report documents scars on various parts of his body, including "scars on his right eyebrow, nose and chin area, right elbow, left thumb, right palm and penis" that were older than six months.
Ahmad confessed to membership in the armed group Tanthim al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidain, to having planted explosives in 2006, and to killing Americans. At his trial, he recanted his confession, claiming that it was obtained under torture. The prosecution did not provide any other evidence against him.
The court convicted Ahmad on December 15, 2009, apparently solely on the basis of his recanted confession. On February 22, 2010, the public prosecutor submitted an objection to the verdict, stating that the evidence against Ahmad was insufficient and demanding his release. Ahmad's own "confession" stated that he had participated in terrorist acts in February, March, and October 2006 – which the prosecutor said was impossible since he had been detained from January 25, 2005 until June 25, 2006, at Camp Bucca Prison. Nevertheless, the Court of Cassation upheld the verdict.
Relatives of Palestinian prisoners in Iraqi jails have repeatedly called on Palestinian Authority representatives to intervene on behalf of their relatives in Iraq. Human Rights Watch has been unable to verify whether Palestinian authorities have requested to visit Mohammad or Ahmad in their respective detention centers in Iraq, or to arrange adequate legal representation for them.
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, ratified by Iraq in 1963, consular officers or their authorized representatives "shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody, or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation."
"The 'Conference on International Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Occupation Jails' is a perfect opportunity for Palestinian Authority representatives to fulfill their obligation to their citizens to help protect them in jails in Iraq, and anything less would be pure hypocrisy," Stork said. "Iraqi and Palestinian authorities alike need to live up to their promises."
New topic, Baha Mousa was an Iraqi whose 'crime' was working at a hotel -- possibly seeing British soldiers steal money as well. Baha was guilty of nothing but was terrorized and then rounded up and taken into British custody where he was beaten until he died. From the July 13, 2009 snapshot:
Moving over to England, Matthew Weaver (Guardian) notes that Iraqi Baha Mousa's death at the age of 26 while in British custody in September 2003 is the subject of a public inquiry in England which began today and that, "A central issue of the inquiry is why five 'conditioning techniques' -- hooding prisoners, putting them in stress positions, depriving them of sleep, depriving them of food and water, and playing white noise -- were used on Iraq detainees. The techniques, inflicted on IRA suspects, were banned in 1972 by then prime minister, Edward Heath." The Telegraph of London offers that Baha "was beaten to death" while in British custody, "sustaining 93 separate injuires, including fractured ribs and a broken nose." The Telegraph also notes that the inquiry was shown video of Corporal Donald Payne yelling and screaming, "shouting and swearing at the Iraqis as they are force to main painful 'stress position'." Julian Rush (Channel 4) offers a video report of the hearing thus far and what the inquiry is supposed to explore over the next year. BBC explains the Sir William Gage led inquiry will explore four segments:
• The history of "conditioning" techniques, like hooding, used by UK troops while questioning prisoners from Northern Ireland in the early 1970s to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003
• What happened to Mr Mousa and other Iraqi detainees
• Training and the chain of command
• Events since 2003 and any recommendations for the future Back in June, ITV reported of Dr. Derek Keilloh: He is then said to have failed to conduct an adequate examination of Mr Mousa's body after death and failed to notify a superior officer of the circumstances of his death. He faces similar claims relating to two other detainees he examined after Mr Mousa's death. His account of those three examinations through witness statements given at the time, and maintained in interview under caution, at a court martial and at the public inquiry, are said to be "untrue". Today, Andrew Johnson (Belfast Telegraph) reports the latest, "A former British Army doctor has been found guilty of attempting to cover up the death of an Iraqi civilian who was fatally beaten by British troops in 2003, and of failing to protect other detainees." Peter Magill (Lancashire Telegraph) notes of the Baha Mousa inquiry, "Another detainee, Ahmed Al Matari, who had also been seen by Dr Keilloh at the detention centre after being kicked in the kidneys and legs, accused him of behaving like a 'criminal' during." Press TV adds, "Britain's Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service will now decide what penalty the British doctor will face." The editorial board of Scotland's Herald weighs in, "Army medics cannot afford to be squeamish but ignoring such brutality amounts to a betrayal of all the servicemen and women who behave decently and within the rules. It also acts as a recruiting sergeant for extremism and destroys at a stroke any goodwill built up with the local population. It is shameful that it has taken so long to uncover the truth. Though maltreatment of detainees may not have been routine, the fact that a number of other such inquiries are still crawling through the system suggests this was more than the work of a 'few bad apples'."
Although he was thrust into the limelight in the 1970s as a member of the Watergate Committee and in 1987 as Chairman of the Iran-Contra Committee, he has also made his mark as a respected legislator able to work in a bipartisan fashion to enact meaningful legislation.
[. . .]
Senator Inouye has championed the interest of Hawaii's people throughout his career. With his support, Hawaii's infrastructure has been strengthened, its economy diversified, and its natural resources protected and restored. For local residents, particularly Native Hawaiians, whose history and welcoming culture give the state its defining characteristics, Senator Inouye has increased job training and employment opportunities, provided more community healthcare, and provided support services and research to help small businesses and diverse sectors, from agriculture to high technology.
His imprint is seen on all of the state's islands through initiatives such as Honolulu and Neighbor Island bus service, steady construction jobs in support of military infrastructure, the diversification of agriculture, the birth of the Kauai High Technology Center and the rise of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, the launch of the Maui supercomputer, the expansion of national parks and wildlife refuges in Hawaii, and the protection of Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, the alala (Hawaiian crow), the nene goose and coral reefs.
Senator Inouye got his start in politics in 1954 when he was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives; soon after his election, his Democratic colleagues, well aware of Inouye's leadership abilities, selected him as their Majority Leader. In 1958 he was elected to the Territorial Senate. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, he was elected the first Congressman from the new state, and was re-elected to a full term in 1960. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962 and is now serving his ninth consecutive term.
On May 24, 2008, Senator Inouye married Irene Hirano, who is President of the U.S.-Japan Council. He was married for nearly 57 years to Margaret Awamura Inouye, a former instructor at the University of Hawaii, who passed away on March 13, 2006.
He has a son, Ken, who is married to Jessica Carroll from Rochester, New York, and a granddaughter Mary Margaret "Maggie" Inouye.
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Senator Murray's Statement on the Passing of Senator Inouye
"Danny Inouye was an American hero of the highest order. As a soldier he broke barriers with his heroism, as a proud Hawaiian he committed his life's work to serving the people of his state, and as a legislator he earned the admiration of everyone he worked with on both sides of the aisle, including me.
"He will be particularly missed among the people of the Pacific Northwest, many of whom will never realize the enduring legacy he has had in investing in our infrastructure, bolstering our economy, and keeping our military installations strong.
"When the truly remarkable Senators of our time are discussed Senator Inouye's name will always be right at the top. He gave everything he had for his country and for the state he served since being elected its very first Congressman.
"My thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time. I also know that in time all that he achieved and stood for will be appropriately honored and celebrated here in Washington D.C. and back in Hawaii."
US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. His office issued the following statement from him today:
I am saddened by the news this evening of Senator Inouye's passing. He was one of the last World War II veterans in Congress, and a leading veteran advocate for more than 50 years. His selfless service to our nation dates back well before his time on Capitol Hill, where in hard battle on the fields of Italy in 1945 his actions resulted in being bestowed the Medal of Honor. With his passing, we remember the bravery and dedication of the Greatest Generation, and with each day that sets, we mourn all who battled through this life to find reward in the next.