Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reminder: Saddam's regime tortured and murdered political opponents

Maybe I'm the only Iraqi American who likes to remind people that things were not well in Iraq before 2003.  I'm not trying to whitewash crimes committed in Iraq today, but I've seen too many people saying lately that things were fine in Iraq before 2003, or that Iraqis killed by the regime deserved it.  One poor guy was tortured to death because he didn't notice the car used by assailants who tried to kill the mass murderer and rapist Uday Hussein.  This may also explain the culture of fear and death we see in Iraq today.  A society that was treated like this for 24 years cannot heal completely overnight or within a year or two. Of course Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have made it very difficult for Iraqis to reconcile. I really don't understand why Iraqis blame Americans for sectarian tensions today. 
Systematic torture of political prisoners  (Amnesty International Report on Iraq, 2001) - just an excerpt:

3.2 Other suspected political opponents

B (name withheld), a Kurdish businessman from Baghdad, married with children, was arrested in December 1996 outside his house by plainclothes security men. Initially his family did not know his whereabouts and went from one police station to another enquiring about him. Then through friends they found out that he was being held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad. The family was not allowed to visit him. Eleven months later in November 1997 the family was told by the authorities that he had been executed and that they should go and collect his body. His body reportedly bore evident signs of torture. His eyes were gouged out and the empty eye sockets were filled with paper. His right wrist and left leg were broken. The family was not given any reason for his arrest and subsequent execution. However, they suspected that he was executed because of his friendship with a retired army general who had links with the Iraqi opposition outside the country and who was arrested just before B. 's arrest and was also executed.

Salah Mahdi , a 35-year-old traffic warden in al-Mansur district in Baghdad, married with three children, was arrested together with scores of people following the attempted assassination of 'Uday Saddam Hussain, the eldest son of the President, in December 1996. He was accused of neglect because he did not notice the car the assailants used. He was held in the Special Security building and was severely tortured. He died, reportedly as a result of torture, in around June 1997. His family was told that he had died but the body was never returned to them for burial despite their repeated requests and to date his burial place reportedly remains unknown to the family.

'Abd al-Wahad al-Rifa'i , a 58-year retired teacher, who was executed by hanging after he had been held in prison without charge or trial for more than two years. On 26 March 2001 his family in Baghdad collected his body from the Baghdad Security Headquarters. The body reportedly bore clear marks of torture including the pulling out of toe-nails and swelling on his right eye. 'Abd Wahad al-Rifa'i, married with nine children, was arrested on 8 March 1999. Initially he was held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad then transferred to the Baghdad Security Headquarters. He was believed to have been arrested because the authorities suspected that he was in contact with the Iraqi opposition abroad through his brother, 'Abd al-Rahim al-Rifa'i, an active anti-government opponent living in Europe. 'Abd al-Wahad al-Rifa'i's wife and children have reportedly had their food ration card withdrawn from them as a punishment and the authorities also stopped pension payments which 'Abd al-Wahad was receiving before his execution.

Hundreds of army and security officers have been arrested in recent years and many have been executed. Charges against them have included plotting to overthrow the government or having contacts with the opposition abroad. Many were subjected to torture. A former Iraqi General Intelligence officer C (name withheld) told Amnesty International that he was arrested in mid-1990s on suspicion of having contacts with the opposition. He was held in solitary confinement for two years at the headquarters of the General Intelligence in al-Hakimiya in Baghdad. During the two years of detention he endured prolonged and repeated torture in the interrogation room. He was left suspended for long hours from a horizontal rod. His hands and feet were tied behind his back and was suspended from the upper arms. He was also beaten with a cable on different parts of the body, especially on the back of his head. Electric shocks were applied to various parts of the body and a wooden stick was inserted into his anus. He was held in solitary confinement all this time. The cell he was held in was painted entirely in red, including the ceiling, the floor and the doors. The light was red too. It is often referred to as the ''red room'' by former torture victims. He was released at the end of 1997. However he was rearrested again two years later also on suspicion of establishing contacts with the opposition and was held in the same detention centre. He was subjected to the same forms of torture as described above. C has now been left with permanent physical damage.

A number of former Iraqi political detainees were forced to undergo surgery to have a leg or arm amputated because they had been tortured for long periods of time and had developed gangrene for which they did not receive medical treatment. They had no choice but to sign statements in hospitals to the effect that it was solely their decision to have the amputation carried out.

No comments :