Dildar Al-Zibari, vice president of the Mosul provincial council, said that “nearly 100 arrest warrants were issued by the Iraqi High Tribunal for the arrest of officers working in the security agencies and the army, on charges of torturing detainees and obtaining confessions by force in Mosul detention centres.” He also said that the Ministry of Defence did not take any actions to refer the officers accused in the cases of torture against Mosul’s inhabitants to court despite official documents and assurances issued by the city’s council. Al-Zibari added that most of the detained Mosul inhabitants are charged with terrorism, after having their homes raided and being arrested without warrants.
Please take note. This story was published on 18 September 2010, i.e. four years before Daesh occupied Mosul and five years before Haider Al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, announced victory over Daesh. It is also five years before the videos of torture and immediate execution of those from Mosul captured by the army and militia forces on charges of affiliation with Daesh. This was also before charges of affiliation with Daesh were directed at anyone who called for the investigation of crimes of torture, in order cover up the sins of silence and selectivity when it comes to human rights. The most important point that made me re-publish this old story is the fact that the arrest warrants were not carried out, nor was there any accountability or punishment of any of the 100 accused individuals, despite the presence of documentation. This is exactly what is happening today.
The occupation has laid the foundations for torture without accountability, as was the case in Abu Ghraib, has legalised handing over detainees to Iraqi security forces in order to “extract” confessions, and has made terrorism charges justification for all brutal practices. It also failed to record the number of victims and prohibited the publication of any information about what is happening. All of this is still happening today. The most recent practice was documented by Human Rights Watch in which the Iraqi forces detained and arrested at least 1,200 men and boys in inhuman conditions without any charges, and in some cases they were tortured and executed on grounds of affiliation with Daesh, only during the battle in Mosul.
Can the blame be put on a few bad apples, or did the box they were put into turn them into bad apples, as social psychologist Philippe Zimbardo pondered? How can we get to the truth when the prime minister stood in his weekly press conference on 19 July and accused human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, of encouraging terrorists to kill innocent people and incite terrorism? How can we uncover the truth when an MP known for crying and fainting, immediately accuses the organisations of being “pre-paid”, in “defence of her people’s rights” or a military official justifies the torture and field executions by saying “they happen in every war”? How will we find the truth when we see an academic hiding behind the mask of “the former regime’s crimes”, all the while failing to address the current government’s violations that have reached the level of collective punishment and war crimes? How can we reach the truth when an educated official makes statements of condemnation rather than investigating and just once arresting those accused of torture crimes and punishing them if the charges are proven to be true, in order for them to be an example for those who think about breaking the law?
Instead, the officials are content with merely directing accusations arbitrarily in an inciting manner against reports covering events that are documented with an exact date and place, as well as accompanied by pictures and videos.
This is either a sign of the lack of logic or the implicit acceptance of the crimes and the granting of impunity to the perpetrators to commit more, or the underestimation of the people’s humanity, dignity and their right to live, or it is all of these combined.
This is not the first time that an Iraqi official has underestimated the people’s right to life and dignity. When the former President, Jalal Talabani, was confronted with pictures showing the torture of detainees by the US occupation forces in Abu Ghraib, he considered the torture to be normal, nothing compared to the torture in Saddam Hussein’s prisons. It was as if his cooperation with the occupier in the invasion of Iraq was to increase and diversify the country’s methods of torture.
As for Nouri Al-Maliki, the former prime minister, he and his staff are credited with the spread of secret prisons throughout the country, including Muthanna Prison, which is directly under the supervision of his military office. The report “Iraq: Detainees Describe Torture in Secret Jail”, published on 27 April 2010, provides a brief overview of what was going on in the prison. The 430 detainees from Mosul, were subject to beatings, electric shocks and sleep deprivation, as well as additional methods of torture, as
they described how interrogators and security officials sodomised some detainees with broomsticks and pistol barrels and, the detainees said, raped younger detainees, who were then sent to a different detention site.
“Some young men said they had been forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards. Interrogators also forced some detainees to molest one another. Security officials whipped detainees with heavy cables, pulled out fingernails and toenails, burned them with acid and cigarettes and smashed their teeth. If detainees still refused to confess, interrogators would threaten to rape their wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters. The interrogation sessions usually lasted three or four hours and occurred every three or four days.”
After the foreign media wrote about the violations, the Iraqi government said it would look into the “alleged torture”, but the result was: nothing.
The “educated” official’s argument was that torture and field execution is a characteristic of war, and this is accurate to some extent, but civilised nations realised how brutal wars are, and therefore worked for decades in order establish international and humanitarian laws for war aimed at reducing brutality. The countries and governments that signed off on the war crimes have the responsibility to apply and implement them, making the Iraqi government responsible for investigating the validity of the claims and prosecute the perpetrators, not deny the claims, protect the perpetrators, and direct accusations against those who document them.
The reasons for “terrorism”, as well as the reasons for war, are no longer secret. The reasons they have spread rampantly in our countries are the clearest, as our people are living under oppression, injustice, the lack of potential to restore rights, humiliation of human dignity, and various types of discrimination. Putting an end to terrorism begins with convincing the people that there is another option, other than resorting to violence, that is applied through the rule of law and putting an end to all kinds of discrimination. The responsibility to acknowledge this and work to achieve it falls – first and foremost – on the shoulders of the government, followed by the military and the academics, not the terrorist organisations.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 1 August 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.