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Cablegate: Dart Report On Documentation Loss in Southern Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 KUWAIT 002638

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
DOHA FOR MSHIRLEY
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: DART REPORT ON DOCUMENTATION LOSS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. The pervasive looting that occurred throughout Iraq in
the wake of the conflict created several challenges for
future humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts.
One of those challenges affecting many sectors was the loss
of official documentation for identification and operational
purposes. From hospitals to courthouses, the loss of
important documents continues to complicate recovery
efforts. In the wake of the conflict, the successful
protection of important documents by dedicated civil
servants and Coalition forces varied considerably by sector
and by governorate. This variation exists for documents in
all government sectors throughout southern Iraq. The
information contained in the ration card system of the PDS
could be a valuable resource to fill gaps in official
documentation as it is rebuilt. Vulnerable groups that may
have lost their ration cards or other documents will need
special assistance in obtaining documentation necessary to
access much needed humanitarian assistance and basic
services. End Summary.

-----------------------
OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS LOST
-----------------------

2. In the wake of the conflict and the looting that
followed, a significant portion of official documents housed
in government buildings were destroyed. This included
documents from municipal or governorate offices, passport
offices, hospitals, food ration centers, schools, police
stations, prisons, and courthouses throughout southern Iraq.
There was variation across sectors and governorates in the
extent of document loss. The case of courthouses
illustrates the variation. In An Nasiriyah, nearly all
legal documents from the courthouse were burned. In other
towns like Al Kut, staff protected the documents at the
courthouse by patrolling the grounds themselves during the
looting. Other staff of courthouses such as in Al Amarah,
took documents, including property ownership files, home to
protect them.

3. As security improves and government buildings are
rehabilitated, civil servants in many sectors are bringing
computers and documents back to work. While this will begin
to rebuild databases, the gaps from destroyed documents will
remain. This will create serious obstacles to the new civil
administration in such things as identifying citizens and
building an accurate census base.

4. In Basrah, looters destroyed many identification
documents at the civil courthouse. Some documents, however,
were identified and prioritized for protection by the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Coalition
forces. IOM realized the importance of protecting the
remaining civilian identification files in Basrah because
the files were critical to identifying and protecting
internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. With the
support of the DART, IOM is implementing a project to help
local staff of the civil courthouse to collect and organize
the remaining identification documents for Basrah
Governorate. Since there will undoubtedly be gaps in this
database, other sources of information on the population of
Iraq and their needs and vulnerability are needed.

--------------------------------------------
DOCUMENTATION FOR THE PDS RATION CARD SYSTEM
--------------------------------------------

5. With the help of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and
the U.S. Government, the public distribution system (PDS)
for food and other rations is restarting across Iraq. This
massive distribution system has been meeting the food needs
of Iraqis and is implemented and monitored through careful
record keeping on the numbers of individuals throughout the
country. In Basrah, the ration Ration Registration centers
(RRCs), Ministry of Trade (MOT) offices, and warehouses were
looted and many paper documents burned. However, committed
staff took computers and the detailed ration card database
home for protection. Once this data is back in use, it can
serve as an important resource for reassembling census and
other information on the population of Iraq. Some form of
liaison between civil courts and the managers of the ration
card systemPDS database could facilitate appropriate
coverage of the population needing identity documents
reissued.

6. Since their access to food and other important
commodities such as pharmaceuticals was based on their
ration cards, Iraqis usually guarded these cards closely and
kept them up-to-date. Families were quick to report new
births and careful to register changes in their place of
residence to ensure receipt of a proper ration. Since the
conflict began, the staff at 34 ration centersRRCs in Basrah
Governorate has been proactively registering returnees
(including 10 newly returned prisoners of war from the Iran-
Iraq conflict, and ten families returning from Kirkuk), and
"exceptional" cases (ex-prisoners, draft dodgers, and
political dissidents). Three hundred new infants have also
been registered. They have also registered new families
arriving to the area.

