Monday, August 17, 2009

WWB: human rights abuses

WHAT WAR BRINGS: human rights abuses

This is a broad topic, a very broad topic. One could easily write a book on human rights abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Amnesty International issued a report on human rights abuses in Iraq. They state that all parties in the continuing conflict in Iraq have committed gross human rights abuses. Here is a summary of their report:

Thousand of civilians, including children, were killed or injured, mostly in suicide and other bomb attacks carried out by armed groups opposed to the government and the US-led Multinational Force (MNF). Civilians were also killed by MNF and Iraqi government forces. The MNF and the Iraqi authorities both held thousands of detainees; most were held without charge or trial, some for up to five years. Government security forces, including prison guards, were reported to have committed torture, including rape, and unlawful killings. The authorities made extensive use of the death penalty. More than 4 million Iraqis were displaced; 2 million were refugees abroad and others were internally displaced within Iraq. The Kurdistan region remained less affected by the conflict but there were continuing reports of abuses by the security forces and violence against women.

They go on to describe how confessions were obtained under torture, of kidnapping by Iraqi forces and militia groups, how the “security contractors” were engaged in murder and torture, and how a sizable number of Iraqis do not have enough food, and 40% of the population has no access to clean drinking water. They note that US military who are convicted of human rights abuses do not get a punishment in line with the gravity of their crimes. They do make note of this fact:

In August, Iraq ratified the UN Convention against Torture and in November parliament passed a law establishing a High Commission for Human Rights.

Amnesty International also talk about the detentions without charges or trials:

US forces of the MNF held some 15,500 detainees, mostly without charge or trial, at Camp Bucca, near Basra; Camp Cropper, near Baghdad airport; and other locations. Some had been held for five years. The Iraqi authorities were reported to be holding at least 26,000 detainees, many without charge or trial. Some were believed to be held incommunicado in secret detention facilities.

Also, there no longer is a “MNF” since the only foreign military in the country is the US. Here is Amnesty International’s report on Iraqi forces and their behavior:

Government forces committed gross human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial executions. Prison guards and security forces were reported to have tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, including juveniles. Methods alleged included beating with cables and hosepipes, prolonged suspension by the limbs, electric shock torture, breaking of limbs, removal of toenails with pliers, and piercing the body with drills. Detainees held by Interior Ministry officials were particularly at risk of torture.

  • Male juveniles were reported to have been physically and sexually assaulted by guards at the Tobchi juvenile detention facility in West Baghdad. US investigators found clear evidence that two Sunni juveniles had been killed by prison guards at the beginning of 2008.
  • Allegations of rape and other torture were made by male juveniles held in al-Karkh juvenile prison in Baghdad.

In June 2009, the head of the Human Rights Committee in the province of Babel, had this to say:

Fawziya al-Jashami said she had seen “horrific traces” of torture during a visit to a prison in the southern Province of Babel of which Hilla is the capital. “I saw types of torture which are so vicious and horrific that I cannot describe them as a woman. “It is a kind of sexual torture which one is ashamed to talk about and occurs for the first time in Iraq,” Jashami, who heads the Human Rights Committee in the province, said.

A member of the Iraqi Parliament was shot dead in June 2009. This happened just minutes after he gave a sermon condemning the Maliki government of human rights abuses.

His name was Harith al-Obaidi, and he was a long time advocate of human rights.

Recently, the US has been accused of torturing children and other human rights abuses.

Iraq & Afghanistan -War Crimes Against Children ascribed to former President Bush

The best kept secret of the Bush's war crimes is that thousands of children have been imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise denied rights under the Geneva Conventions and related international agreements. Yet both Congress and the media have strangely failed to identify the very existence of child prisoners as a war crime. In the Islamic world, however, there is no such silence.

Go and take a look at this picture of two terrified children.

And, if this report is accurate, than a number of the human rights abuses by Iraqi Special Forces were trained by US forces.

“The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003. There, the US Army’s Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret’s dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army’s own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next “several years.”

These Special Forces are known throughout Iraq for their barbaric behavior. When this incident happened in June 2008, they were working with the American forces and had a helicopter on scene as backup:

At first he couldn't tell whether the men were Iraqis or Americans. He says he identified himself as a police sergeant, offering his ID before they took his pistol and knocked him to the ground. The men didn't move like any Iraqi forces he'd ever seen. They looked and spoke like his countrymen, but they were wearing American-style uniforms and carrying American weapons with night-vision scopes. They accused him of being a commander in the local militia, the Mahdi Army, before they dragged him off, telling his wife he was "finished." But before they left, they identified themselves. "We are the Special Forces. The dirty brigade," Hassan recalls them saying.

Lt. Col. Roger Carstens had this to say about the Iraqi Special Forces that he helped train:

"All these guys want to do is go out and kill bad guys all day," he says, laughing. "These guys are shit hot. They are just as good as we are. We trained 'em. They are just like us. They use the same weapons. They walk like Americans."

This is a poor reflection on all of us. It is made even worse by the non-violent attempts by Iraqis to have these human rights abusers disbanded, which are ridiculed and ignored:

Civilian pleas, public protests, complaints by Iraqi Army commanders about the ISOF's actions and calls for disbanding it by members of Parliament have not pushed the US government to take a hard look at the force they are creating. Instead, US advisers dismiss such claims as politically motivated.

And then there is Afghanistan.

Yes, lots of human rights abuses there too. Children were detained without charges, and it sometimes took weeks or years before parents were informed of where their children were located. This report claims that 800 boys (aged 10 to 15) were captured in Afghanistan and 64 were sent to Guantanamo, and some placed in solitary confinement.

Haas notes that Protocol 1 of the 1977 Geneva Convention states "No Party to the conflict shall arrange for the evacuation of children, other than its own nationals, to a foreign country" unless written consent of the parents is obtained.

I doubt they got that consent form signed. The Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children should be considered victims of war, rather than treating them as war criminals. Here something else the US failed to do for the children in Afghanistan and Iraq that they captured:

Contrary to the CRC's Article 9, which states that a captured child shall be allowed to "maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis," some children were not allowed to write or telephone home for as long as five years.

….And although CRC Article 31 requires that children have the right "to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child," Haas writes, "There is no record of recreation for the hundreds of children detained at Bagram or at Abu Ghraib."

At Bagram, the largest US prison in Afghanistan, the prisoners are refusing to leave their cells to protest their indefinite detention (another human rights abuse) and their treatment. I am not sure if this protest has ended or still continues.

At Jail in Bagram, A Detainee Protest

The prison-wide protest, which has been going on since at least July 1, offers a rare glimpse inside a facility that is even more closed off to the public than the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Information about the protest came to light when the International Committee of the Red Cross informed the families of several detainees that scheduled video teleconferences and family visits were being canceled.

… Unlike at Guantanamo Bay, where detainees have access to lawyers, the 620 prisoners at Bagram are not permitted to visit with their attorneys. Afghan government representatives are generally not allowed to visit or inspect the Bagram facility.

This prison (doesn’t it sound nicer when they call it a “facility”? what horse’s asses some of our journalists are these days!) has inmates from other countries, who were not captured in Afghanistan. They have no rights. And the prison is going to be expanded under the Obama administration.

How lovely. Another Guantanamo, only with more secrecy and more prisoners.

It is looking more and more unlikey that some prisoners in US custody around the world will ever get a fair trail.

And so, human rights abuses, which are part of every war and occupation, show every sign of continuing.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: human rights abuses.


To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. - Nuremburg War Tribunal regarding wars of aggression

No comments: