[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Oct 6 23:04:50 CDT 2008
Secrets of Iraq's death chamber----Prisoners are being summarily executed
in the government's high-security detention centre in Baghdad.
Like all wars, the dark, untold stories of the Iraqi conflict drain from
its shattered landscape like the filthy waters of the Tigris. And still
the revelations come.
The Independent has learnt that secret executions are being carried out in
the prisons run by Nouri al-Maliki's "democratic" government.
The hangings are carried out regularly from a wooden gallows in a small,
cramped cell in Saddam Hussein's old intelligence headquarters at
Kazimiyah. There is no public record of these killings in what is now
called Baghdad's "high-security detention facility" but most of the
victims there have been hundreds since America introduced "democracy" to
Iraq are said to be insurgents, given the same summary justice they mete
out to their own captives.
The secrets of Iraq's death chambers lie mostly hidden from foreign eyes
but a few brave Western souls have come forward to tell of this prison
horror. The accounts provide only a glimpse into the Iraqi story, at times
tantalisingly cut short, at others gloomily predictable. Those who tell it
are as depressed as they are filled with hopelessness.
"Most of the executions are of supposed insurgents of one kind or
another," a Westerner who has seen the execution chamber at Kazimiyah told
me. "But hanging isn't easy." As always, the devil is in the detail.
"There's a cell with a bar below the ceiling with a rope over it and a
bench on which the victim stands with his hands tied," a former British
official, told me last week. "I've been in the cell, though it was always
empty. But not long before I visited, they'd taken this guy there to hang
him. They made him stand on the bench, put the rope round his neck and
pushed him off. But he jumped on to the floor. He could stand up. So they
shortened the length of the rope and got him back on the bench and pushed
him off again. It didn't work."
There's nothing new in savage executions in the Middle East in the
Lebanese city of Sidon 10 years ago, a policeman had to hang on to the
legs of a condemned man to throttle him after he failed to die on the
noose but in Baghdad, cruel death seems a speciality.
"They started digging into the floor beneath the bench so that the guy
would drop far enough to snap his neck," the official said. "They dug up
the tiles and the cement underneath. But that didn't work. He could still
stand up when they pushed him off the bench. So they just took him to a
corner of the cell and shot him in the head."
The condemned prisoners in Kazimiyah, a Shia district of Baghdad, are said
to include rapists and murderers as well as insurgents. One prisoner, a
Chechen, managed to escape from the jail with another man after a gun was
smuggled to them. They shot 2 guards dead. The authorities had to call in
the Americans to help them recapture the 2. The Americans killed one and
shot the Chechen in the leg. He refused medical assistance so his wound
went gangrenous. In the end, the Iraqis had to operate and took all the
bones out of his leg. By the time he met one Western visitor to the
prison, "he was walking around on crutches with his boneless right leg
slung over his shoulder".
In many cases, it seems, the Iraqis neither keep nor release any record of
the true names of their captives or of the hanged prisoners. For years the
Americans in charge of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad
did not know the identity of their prisoners. Here, for example, is new
testimony given to The Independent by a former Western official to the
Anglo-US Iraq Survey Group, which searched for the infamous but mythical
weapons of mass destruction: "We would go to the interrogation rooms at
Abu Ghraib and ask for a particular prisoner. After about 40 minutes, the
Americans brought in this hooded guy, shuffling along, shackled hands and
"They sat him on a chair in front of us and took off his hood. He had a
big beard. We asked where he received his education. He repeatedly said
'Mosul'. Then he said he'd left school at 14 remember, this guy is
supposed to be a missile scientist. We said: 'We know you've got a PhD and
went to the Sorbonne we'd like you to help us with information about
Saddam's missile project'. But I said to myself : 'This guy doesn't know
anything 'bout fucking missiles.' Then it turned out he had a different
name from the man we'd asked for, he'd been picked up on the road by the
Americans four months earlier, he didn't know why. So we said to the
Americans: 'Wrong gentleman!' So they put the shackles on him and took him
back to his cell and after 20 or 30 minutes, they'd bring someone else.
We'd ask him where he went to school and he told us he had never been to
"Wrong person again. It was a complete farce. The incompetence of the US
military was astounding, criminal. Eventually, of course, they found the
right guy and brought him in and took his hood off. He was breathing
heavily, overweight, pudgy, disoriented, a little bit scared."
On this occasion, the Americans had found the right man. The British and
American investigators asked the guards to remove the man's shackles,
which they did but then they tied one of the man's legs to the floor.
