2011 for Iraqi inquiry report
There are gaps remaining in a London inquiry into the Iraq war that need to be filled before findings are released in 2011, the head of the panel said.London is examining its role in the Iraq war from the planning stages to the departure of British forces in 2009. Inquiry director John Chilcot said he would lead a team to Iraq to examine the war first hand.
Five members of the inquiry panel interviewed several Iraqi leaders during a September visit to Baghdad, including former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Shiite movement Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.Canon Andrew White, the so-called vicar of Baghdad, described his talks with the inquiry panel as helpful."We were able to talk openly and honestly about the situation here," the Anglican priest said in a statement.
In June, the inquiry called for international lawyers to weigh in on the legal arguments used by London to justify the military invasion. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the inquiry in 2009 that if disarming Iraq led to the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, then "so be it."The panel said it received 35 briefs on the matter as of Sept. 13. Chilcot said he had more evidence to gather before submitting his final report, however."Writing the report is an immense task but our objective remains to publish the report in early 2011," he said in a statement.
Published by UPI News
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The UK's Iraq inquiry has visited the cities of Baghdad and Basra as part of its fact-finding mission.
Members of the panel held talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as well as leading Iraqi officials.Its report, into the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, is due to be published early next year.Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot promised that the panel would "seek to fill" any "gaps in the evidence".
Its public hearings in central London, which numbered former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown among the witnesses, concluded in July.But Sir John said there could be more sessions, if it was judged that the information gathered so far was inadequate.
From 26 September to 1 October, four of the five-member inquiry panel visited Iraq for private discussions with leading politicians and officials.As well as Mr Abbawi and Mr Allawi, these included Iraq's planning minister Ali Baban and Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress Party.United Nations, European Union and World Bank officials also held discussions with the panel.
Sir John said: "Since the end of the public hearings in July, we have heard from many individuals; from British service personnel who served in Iraq, to Iraqi politicians and civilians living and working in the country today."All those meetings have been immeasurably helpful to the committee, and we are grateful to those who have hosted us and those who have taken the time to meet us to share their insights and experiences."
He added: "As I have said before, if there are gaps in the evidence we will seek to fill them, including seeking further written evidence or potentially holding a small number of further public hearings either with new witnesses or with those from whom we have heard before."Writing the report is an immense task but our objective remains to publish the report in early 2011."
In September, the inquiry also held private talks with Matthew Rycroft, Mr Blair's former private secretary dealing with foreign affairs, and Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the UK ambassdor to the US who is a former foreign policy adviser to Mr Blair.The panel is looking specifically at the UK's role in planning for the war and in its aftermath, including aid efforts and the economic reconstruction of Iraq.
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Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would perhaps have taken issue with Doug Maughan’s defence of Tony Blair, but they can’t because they are dead, killed in Mr Blair’s illegal war.
The children they left behind, all those whose homes were bombed to rubble, the soldiers who were sent to war on a lie, some returning mentally and physically scarred, and the many who came home in coffins, may also have disagreed with Mr Maughan.
The weapons of mass destruction, the excuse used by Mr Blair to justify his side-stepping of the United Nations, and leading the UK into a totally unnecessary war, did not turn up in Iraq, but anyone wishing to find any need go no further than the Clyde.Mr Maughan, on no evidence that I can see, trots out the latest excuse used by Mr Blair and his supporters that Saddam would have developed them anyway.
Seven years on, death and destruction continue to haunt Iraq, and nowhere more so than in the city of Fallujah, where babies continue to be born with serious heart problems, horrific physical deformities, and with mental abnormalities.For the mothers of Fallujah who have given birth to babies with two heads, or with no heads at all, it is impossible to imagine that they will ever recover from the horrors of Mr Blair’s unjustifiable war.
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The non-governmental organization Amnesty International is denouncing to the world the existence of 30,000 persons in Iraqi prisons without having been judged, whose confessions were extracted under torture, and suggests the U.S. military as the persons in charge being responsible for this situation.
According to Amnesty International, rape, threats of rape, beatings, electric shocks, fingernails torn out and maiming are some forms of torture used in Iraqi prisons.
"The Iraqi security forces are responsible for systematic violations of prisoners' rights (...) and for all impunity," said Malcolm Smart, in a statement. He is the Middle East director for the organization of human rights, based in London.In the report, of 56 pages, entitled, "New Order, Same Males: Illegal Arrests and Torture in Iraq," Amnesty International details hundreds of cases of arbitrary arrests, often occurring many times over several years, and of torture and disappearances of prisoners.
The organization has, among others, the story of Mohamed Saleh Al-Ryad Uqabi, arrested in September 2009, at which time during his interrogation he was beaten with such violence that he suffered broken ribs and liver damage."He died on February 12 or 13 due to internal bleeding. His body was delivered to his family a few weeks later. The death certificate states that he died after a cardiac arrest," the report says.
