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Zamparini& Pisi: Iraq - Listening to the Survivors

Iraq: Listening to the Survivors
The killing of Saddam Hussein’s lawyers and the Iraqi testimonies


by Paola Pisi and Gabriele Zamparini (*)
Source URLs - The Cat’s Blog & uruknet
July 6, 2005

"In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." – Bertrand Russell

Part 1. Killing Saddam Hussein’s lawyers

The day of the kidnapping, torture and brutal killing of Khamis al-Obeidi, one of the main lawyers defending Saddam Hussein at that dreadful mockery of Justice known as "The Trial Show", the New York Times reported:

The Iraqi police found the body of Khamis al-Obeidi, one of Mr. Hussein's defense lawyers, riddled with bullets in east Baghdad, a ministry spokesman said. Mr. Obeidi's wife, Um Laith, said that early this morning while she, her husband and three children slept, about 20 men in civilian clothes burst into their house in the neighborhood of Slaikh, on the edge of the predominantly Sunni area of Adamiya, and identified themselves as members of a ministry security brigade.

Mr. Obeidi, 39, had little chance to reply before he was seized, she said.

Iraqi witnesses said that Mr. Obeidi was transported in a convoy of vehicles by people known as belonging to the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia known to be affiliated with the rebellious anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Witnesses said they wore flak jackets and shouted "terrorist" at one point.

Mr. Obeidi was taken to a spot called Hamidiya, about six miles from his house, according to witnesses.

His body was dumped in a place for construction debris, apparently retrieved again, and then dumped in a lot in Sadr City. It was then taken to the Tahtheeb police station there, an area known as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, riddled with bullets in the head, chest and back. (1)

One of us has written on this story seven little notes "Lynching Saddam – Parts 1-7" (2) where also reported the statements by Leandro Despouy, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The international anti-war network BRussells Tribunal published [endorsed?] on its website Probing for the truth, MAX FULLER calls for independent criminal inquiries into Iraq's extrajudicial executions, BRussells Tribunal, Friday 30 June 2006 (3).

Max Fuller writes:

If anyone bothers to investigate the death of Mr Obeidi, they will uncover much the same chain of intellectual authorship, with MOI [Ministry of the Interior] representatives in police vehicles hauling Mr Obeidi from his home in the middle of the night for "questioning."

If such an investigation is carried out, those involved will rapidly discover that reports that Mr Obeidi had been taken away by members of the so-called Mahdi Army, which is loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, amounts to no more than saying that MOI forces were responsible.

And, like any modern-day Sherlock Holmes, they will soon be forced to conclude that disposing of Mr Obeidi's tortured corpse under an image of al-Sadr's father and firing some shots in the air does not constitute proof of guilt acceptable in any courtroom in the world. [emphasis added]

Max Fuller concludes:

We are bombarded with accusations that this or that militia is responsible, but, if one single genuine investigation is undertaken, we might see an end to these crimes which amount to a genocide against the Iraqi people.

It is high time that we all lent our voices to the calls coming out of Iraq for independent, international criminal inquiries into extrajudicial executions.

This is not only vital to bring an end to the culture of impunity with which officials of the occupation-installed, backed and run MOI [Ministry of the Interior] commit massacres, it would also form an important step towards building a climate in which no-one can resist the call to bring the troops home.

We strongly agree with the necessity for a truly independent investigation.

We also strongly believe that while it’s absolutely paramount to stress over again that:

1) Every single crime related to the occupation of Iraq falls under the responsibility of the Occupying Power, according to international Law;

2) The Occupying Power is obviously using the "traditional means" that have always been used in the whole history of colonialism and occupations;

as always, also in the case of the killing of Saddam Hussein’s lawyers we must remember Bertrand Russell’s teaching: "we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine."

We believe that facts and evidence should not be selected, hidden or misrepresented to support one theory or the other and we think that only the Iraqi People know what’s been happening in their own country.

Max Fuller’s article published on the BRussells Tribunal’s website reads:

If anyone bothers to investigate the death of Mr Obeidi, they will uncover much the same chain of intellectual authorship, with MOI [Ministry of the Interior] representatives in police vehicles hauling Mr Obeidi from his home in the middle of the night for "questioning." (…)

And, like any modern-day Sherlock Holmes, they will soon be forced to conclude that disposing of Mr Obeidi's tortured corpse under an image of al-Sadr's father and firing some shots in the air does not constitute proof of guilt acceptable in any courtroom in the world.

