You knew it wasn't a journalist because there's no effort to solve those crimes. But let one of Nouri's thugs with guns get killed and suddenly, it's time for an uproar. Osama Jamal Abdallah Mahdi was arrested January 15, 2010 for the crime which he denied committing. He was tortured and forced to confess -- this is not open to dispute, Amnesty International's examination found multiple torture wounds -- at his hearing he noted he was forced to confess and attempted to withdraw his confession but the judge refused to let him. There were no eyewitnesses to offer testimony and only Osama's forced confession and the confession of a man who was originally charged (but, in exchange for a life sentence and not the death penalty, the man testified against Osama) link him to the murder. The judge refused to receive the proof provided by Osama's "boss at an oil refinery near the Green Zone in Baghdad [which] provided proof" Osama was at work when the bombing took place.
In April, Amnesty International released a report entitled [PDF format warning] " Death Sentences and Executions in 2012" which finds the five countries executing the most people are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The report notes there were at least 129 executions in Iraq last year. From the report:
A stark rise in executions was reported in Iraq, making it the country with the third highest number of executions in the world and with the biggest rise in confirmed executions from 2011. At least 129 people were executed, almost twice the known total for 2011 (at least 68) and the highest figure since 2005. Executions were often carried out in batches, with up to 34 in a single day. At least five women were executed, and at least two were sentenced to death. Amnesty International recorded at least 81 new death sentences in total, but the real figure is possibly in the hundreds. According to government statistics, death sentences numbered between 250 and 600 in each of the previous five years. Most death sentences were imposed for terrorism-related offences, others for murder. All death sentences are automatically reviewed by Iraq's Court of Cassation, and then need to be ratified by the presidency before an execution can be carried out. Hundreds of people remained on death row with ratified death sentences; they could be executed at any time.
Abid Hamid Mahmoud, Saddam Hussain's presidential secretary and bodyguard, was executed by hanging on 7 June. He had been sentenced to death in 2010 by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) together with Tariq Aziz, the former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and Sadoun Sahkir, the former Interior Minister. All three were convicted of participating in the crackdown on opposition political activitsts under Saddam Hussain. Tariq Aziz and Sadoun Shakir remain at risk of imminent execution. On 16 December, Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, now in exile in Turkey, and his son-in-law Ahmed Qahtan, were sentenced to death in absentia for possession and use of weapons. These were their fifth respective death sentences in 2012, with the others imposed for terrorism-related offences.
Many trials of those sentenced to death failed to meet international standards for fair trials, including the use of "confessions" obtained under torture and other ill-treatment. Defendants described how they suffered systematic torture while in detention, including being beaten with cables, burned on the face with cigarettes, and given electric shocks to the hands, wrists, fingers, ankles and feet, or were left in a room with water on the floor while an electric current was applied to the water. But courts continued to include "confessions", even if formally withdrawn, as part of the evidence when handing down a sentence. Some Iraqi television stations broadcast these self-incriminating "confessions" before the opening of a trial.
Four Iraqi men, Nabhan 'Adel Hamdi, Mu'ad Muhammad 'Abed, 'Amer Ahmad Kassar and Shakir Mahmoud 'Anad, were sentenced to death on 3 December, for membership of an armed group and involvement in terrorism-related offences, after an unfair trail in Anbar, western Iraq. They were reported to have been tortured after their arrest, while being held incommunicado for several weeks at the Directorate of Counter-Crime in Rmadi, the capital of Anbar province. Their "confessions" were then broadcast on local television channel, al-Anbar, on 24 and 25 April. When brought to trial, they told the Anbar Criminal Court that they had been forced under torture to "confess." Witness testimony from fellow detainees and photographs of some of the men's injuries supported their allegations. The medical examination of one of the men also revealed burns and other injuries consistent with torture. No investigation into their torture allegations is known to have been held.
Maybe the administration could do something to help Osama Jamal Abdallah Mahdi?
Very unlikely. In a State Dept press briefing April 9th, spokesperson Patrick Ventrell was asked about the huge increase in the number of executions and how basic standards of justice were not being met and Ventrell responded, "I'd have to look into seeing what contacts we may have raised human rights concerns." And if he bothered to look, he failed to note it in any follow up briefing.
Hopefully, international attention on Osama Jamal Abdallah Mahdi will increase and this will force the courts to reconsider the verdict. If not, he'll become just the latest victim of the violence in Iraq -- a great deal of which is state-carried out violence.
Through Friday, Iraq Body Count counts 155 people killed in violence so far this month. So the first five days saw an average of 31 deaths a day. Today? National Iraqi News Agency notes a Tirkit bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left five people -- "including a judge" -- injured, a Mosul armed clash left 1 bystander killed and another injured, an attack on a Ramadi police checkpoint left two police officers injured, a Kirkuk bombing killed 2 men and 2 women, a Falluja motorcycle drive-by left 1 person dead, assailants stormed a Khalis store and killed the owner, a Falluja car drive-by left 1 person dead, an armed attack on a Falluja checkpoint (guns, grenades) left two police officers injured, a Mosul home invasion left 1 contractor dead (it was his home) and his sister injured, and 3 power towers were bombed in Anbar Province. That's 11 reported dead and 11 reported injured.
Meanwhile Al Mada reports that armed men in SUVs are yet again storming Baghdad social clubs and bars to threaten patrons and owners in an attempt to force them to close down.
