Every time there is an election in Iraq, as happened last March 7, the Neoconservatives come out to crow about how great the Iraq War was. Their implicit argument is that Iraq was a brutal dictatorship, is now a thriving democracy. This argument is typical of their warped ethics, since it maintains that the ends justifies the means, and we are not supposed to bring up the dead, the wounded, the damaged that the Neocons have inflicted on Iraq. Never mind that the elections have not so far produced a viable new government. Never mind that democratic institutions are weak or non-existent. Never mind that widespread abuses are committed against the public by the new state.
Amnesty International reports that the Iraqi government is holding some 30,000 prisoners without charges or due process. In some instances the prisoners have been abused or even tortured. About 10,000 of these prisoners were recently handed over to the Iraqis when the US combat mission in Iraq supposedly ended.
Amnesty raises questions as to whether the US military hand-over of Iraqi prisoners to Baghdad authorities was illegal, given that US officers must have known their prisoners might be abused if transferred.
Allegations of arrests without due process continue today. The Iraqi National News Agency reports that a member of the Basra governing council has accused Iraqi authorities of making large numbers of arbitrary arrests of members of the Sadr Trend, loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in recent days.
“Several detainees are known to have died in custody, apparently as a result of torture or other ill-treatment by Iraqi interrogators and prison guards, who regularly refuse to confirm their detention or whereabouts to relatives.
Riyadh Mohammad Saleh al-‘Uqaibi, 54 and married with children, died in custody on 12 or 13 February 2010, as a result of internal bleeding having been beaten so hard during interrogation that his ribs were broken and his liver damaged.
A former member of the Iraqi Special Forces, he was arrested in late September 2009 and held in a detention facility in the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, before being transferred to a secret prison at the old Muthanna airport.
His body was handed over to his family several weeks later. The death certificate gave his cause of death as “heart failure”.
“The Iraqi authorities have signally failed to take effective action to stop torture and punish the perpetrators, despite overwhelming evidence of its use,” said Malcolm Smart.
“They have a duty to investigate, to hold perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice, and to provide reparation to the victims. The Iraqi authorities’ failure to take such concrete steps sends a message that such violations are tolerated and can be repeated.”
More than 400 detainees were held in the secret prison at the old Muthanna airport, whose existence was revealed publicly in April 2010. “
The report implicates not only the Baghdad government and security forces but also the Kurdistan Regional Government and its Asayish security forces, who it says have been holding some detainees without trial for many years.
According to al-Sharq al-Awsat writing in Arabic, both the Iraqi ministry of justice and the Kurdistan government denied Amnesty’s charges, saying that all prisoners in custody had been arrested in accordance with warrants and on the basis of evidence of wrongdoing.