We opened our article with the New York Times’ report on the same day of the killing of Saddam Hussein’s lawyer:

Mr. Obeidi's wife, Um Laith, said that early this morning while she, her husband and three children slept, about 20 men in civilian clothes burst into their house in the neighborhood of Slaikh, on the edge of the predominantly Sunni area of Adamiya, and identified themselves as members of a ministry security brigade. (…)

Iraqi witnesses said that Mr. Obeidi was transported in a convoy of vehicles by people known as belonging to the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia known to be affiliated with the rebellious anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Witnesses said they wore flak jackets and shouted "terrorist" at one point.

The very same story, with the same details and many more interesting ones has been confirmed by numerous and different sources.

On 21 June Reuters reported:

Shopowners told Reuters three gunmen dumped the body of Obaidi at a roundabout under a poster of a senior Shi'ite cleric killed by Saddam's agents in 1999. The cleric is the father of Moqtada al-Sadr, a cleric and leader of the Mehdi Army militia.

"They fired into the air and said 'This is the fate of Baathists!'," said a vegetable seller whose store is close by.

The area is not far from the Sadr City slum, a stronghold of Sadr's militia. The body of Saadoun Janabi, the first lawyer to be killed, was also dumped nearby. Neighbors said then that he was seized by men saying they were from the Interior Ministry.

The trial has also been marred by the resignation of the previous judge, who complained of government pressure. (4)

On 22 June 2006, Gulf News reported:

Shopowners told reporters that three gunmen had dumped the body at a roundabout under a poster of a senior Shiite cleric killed by Saddam's agents in 1999. The cleric is the father of Moqtada Al Sadr, the leader of the Mehdi Army.

"They fired into the air and said 'this is the fate of Baathists!'," said a shopkeeper.

The area is not far from the Sadr City slum, a stronghold of Sadr's militia. (5)

The Independent reported a similar version but forgot (?) to report that the cleric in that poster was "the father of Moqtada Al Sadr, the leader of the Mehdi Army." (6)

A well known Iraqi blog "Iraqi Screen" reported:

I tried again and again till a woman answered me, Oh , My God, I asked her who is she? She said " Iam Khamis wife."

But how is that you still have khamis telephone with you while he is kidnapped?

We were at home, Khamis was in his bed, when more than 15 armed man stormed our house at 7 am, wearing civil uniform and grabbed Khamis from his bed. I asked them who are you? They told me "we are the security of the Ministry of Interior." (…)

Khamis body later on found in Sader city, tortured severely, an eye witness from the city itself said " Khamis body was on the ground, any one passes by give it a bullet among shouts of condemnation for any person defends Saddam." (7)

Another Iraqi blog reported:

Today in Al Thawra city (Sadr) Abu Der’ra, [the leader of a Mehdi Army’s group] his men and his admirers celebrated the killing of Saddam defense lawyer. At around 11 am refreshments were served to the people in the streets and a heroic story is told of how the slain lawyer was car-paraded in Al Thawra city prior to his death. (…) (8)

There is an overwhelming amount of independent testimonies that agree on several points. Also, what Fuller writes "with MOI [Ministry of the Interior] representatives in police vehicles hauling Mr Obeidi from his home in the middle of the night for 'questioning'" is not what several Iraqi testimonies reported, namely:

Mr. Obeidi's wife, Um Laith, said that early this morning while she, her husband and three children slept, about 20 men in civilian clothes burst into their house in the neighborhood of Slaikh, on the edge of the predominantly Sunni area of Adamiya, and identified themselves as members of a ministry security brigade. (…)

Iraqi witnesses said that Mr. Obeidi was transported in a convoy of vehicles by people known as belonging to the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia known to be affiliated with the rebellious anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Witnesses said they wore flak jackets and shouted "terrorist" at one point.

We agree with Fuller when he writes that "under an image of al-Sadr's father and firing some shots in the air does not constitute proof of guilt acceptable in any courtroom in the world", but we have tried to demonstrate that that image has a context and it’s only the last and the least piece in a larger picture designed by a series of concordant testimonies. Of course whoever is responsible, they couldn't have openly abducted Khamis al-Obeidi and outraged his corpse in Sadr City, in total impunity, without the complicity of the MOI [Ministry of the Interior] and the occupation forces.

**********

Part 2. Background

Two years ago, on 3 July 2004, Al-Jazeera reported:

Shaikh Raid al-Kadhimi [ Al-Sadr's official representative ], a senior preacher among Iraq's Shia, warned the lawyers, whom he described as "mercenary lawyers", against coming to Iraq.

"I advise the monkeys, those mercenary lawyers, who wish to defend Saddam, not to come to Iraq because Iraqis will be ready to deal with them," he said from the pulpit of Baghdad's Kadhimiyah Shrine.

"We demand the execution of Saddam Hussein and we think we represent the opinion of al-Sadr's supporters and most Iraqis," said Shaikh Awad Khafaji, a chief aide of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, during his Friday sermon in a Shia district of Baghdad. (9)

Earlier this year, Reuters reported about the resignation of the chief judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein:

The killings of two defense lawyers have already prompted questions over the U.S.-backed decision to hold the trial in the midst of bitter sectarian and ethnic conflict. (...) A source close to Kurdish judge Rizgar Amin himself told Reuters that tribunal officials were trying to talk him out of his decision but he was reluctant to stay on because Shiite leaders had criticized him for being "soft" on Saddam in court. "He tendered his resignation to the court a few days ago but the court rejected it. Now talks are under way to convince him to go back on his decision," he said on Saturday. "He’s under a lot of pressure, the whole court is under political pressure. "I am not sure if he will go back on his decision," said the source, who is familiar with Amin’s thinking. "He had complaints from the government that he was being too soft in dealing with Saddam. They want things to go faster." The last straw, the source said, was a letter criticizing his handling of the trial from radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, whose movement is part of the ruling Islamist bloc. (10)

Just a few months ago, the Associated Press reported about shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr:

The cleric, speaking from the holy city of Najaf, said Saddam Hussein should not be tried but executed immediately. He criticized what he called American intervention in the trial and causing to take too much time. (11)

We strongly call for a truly independent investigation on the killing of Saddam Hussein’s lawyers but we in the anti-war, anti-occupation movement should be the first to look at the facts and evidence and listen to the testimonies of the Iraqi People.

An independent investigation should also be called for the so-called sectarian killings.

There is much documentation, testimonies, reports on what’s been happening in occupied Iraq and on the role played by the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and its relation with the MOI [Ministry of the Interior] and the occupation forces.

Simply to mention a few reports:

a) Iraq between genocide and coincidences highlights the urgency once again to question the official numbers of Iraqi civilians killed by this ruthless illegal, military, foreign occupation. We think this article raises serious questions on the role of the Iraq’s [puppet] government’s Health Ministry, which operates the Baghdad morgue and government hospitals. This [puppet] government’s Ministry is in the hands of a religious party headed by Moqtada al-Sadr. (12)

b) The siege of Adhamyia, that’s still going on. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail has reported extensively from and on occupied Iraq. Just in relation to what’s been happening in al-Adhamiya neighborhood of the capital city and the role of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army, we would like once again to stress the importance of the Iraqi testimonies in Jamail’s work:

The Ongoing War on Truth in Iraq, By Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t, 18 April 2006

Baghdad Slipping Into Civil War, By Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed, Inter Press Service, April 19, 2006

"Operation Forward Together": Deeper Into the Quagmire, By Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t, 19 June 2006

An Iraqi Withdrawal From Iraq, By Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t, 28 June 2006

Always to stay to the still going on al-Adhamiya siege, in A Certain Peace Amidst a Campaign of Death, Karen Button wrote:

It was just after this, in March, that The Guardian quoted then outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq, John Pace, "The Badr brigade [Sciri's armed wing] are in the police and are mainly the ones doing the killing. They're the most notorious." Sciri, the Shi’ite political party Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is backed by Iran. Iraqis also charge that the Medhi Army, the armed militia of Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is targeting and killing people and that they, too, are backed by Iran.

Two weeks ago Badr and Mehdi forces were seen operating alongside Iraqi Police in an attack on Adhamiya, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Fierce street battles between the IP and residents raged. One resident told me, "We’ve seen the Badr; they are trying to gain control of our neighborhood!" (13)

This past Sunday the "Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Sunday, 2 July 2006" read:

Puppet "Iraqi Army" forces provide cover as Jaysh al-Mahdi and Badr Brigade Shi ' sectarian gunmen attack residents of al-A'zamiyah. . .

In a dispatch posted at 8:35pm Makkah time Sunday evening, Mafkarat al-Islam reported that a short while earlier Shi'i sectarian Jaysh al-Mahdi militiamen fired four heavy 120mm mortar rounds at residential houses in the predominantly Sunni al-A'zamiyah district of Baghdad.