If that seems familiar, there's a reason. From the the September 5th snapshot:
In other violence, Alsumaria reports that armed forces in police uniforms attacked various social clubs in Baghdad yesterday, beating various people and firing guns in the air. They swarmed clubs and refused to allow anyone to leave but did make time to beat people with the butss of their rifles and pistols, they then destroyed the clubs. AFP adds, "Special forces units carried out near-simultaneous raids at around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Tuesday 'at dozens of nightclubs in Karrada and Arasat, and beat up customers with the butts of their guns and batons,' said an interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'Artists who were performing at the clubs were also beaten,' the official said." The assaults were ordered by an official who reports only to Nouri al-Maliki. In related news the Great Iraqi Revolution posted video Friday of other attacks on Iraqi civilians by security forces and noted, "Very important :: a leaked video show Iraqi commandos during a raid to Baaj village and the arrest of all the young men in the village .they threatened the ppl of the village they will make them another Fallujah and they do not mind arresting all village's men and leave only women . they kept detainees in a school, and beating them, u can see they burned a car of one of the citizens"
September 6h, Alsumaria noted that Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, has called out the assault on the social clubs and states that it is violation of the Constitution as well as basic human rights. Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun al-Damalouji called on the security forces to respect the rights of the citizens. Tamim al-Jubouri (Al Mada) added that the forces working for Nouri attacked many clubs including Club Orient which was established in 1944 and that the patrons including Chrisitans who were surprised Tuesday night when Nouri's forces entered and began breaking furniture, beat patrons and employees and stole booze, cell phones and clothing. So they're not only bullies, they're also theives. Kitabat explained that the people were attacked with batons and gun butts including a number of musicians who were performing live in the club including singer Hussein Basri. Alsumaria added that the Baghdad Provincial Council states that they were not informed of the assaults on social clubs. September 13th, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:
Unexpected raids on Baghdad's bars, as well as beaten customers, shocked locals last week. But it's not just drinkers who are upset. Activists say it's the government's latest plan to curb personal freedoms while MPs pondering re-election in the mainly-Muslim nation haven't said a word.
Last week, government security forces raided a number of clubs, bars and other establishments in Baghdad without warning, closing many of them by force that same night. The clubs seem to have been targeted both because they were selling alcohol and because they hosted known intellectual cliques. As a result, the attack has raised serious fears of an attack on personal freedoms and concerns that Islamic parties are trying impose their religious ideology on other Iraqis.
Although Iraq is a mainly Muslim nation and Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, there are also diverse minorities in Iraq and many of these allow alcohol drinks; often members of these groups will be the ones that run bars or liquor stores.
And on September 4, a number of clubs, bars and restaurants in the affluent Baghdad neighbourhoods of Karrada and Arasat were raided. Many of the patrons on the night – and this included members of the security forces and other officials – were injured or beaten as a result.
One eyewitness told NIQASH that the raiders had been violent. "They were brutal," he said. "They entered and told us all to get out immediately. They then went around smashing everything up, including tables and chairs. And then those who were guarding the entrance started beating the people who were trying to leave with sticks and their rifle butts."
Ahmed al-Utabi, a well-known poet, was at the Writer's Union Club when it was stormed by security forces. "At first, we thought there was a bomb or an explosive device inside the club and that was why the security forces asked us to leave," al-Utabi said. "Then we were really surprised to see them smashing everything up inside the club."
These attacks in the past usually occurred while attacks against Iraq's LGBT community were being carried out so we may soon find out that awful practice is returning as well.
Another constant problem for Iraq is the lack of potable (drinking) water. Alsumaria notes that Basra is currently building an irrigation canal with the hope that it will be able to provide the province with drinking water. The news comes the same week that All Iraq News reported 50 people in Diwaniyah Province's Shamiyah district had been poisoned with an unnamed al-Diwaniyah Health Directorate source stating, "The citizens were poisoned due to the spread of chlorine material from one of the water projects where they were transported to the hospital for treatment."
In other news, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani is scheduled to visit Baghdad tomorrow. NINA reports he is expected to meet with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada adds that he is also scheduled to meet with a group from Moqtada al-Sadr's movment to discuss common goals. Alsumaria observes that the relationship between the KRG and Baghdad has been strained for some time as a result of disputes over the budget, oil, disputed areas, the Peshmerga and other issues. 'Other issues' should include The Erbil Agreement because, since the summer of 2011, the Kurds have been calling (along with Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya) for Nouri to implement The Erbil Agreement that all political blocs in Iraq signed off on in November of 2010.
In the US, there's been little but silence to last week's remarks by Gen Martin Dempsey that the US would be sending more troops back into Iraq -- remarks made at a public press conference at the Pentagon. Last night, Dale McFeatters (Chicago Sun Times) may have become the first US columnist to write of it:
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has recommended that U.S. commanders find ways to improve Iraq’s military capabilities. This would involve additional weapons and training and, although neither government would say so publicly, some level of U.S. involvement in operations.
The language accompanying the proposal suggests that it is a done deal. We could hardly let the Iraqis say they were open to military cooperation with the U.S., an embarrassing admission in itself, and then humiliate them by slapping down the offer.
Maybe others will follow suit? Maybe not.
The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Adam Kokesh, Tavis Smiley, Pacifica Evening News, ACLU and Iraq Inquiry Digest -- updated last night and today:
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