During his meeting with the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions and her accompanying delegation on 15 November, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi stated that human rights violations in Iraq were “few” and condemned “exaggerations of human rights violations by some human rights organisations” under his rule.
Such a statement leads us to several questions, most importantly: how does Al-Abadi dare to issue a statement contrary to the truth, in such a public manner, at a time when it has become extremely easy to verify facts? Are the human rights violations occurring in Iraq actually “few”?
Presidents and officials resorting to lies and fabrications is nothing new, and many researchers date it back to dreadful eras. In those times politicians resorted to ambiguity, linguistic obscurity, and diplomacy in order to whitewash lies so they avoid labelling them as lies. The new issue nowadays in this regard is the fact that officials are no longer concerned with such gimmicks and are fine with making statements completely contradicting the facts, according to the politics of “post truth”.
In this case objective facts are less important than attracting the public or presenting facts in a partial manner based on the political perception of the “truth”. This is done in an explicit and open manner, contrary to the approaches of the past, allowing the speaker to benefit from the media, which is active 24 hours a day, and social networking sites which are capable of spreading any news or statements to millions in a matter of minutes without the need to verify the credibility or objectivity of a story.
The best example of this are the statements made by US President Donald Trump during his election campaign. He was preceded by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who ran a rabid campaign to convince the British and international public of the need to invade Iraq because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction which could destroy the world. Tony Blair disregarded the documented facts stating that Iraq could not achieve anything of the sort, and exploited the public’s fears.
Can Al-Abadi’s statements about the lack of human rights violations and their exaggeration – made before a delegation that approached him after they could no longer remain silent in the face of such violations – be explained in accordance with the “post truth” theory? It doesn’t seem so as there is something that does not only apply to Al-Abadi alone, but to all of “new Iraq’s” politicians, which distances them from the conceptual terms that apply to Western politicians.
In addition to the contradicting lies and blatant fabrications there is also the issue of directly and indirectly contributing to the shedding of their people’s blood and selling their loyalty to the highest bidder. According to this, the best term to describe them is as “the occupation’s little men,” based on Austrian psychologist Wilhelm Reich’s “little man” concept. Reich addresses the “little man” who builds his house on sand and asks, “Haven’t there been enough victims to push you to think correctly?”
The large number of victims is what prompted the UN rapporteur to visit Al-Abadi, after exhausting the coalition states supporting the government and overlooking its crimes, committed under the pretext of “the war on terror”. Iraq is one of the top give countries with the highest execution rates in the world.
Some of Iraq’s “few” documented violations include: On 3 June the Popular Mobilisation Forces militias abducted an estimated 1,300 men and boys as they fled Saqlawiya, north of Falluja. Three days later, 605 men appeared with signs of torture, while the fate of 643 others remains unknown. An inquiry committee, formed by the Anbar governor, concluded that 49 men were killed by gunfire, burned to death, or died as a result of torture, according to Amnesty International.
In August 36 men were executed after being found guilty, during a trial lasting a few hours, in which confessions were forced out of them under torture. In a single day in September, 42 people were executed on “terrorism” charges. These facts are what prompted Amnesty International to issue a statement on mass executions, describing them as “a shocking display of the Iraqi authorities’ resort to the death penalty to try to show they are responding to security threats,” adding, “there can be no doubt that individuals who carry out deadly attacks against the civilian population should face justice, but the Iraqi authorities need to recognise that carrying out executions is not the answer and will not make the country or its people safer”.
In July 2017 German Chancellor Angela Merkel refuted Al-Abadi’s lie about “some organisations exaggerating the magnitude of violations”. She urged him to investigate allegations of human rights violations during the military operations to regain control of Mosul from Daesh, noting, “such human rights abuses must be prevented in the future”.
Al-Abadi was forced to form a committee to investigate the abuses, but the authorities have not disclosed any results of the investigation, nor have they announced any legal proceedings against the perpetrators. This year witnessed the continuation of widespread torture and other forms of mistreatment in prisons and detention centres controlled by the interior and defence ministries, as well as in militia-controlled facilities. While international organisations have condemned the crimes committed by Daesh, classifying them as war crimes, they have also documented crimes committed by militias and government forces, which are considered war crimes, as well as other violations of international human rights law and humanitarian laws. Most of these crimes are committed against Arab Sunnis.
Those who follow the practices of militias and state forces, which have begun to surface in investigative journalism, and are being revealed by Iraqi and international organisations in cities liberated from the control of Daesh, will realise the extent and horror of the sectarian and ethnic discrimination established by the occupation, which government politicians continue to fuel with the help of their executioners, out of fear of freedom and dignity. The reports issued by local and international human rights organisations regarding violations in Iraq are not exaggerated but rather help remove the mask of lies worn by Al-Abadi and government officials. They are paving the way to revealing the complete truth to the world and more importantly to the Iraqi people, without exception, in order that the blood of the victims is not shed for the price of building houses on sand.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 21 November 2017