7. The protection of ration cards by individual families
along with the well-designed and managed record
systemdatabase makes the ration card databaseit one of the
most accurate and up-to-date forms of documentation on the
population of Iraq. Even before the conflict, ration cards
were often used by Iraqis for identification purposes when
applying for a passport or other special papers or
allowances from the government.

8. According to the Director of the Main Distribution
Center for Basrah Governorate, his database is safe and
complete. The hardcopy ration cards held by individual
families list the name of the head of household, the number
of family members in the household, and the date of birth of
any children under one year of age. It also lists the house
number, neighborhood, village, and district as well as the
name and reference number of the distribution food/flour
agent. A neighborhood leader must certify that each family
lives in his area and new cards were issued every November
for the entire next calendar year. The last cards were
issued in November 2002.

9. Further details on each family are recorded on the
computer database for the ration systemPDS. The database
contains the name, gender, date of birth, and civil
identification number of each family member. The computer
database also contains a record of movements of families
from town to town or governorate to governorate. The ration
card database also contains information about people
arrested by the former regime. Before the conflict, the MOT
would inform the ration centerRRC to temporarily delete an
individual sent to prison from a family's ration card. The
ration center would then write a note for the food agent to
withhold the ration for that individual.

-------------------------------------------
VULNERABLE POPULATIONS WITHOUT RATION CARDS
-------------------------------------------

10. Under the old system, when a family moved they had to
request written proof from their old previous RRC ration
center that they had been deleted from that center's list
before being able to register in the town or neighborhood of
new residence. They then had to take that certificate to
the ration centerRRC at their new residence before receiving
rations. The transfer of registration used to take about
one month to process under the old system. The disruption
caused by the conflict is already highlighting problems with
this system for IDPs who have recently moved. Arabs
returning from the North to Basrah will have problems
getting written proof of their removal from the PDS in the
North before returning to the South. Several such families
had turned up at the main ration centerRRC in Basrah by late
May and were denied new ration cards due to lack of proper
paperwork. In June, with the assistance of WFP and support
of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Lower South, it
was decided that those without ration cards, or registered
in a governorate to which they would not return, would be
provisionally registered in the governorate of their current
residence and receive a PDS ration in June. Provisional
registration has begun in An Nasiriyah, Basrah, and Maysan.
WFP is also working with the MOT in Samawah to begin the
process there.

11. Other families to be enrolled provisionally in June
turned away from the ration center in Basrah include those
returning from Iran who have very old identification cards
from the early 1990s. Many do not even have these.Three to
four such families were turned away by the ration center
staff in Basrah and told to get proper identification before
they can be registered for the PDS. Provisional
registration of families lacking up-to-date identity,
citizenship, and marriage documentation is only a temporary
"fix', and the issue of assisting families acquire
appropriate documentation is one yet to be addressed. The
importance of addressing this issue is seen in Al Kut, where
, around the same time,Coalition Civil Affairs personnel
have received complaintswerereceiving complaints from IDP
families that the Director of Education would not let their
children register for school due to lack of proper
documentation.

12. In addition to IDP families that may lack the proper
paperwork needed to register for their food ration, non-
governmental organizations and WFP are also identifying many
families that had their ration cards taken away by the
former regime. Marsh Arabs or families of opponents of the
former regime were reportedly punished by having their
ration cards revoked. Estimates on the number of such
families vary widely from 20 percent of the population in
places like Al Amarah to only a handful of people in other
towns. These individuals and families will also be enrolled,
or reinstated into the PDS in June.

----------
CONCLUSION
----------

13. The loss of documents in southern Iraq may pose special
challenges to the CPA's ability to provide basic services
and humanitarian assistance to the population. As
assessments continue to determine who has what, the
rebuilding of data on the population of Iraq and their needs
will resemble assembling a complicated jigsaw puzzle.
Efforts are already ongoing to address this problem in each
sector, often as a component of individual humanitarian
assistance programs. However, more targeted support to
projects that are specifically addressing this crosscutting
issue of documentation recovery and protection are needed.

JONES

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