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Families Hunt for Iraq's "Lost"

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    Families Hunt for Iraq s Lost David Enders, The Christian Science Monitor Monday 01 May 2006 www.truthout.org/docs_2006/050106C.shtml More than 34,000 Iraqis
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2006
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      Families Hunt for Iraq's "Lost"
      David Enders, The Christian Science Monitor
      Monday 01 May 2006

      More than 34,000 Iraqis have been jailed, but officials often do not
      know where.

      Baghdad - At the small, crowded prisoner-tracking department of the
      Ministry of Human Rights (MOHR), tears often flow freely.

      "He was arrested from his house on December 25," sobs Jameela Abdullah
      Hikmet, who was looking for her brother, Jameel Abdullah Hikmet.

      With thousands of Iraqis kidnapped and arrested over the past three
      years, often in murky circumstances, the MOHR has become one more
      place Iraqis look for missing relatives. More than 34,000 Iraqis,
      according to MOHR figures, are held at one of the dozens of prisons
      across the country run by either the US military or the Iraqi
      Ministries of Interior, Defense, and Justice.

      The system has become more organized in recent months, but prisoners
      are still "lost," says one Iraqi official. Ms. Hikmet says she visited
      morgues first, believing initially that her brother had been taken by
      men posing as government officials.

      Hikmet says she then visited dozens of prisons before she was told by
      an official at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) that her brother was
      being held by the Wolf Brigade, one of the ministry's elite police
      units. She was then sent to the MOHR, which tracks prisoners in the US
      military and Iraqi detention systems centrally. She has been coming to
      the MOHR for two weeks, but they can still not confirm that it is the
      MOI that is holding her brother.

      Even for prisoners who can be located, families often face confusing
      circumstances and long waits before legal proceedings take place. As
      the US military has tried to turn over more responsibilities to the
      Iraqi government since 2004, some prisoners have been transferred
      multiple times.

      Fayyez Daoud has been in Iraqi or US custody for more than a year
      without charges. His family says that he was mistakenly arrested after
      being injured in crossfire during a tribal dispute in March 2005 near
      his home in Haswa, one of the capital's western suburbs.

      His family says that he was first in the custody of the Iraqi National
      Guard (ING), then the US. Then, they say, he was moved back into Iraqi
      custody after the US military pulled out of their base in Haswa,
      leaving it under the control of the ING. Now he is in a Ministry of
      Defense (MOD) prison, the MOHR says.

      Last month, his family received a letter from Mr. Daoud via MOHR. It
      read, in part: "I have decided to commit suicide, because it is the
      only solution available. These people want us to die in prison of
      broken hearts. If slow death is our destiny, why shouldn't we speed it

      MOHR and US officials both say that they are working to speed up the
      process for trying and releasing detainees. International human rights
      groups have reported that some prisoners have been held as long as two
      years without due process. Daoud's lawyers, who have also represented
      other prisoners, accuse the MOD and MOI of stalling cases.

      Under current Iraqi law, it is illegal for anybody but the Ministry of
      Justice (MOJ) to operate prisons, but the MOJ says it is not receiving
      training or new facilities quickly enough to accommodate the thousands
      of prisoners in various custodies.

      "The Ministry of Interior used to avoid transferring detainees to the
      Ministry of Justice," says Saad Sultan, director of the MOHR's prison
      monitoring department.

      Jumaa Hussein, the general in charge of the MOJ's prisons, says that
      though his department has been operating for more than two years, only
      two new prisons are under construction, and that those can only hold
      1,600 prisoners total.

      "We have asking the ministry to speed it up," Mr. Hussein says. "They
      just hadn't planned for this. If more prisons are not built, maybe
      there will be more human rights violations in the future. The number
      of prisoners is growing."

      Daoud's family suspects he has been tortured while in custody. Mr.
      Sultan says his office visits each of the country's declared prisons
      every seven to 10 days and that they have continued to find instances
      of abuse and torture, especially at the hands of Iraqi police.

      Also hard to track are prisoners kept at brigade level both by the US
      military, which does not officially track prisoners until they are
      held in one of four major theater-level facilities, and by some of the
      MOI forces, which continue to operate their own prisons. Though Sultan
      says some of the MOI's brigade prisons had been shut down in recent
      months, there are at least three still operating.

      Jumaa says the US military is training his men to take over Camp Bucca
      - which presently holds nearly 7,000 prisoners, says the MOJ - in as
      soon as six months. The MOJ took over the existing buildings at Abu
      Ghraib last year, though the US military maintains an outdoor prison

      The US has also recently begun transferring prisoners to Fort Suse, a
      recently opened prison near Sulaymaniyah in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled
      north, in preparation for shutting down US operations at Abu Ghraib

      Families of prisoners and Iraqi human rights groups have complained
      that it is hard for Arab families to visit their relatives in Suse
      because of discrimination against them by Kurdish security forces, and
      Arab Sunnis have complained that the trip to Bucca, near Basra, has
      become dangerous because of the risk of being arrested by Shiite
      security forces while traveling there.

      Sultan says that the moving of prisoners from Abu Ghraib prison, near
      Baghdad, to locations in the south and the north, was a direct result
      of the impossibility of keeping prisoners safe in restive central
      Iraq. At least 35 prisoners have been killed by insurgent mortar
      strikes at Abu Ghraib since 2003 and dozens more injured.

      "What should we do? Build each person a prison next to his house?"
      asks Sultan.


      "Where is my son? Where is my son?"
      Truth About Iraqis
      May 1, 2006

      ​​​​Look at this picture. [See website] Now look at the grimace on the
      woman's face. The pieces of paper she is holding read: "Where is my
      son, O Government? Where is my son?"

      The woman is looking for her son, one of tens of thousands detained by
      Iraq's new security forces and "lost" in the system.

      The three groups who researched what they called "widespread" torture
      and detainee abuse by US personnel said many abuses were never
      investigated, or inquiries were often concluded or stalled without
      further action.

      This is not the first time we have heard of "disappearances". In fact,
      Iraqi mothers, sisters, and fathers have complained of their
      disappeared sons, brothers, fathers, and uncles.

      The Sunday Times of London cites witnesses who said on Aug. 8, 40
      police and Interior Ministry vehicles lined a street in the Iskan
      neighborhood and escorted masked members of a controversial militia as
      they rounded up 22 men. The 22 were found later in the desert more
      than 70 miles from home, blindfolded, bound and dead from one or two

      But the world tells them to shut up. And one misguided professor tells
      them they would be safer if their country was divided into five
      sectors. Prof, tell that to this distraught woman, if you please.

      The top United Nations envoy in Iraq today voiced serious concern over
      the human rights situation in the war-torn country, including
      allegations of extra-judicial executions, consistent reports of
      excessive use of force and mass detentions of people without warrants,
      and the displacement of populations in security operations...

      Freedom. Democracy. Liberty. Pluralism. Federalism. Community of
      nations. International law. Geneva conventions. Waste of paper ...

      And I still hear from some pitiful souls who say "hey, it happened
      under Saddam, so it's okay if it happens now".

      Gianni Magazzeni said that of the 15,000 people held under Iraqi
      control, little more than half were under the jurisdiction of the
      justice ministry.This is the only body with the right to detain
      suspects for more than 72 hours.But he said thousands were also being
      detained by the interior ministry and hundreds by the defence
      ministry, in clear breach of Iraqi law.

      But this poor woman's words ring louder than any paper written by
      lawyers, think tanks, and political pundits.



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