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Iraq's extrajudicial executions: Probing for the truth

Max Fuller calls for independent criminal inquiries into Iraq’s extrajudicial executions, 30 June 2006

Probing for the truth

(Friday 30 June 2006) 

MAX FULLER calls for independent criminal inquiries into Iraq’s extrajudicial executions.  

In November 2005, the lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi, who has been representing Saddam Hussein and his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim in court, stated, in relation to the recent murder of his colleague Adel Muhammad al-Zubeidi: “If there were a serious investigation into the previous murder of Janabi (a defence lawyer murdered just a month beforehand) and the perpetrators had been arrested, we would not see today’s crime.  

“We demand a thorough investigation and severe punishment for the criminals behind today’s terrorist crime against lawyers who were only doing their job.” 

The truth of Mr Obeidi’s assertion applied not only to the killing of Adel al-Zubeidi but, prophetically, to his own assassination at the hands of gunmen last week. 

If investigators had followed the trail related to the killing of Sadoun Nasouaf al-Janabi in October, they would have been able to establish not only that Mr Janabi was seized by gunmen from his office, as the BBC and others reported, but that, according to Sheik Hemeid Faraj al-Janabi speaking to Al Hayat, those gunmen arrived bearing Interior Ministry identification and that they transported Mr Janabi to a detention facility in the Jadiriyah district of Baghdad.  

Not only would this have led investigators to discover the underground bunker and torture chamber – where Mr Janabi was almost certainly killed – a month before US troops stumbled across it but it would have enabled them to follow a murky chain of connections and command structures that would have taken them to the intelligence office of the operations directorate at the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), from where the raids launched by paramilitary police commandos and their ilk are orchestrated.  

Of course, at the time, these offices were under the direction of the notorious Badr commander then serving as interior minister, Bayan Jabr, linked to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. 

But, if the investigators had just gone a little further, they would have discovered the Multi-National Force-Iraq cell within the MOI national command centre and they might even have noticed that, as the New York Times said, “Uniformed American officers and other Americans in plain clothes are an obtrusive presence in the Adnan Palace, where most top Interior Ministry officials, including Mr Jabr, now work.”  

If anyone bothers to investigate the death of Mr Obeidi, they will uncover much the same chain of intellectual authorship, with MOI 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.  

What those investigators would undoubtedly have to consider is that the only parties to directly benefit from the killings and intimidation of Saddam’s legal team are Iraq’s occupiers, for whom a conviction would be one of the tiny shreds of justification remaining for an invasion that constitutes an example of what the United Nations defined as the most terrible of all possible crimes – the crime of war itself.  

The truth is that it is not Saddam who is on trial but nearly 40 years of Iraq’s history, with the failings and achievements of a state that set itself irreconcilably against Western imperialism with the nationalisation of its own oil resources in 1972 reduced to wranglings over the authenticity of purported signatures relating to an attempted coup d’état 10 years later. 

But it doesn’t matter what you think about Iraq under the Ba’ath. The words of Mr Obeidi ring as true for the whole of Iraqi society today, under occupation, as they do for the assassinations of Saddam’s lawyers.  

Former UN human rights chief in Iraq John Pace told us that, of the thousand or so targeted killings which take place each month in Baghdad alone, the majority of them are directly linked to the MOI. 

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 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. 



Further reading: Lynching Saddam, Gabriele Zamparini

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