Amnesty International says that these practices occur in order to obtain confessions, which remain the preferred proof for Iraqi justice.The organization says it is the responsibility of U.S. military forces who, with their sights on total withdrawal in late 2011, transferred thousands of prisoners to the Iraqis, without guarantees against torture and mistreatment.
Antonio Carlos Lacerda, Pravda Ru, Brazil
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A former US soldier in Iraq has come forward with video of his fellow soldiers subjecting Iraqi detainees to what he describes as "mental, emotional, degrading" abuse.
US Army Specialist Ethan McCord was a member of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, the same unit that was involved in a 2007 helicopter attack in Baghdad shown in a leaked video released last April by WikiLeaks.
"I started to 'acquire' these videos and some pictures once I realized that what we are doing in Iraq is wrong," McCord wrote on Wednesday in a blog entry at MichaelMoore.com. "These videos are of detainee abuse. Not the type of abuse that’s physical, but the mental, emotional, degrading type."
In the three brief clips, soldiers are shown harassing handcuffed and blindfolded detainee in a variety of ways. In one, a soldier repeatedly orders a detainee to hold his hands up and then put them down again -- a sequence which McCord says went on for 45 minutes.
Another shows a soldier asking a terrified detainee, "Are you militia" and telling him he is "going to go to prison for that," until being ordered to "stop talking to the detainees." In the third, a soldier sings loudly and mockingly into the ear of a man who was detained for having an AK-47 in his home.
The use of deliberate humiliation as a means of softening up detainees prior to questioning became particularly notorious in connection with the Abu Ghraib scandal and was examined in detail in Errol Morris's critically-acclaimed 2008 documentary Standard Operating Procedure.
"The MPs speak frankly, if not always lucidly, about conditions at the prison and the vague orders from higher-ups that allowed them to believe what they were doing was somehow OK," Slate's Dana Stevens wrote of the film. "They saw themselves as 'softening up' detainees for the real questioning that would take place later behind closed doors."
"My two cents worth of opinion," Morris told an interviewer, "is that this is not just a war of humiliation but a war of sexual humiliation at its core, and the entire foreign policy. I wouldn't even think it's fair to say that America has a foreign policy in the years since 9/11, but if it has had a foreign policy, the foreign policy is, show them whose [sic] boss, humiliate them like they have humiliated us."
Although the harassment shown in McCord's clips does not rise to the same level of sexual abuse as was present at Abu Ghraib, it appears to be similarly designed to "show them who's boss" and break down the detainees' will to resist.
"I’ve held on to these for three years now, debating on how to release them responsibly," McCord writes. "I want to point out, first hand, that these soldiers are doing EXACTLY as they have been trained. I’m not trying to excuse their behavior, but simply pointing out that this is a systematic problem. While your anger may initially be placed with the soldiers in the videos, I think your anger should be directed towards the system that trained them."
This is not the first time that McCord has spoken out since the release last April of the WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video. As summarized by Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post, that video shows "a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 repeatedly opening fire on a group of men that included a Reuters photographer and his driver -- and then on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men. None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon's initial cover story."
According to Wired, on the day of the attack, McCord's platoon was battling insurgents when they "got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage -- the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns. McCord was captured in a video shot from one helicopter as he ran frantically to a military vehicle with Sajad in his arms seeking medical care."
"I was pretty distraught over the whole situation with the children," McCord told Wired. "So I went to a sergeant and asked to see [the mental health person], because I was having a hard time dealing with it. I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health. ... I was told that I needed to get the sand out of my vagina…. So I just sucked it up and tried to move on with everything."
"I’ve lived with seeing the children that way since the incident happened," McCord continued. "I’ve had nightmares. I was diagnosed with chronic, severe PTSD. [But] I was actually starting to get kind of better. … I wasn’t thinking about it as much. [Then I] took my children to school one day and I came home and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV with my coffee, and on the news I’m running across the screen with a child. The flood of emotions came back."
Immediately after the release of the WikiLeaks video, McCord and another former soldier issued "An Open Letter of Reconciliation & Responsibility to the Iraqi People" which stated, "We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses. ... What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused."
Last July, McCord spoke about the video to attendees at a United Nations Peace Conference. "If this video disgusts you, it should," he told the audience. "It happens daily in Iraq. ... The rules of engagement in 2007 when this happened was, 'If you feel threatened by anybody, you're able to engage that person.' Many soldiers felt threatened just by the fact that you were looking at them, so they fired their weapons at anybody who was looking at them, because 'I felt threatened.'"