The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported from al-A'zamiyah that Iraqi puppet army forces, who had recently been supplied American Humvees, together with Shi'i sectarian militia were firing rockets at the predominantly Sunni district at that moment.

One local family killed in their home by Shi'i sectarian barrage. . .

In a dispatch posted at 8:50pm Makkah time Sunday night, Mafkarat al-Islam reported that a short while earlier one of the rockets being fired by Shi'i sectarian militias and puppet army forces had killed a family in the al-A'zamiyah district.

The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported the exact number of persons killed was as yet not clear but local residents and Iraqi Resistance fighters were at that moment working to dig bodies or survivors out of the ruins of their home.

The correspondent noted that Iraqi Resistance fighters were at that moment unable to respond to the puppet army and Shi'i sectarian militia attacks since so far the attacks were in the form of rocket and mortar barrages fired into al-A'zamiyah from outside the district.

The correspondent noted that the attack on the heavily populated district was being mounted by Shi'i sectarian Badr Brigades and Jaysh al-Mahdi militiamen while heavily armed Iraqi puppet army forces were providing them cover. (14)

A few days ago, the blog Iraqi Screen wrote:

Malki was declaring his reconciliation project in the Iraqi parliament amid a blown up security plan began ten days ago, Mahdi army supported by the commandos of the ministry of Interior was busy launching attacks against Sunni dominated neighborhoods in Baghdad like Fadhel, Haifa street and Al-Kifaha.

They tried to enter Adhamiyia but the National Guards stopped their progress to avert a big fight as people there are always in state of alert expecting Shiite militias to come at any moment.

A man from Adhamiyia said " I do not leave Adhamiyia because my ID is issued in Adhamiyia and if Shiite militia discovered that they will kill me." (15)

We could go on with the collections of reports and testimonies from Iraq: other sieges, other killings, other facts and evidences... Are we listening?

********

Conclusions


In a spirit of solidarity with the Iraqi People’s Just Struggle for freedom and independence against the US-led illegal invasion-occupation of Iraq, the "crime against the peace, for which there is responsibility under international law", we would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters in the international ANTI-war-occupation movement to listen carefully to the Iraqi People without patronizing them.

We believe these questions are extremely urgent and must be addressed without further delay. In Iraq the carnage is going on and it’s time to question the role of all these militias and death squads and their relation with the occupying Power.

Among other death squads and militias, a truly independent investigation must question the Badr Organisation [the armed wing of the Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq] and the Mehdi Army [the militia of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr] within the frame of the US-led occupation and its puppet Iraqi government of which Moqtada al-Sadr with his religious party is one of the most important components.

NOTES

1) Third Lawyer in Hussein Trial Is Killed, By JOHN F. BURNS and CHRISTINE HAUSER, The New York Times, June 21, 2006

2) "Lynching Saddam – Parts 1-7" by Gabriele Zamparini, The Cat’s Blog, June 21-30, 2006

3) Probing for the truth, MAX FULLER calls for independent criminal inquiries into Iraq's extrajudicial executions, BRussells Tribunal, Friday 30 June 2006

4) Baghdad gunmen kill third Saddam defense lawyer, By Ibon Villelabeitia and Mussab Al-Khairalla, Reuters, Wed Jun 21

5) Saddam lawyer's murder blamed on interior ministry
By Barbara Bibbo', Gulf News June 22, 2006

6) See "Lynching Saddam – Part 4: the NYT enjoys that bloody show!"

7) Democracy in Iraq, Iraqi Screen, June 25, 2006

8) Baghdad Connect, June 22, 2006

9) Saddam's lawyers threatened, By Ahmed Janabi, Al-Jazeera, Saturday 03 July 2004

10) Iraq tries to convince Saddam judge to stay. Amin tenders resignation amid claims of government interference, REUTERS, Jan. 15, 2006

11) Iraqi Shi'ite cleric calls U.S. , Britain and Israel a 'Triad of Evil', By The Associated Press, 11/03/2006

12) Iraq between genocide and coincidences, By Gabriele Zamparini, The Cat’s Blog, June 26, 2006

13) A Certain Peace Amidst a Campaign of Death, by Karen Button, uruknet, May 4, 2006

14) "Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Sunday, 2 July 2006" [Translated and/or compiled by Muhammad Abu Nasr, member, editorial board, the Free Arab Voice. http://www.freearabvoice.org]

15) Reconciliation, Iraqi Screen, June 26, 2006


*************

(*) Paola Pisi, editor of www.uruknet.info - Gabriele Zamparini, writer, filmmaker and activist at www.thecatsdream.com

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