"We were told that if we were to fire our weapons at people and we were to be investigated, officers would take care of you," McCord continued. "We were given orders for 360 degree rotational fire whenever we were hit with an IED. We were told by our battalion commander to kill every motherfucker on the street. ... If you didn't fire, the NCOs in your platoon would make your life hell."
These videos were uploaded to YouTube Oct. 12, 2010.
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Um Ali is scared. She says male relatives want to kill her and sell her daughters into marriages that are really sex-trafficking arrangements that put young women to work in brothels overseas.
She lives in hiding and relocates often. Her pulse accelerates every time an international text message pops into her cell phone."The world is small," wrote her brother in a recent threat.
Um Ali is one of over a million refugees who have sought shelter in Syria since U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003. She left with her husband and children during a wave of militia violence against Iraqis working--"collaborating"--with Americans in 2006.
Some girls and women among these refugees face being sex trafficked by people within their own families. No statistics or studies are available on this specific problem, but there are plenty of stories of men in a pinch treating female relatives as young as 13 as commodities for sex and marriage markets.
Dodging such threats is particularly hard for women when they come from inside the family. Women who run away risk being branded prostitutes and subject to death at the hands of "dishonored" male kin.
"Iraqi women are fleeing violence in their country and in their families," psychologist Mari Samaan told Women's eNews. "Syrian society and women like Um Ali pay the price for America's war in Iraq."
She says that the longer a woman such as Um Ali survives on her own, the more likely it is that male relatives will suspect her of sex work. Many of these women lack professional skills. Marrying young and depending on men all their lives, they struggle to cope without a male provider and protector in Syria.
"Iraqi traditions are hard," Samaan said. "Every woman without a husband or family watching over her is seen as prostitute. I have seen girls raped by armies and militias and then killed by her own families."
Despite Syria's increasing efforts to prevent sex trafficking, many face the sorts of dangers Um Ali is trying to evade.Married at age 12 to a man who went on to beat and belt her for 21 years, Um Ali wanted a different fate for her three teenage daughters.
"In Iraq, he only hit me," she told Women's eNews. "In Syria, he started on the girls. I want them to choose their path in life, unlike me. They are smart and they love to study. If they were safe from these threats, they could finish school."When a family friend gave his daughter to a Saudi man in marriage in exchange for a huge dowry, an idea lit up in her husband's head."He doesn't think," Um Ali said. "All he can think of is money."
Soon the marriage proposals trickled in, including one from an Iraqi man she suspected of running a brothel in the United States. Gambling debts her husband had accrued in Syria forced him to flee back to Iraq before he could cash in on the transaction.
Chance at Divorce
Left behind, Um Ali seized the opportunity to file for divorce. Evicted by her landlord because she was unable to afford rent, she shuttled her four children and 20 suitcases to temporary housing, each time vulnerable to sex requests from tenants and owners, until finally landing at a U.N.-funded shelter for women in late 2009.
A falling out with the shelter's management put her on the streets again with only a 24-hour notice. She says she left involuntarily but was coerced to sign to the contrary under threats of internment in a mental asylum and interference with her resettlement case.
Um Ali, her three daughters and one son now share a single room apartment with a tiny kitchen-bathroom annexed to it. Despite receiving a monthly U.N. stipend--the standard $220 for households headed by women--she can't afford to buy potable water in the summer when taps have dried out.
She pays $177 in rent and spends the rest--less than $1.50 a day--feeding five people."We are desperate," she told Women's eNews. "No one protects us. The U.N. has failed us."She has received five new text message threats since leaving the women's shelter last summer. Panic attacks and nightmares follow. In her fear of being found by her brothers or ex-husband, she has cut all ties with her nuclear and extended family.
April Trafficking Law
Syria is scaling up its efforts to protect refugee women such as Um Ali who are vulnerable to kidnapping, sex-trafficking and forced prostitution while trying to survive in low-income suburbs of Damascus.A law that took effect in April established protection measures for victims of trafficking as well as punishments of at least seven years for its perpetrators and beneficiaries.
To promote the law's implementation and share best practices, Damascus in June hosted a global conference on human trafficking that brought together more than 120 law enforcement and non-governmental experts from over 50 countries through INTERPOL, the international police organization based in Lyon, France.
National and international organizations have also hosted a variety of awareness-raising initiatives. In September, the Syrian Women's Union, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Organization for Migration held a two-day workshop in Damascus on stepping up anti-trafficking measures.
"Trafficking is increasingly a problem due to armed conflicts in our region," said Majida Qutaiet, head of the Damascus-based Syria Women's Union, which plans to open a counseling center for survivors of trafficking and gender-based violence in 2011. There is already one center in the northern city of Aleppo and one center in Damascus.
By Dominique Soguel