Yes, he had a PhD.
Again, the official's testimony: "We went through his history, what he'd
worked on he was obviously just a minor functionary in one of Saddam's
missile programmes. Iraqi scientists didn't have the knowledge how to make
nuclear missiles nor did they have the financial support necessary. It
just remained in the dreams of Saddam."
The scientist-prisoner in Abu Ghraib miserably told his captors that he'd
been arrested by the Americans after they'd knocked on his front door in
Baghdad and found two Kalashnikov rifles a woman's hijab, verses from the
Koran and, obviously of interest to his captors, "physics and missile
textbooks on his bookshelves." But this supposedly valuable prisoner was
never charged or previously interviewed even though he admitted he was a
"I don't know what happened to him," the former official told me. "I tried
to tell the UK and the US military that we've arrested this man but that
he's got a wife, children, a family. I said that by locking up this one
innocent person, you've got 50 men radicalised overnight. No, I don't know
what happened to him."
For many of the investigators working for the Anglo-American authorities
in Baghdad, the trial for the crime for which the Iraqi dictator was
himself subsequently hanged was a fearful experience that ultimately ended
in disgust. Through captured documents, they could see the dark, inner
workings of Saddam's secret police. The idea of the Saddam trial was less
to bring members of the former regime to justice than to show Iraqis how
justice and the rule of law should operate.
"It was exhilarating to see Saddam being cross-examined," one of the court
investigators said. "The low point was when he was executed. What drove me
on was seeing how Saddam dealt with his victims I was looking at a
microcosm of all the deaths that had taken place in Iraq. But when he was
executed, it was done in such a savage way."
Saddam Hussein was hanged in the same "secure" unit at Kazimiyah where Mr
al-Maliki's people, in an echo of Saddamite Baathist terror, now hang
Iraq The death penalty
*The death penalty in Iraq was suspended after Saddam Hussein was deposed
in 2003. It was reinstated by the interim government in August 2004.
*The United Nations, the European Union and international human rights
organisations all spoke out against the reintroduction.
*At the time, the government claimed the death penalty was a necessary
measure until the country had stabilised. Amnesty International claims
that "the extent of violence in Iraq has increased rather than diminished,
clearly indicating that the death penalty has not proved to be an
*Saddam, left, his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and Iraq's former chief
judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar were hanged at the end of 2006 for their part
in the killings of 148 people in the mainly Shia town of Dujail in 1982.
Illicit videos of all 3 executions later became public. Saddam's body
could be seen on a hospital trolley, his head twisted at 90 degrees.
Barzan Iraq's former intelligence chief was decapitated by the noose.
Officials said it was an accident.
*According to Amnesty, there were at least 33 executions reported in Iraq
last year. About 200 people were estimated to have been sentenced to
(source: The Independent)
Moral stance on executions under threat
CONFIDENTIAL government documents show Australia has devalued its moral
authority to oppose capital punishment in South-East Asia through its
willingness to assist in death penalty cases, say civil liberties
This erosion of principled opposition to capital punishment has severely
damaged the Government's ability to lobby for relief for the three "Bali
9" Australians on death row in Indonesia, Pauline Wright, vice-president
of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said.
The documents, obtained under a freedom-of-information request, show how
Australia's long-standing opposition to capital punishment has been
undermined by a series of decisions since 1998, and how the process
speeded up dramatically after the 2002 Bali bombings.
Last week the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, confirmed the Howard
government's earlier position that the Government would not oppose the
death penalty for the Bali bombers.
"It jeopardises us severely," Ms Wright said of the Government's attitude
to the Bali bombers' death sentence. "That's the problem. It puts us on
the moral back foot. We have no real right to say we want clemency in the
case of our citizens but where it involves your citizens doing bad things
to our citizens we are going to help you facilitate the death penalty. You
have to be consistent."
Australia's authorities share information and co-operate with foreign
agencies in 3 ways: police-to-police assistance (informal assistance);
extradition; and mutual legal assistance (providing court evidence).
The Australian Federal Police have discretion to co-operate with foreign
police on a case before death penalty charges are laid and with the
consent of the Attorney-General after capital charges.
After the Bali bombings, the then Indonesian president, Megawati
Soekarnoputri, introduced the death penalty for terrorism. The FoI
documents show how Australia's position slipped as it sought ways to get
around its international obligations to help prosecute the bombers.
The documents show the then attorney-general received internal legal
advice in November 2002 that "from an international law perspective, the
possible imposition of the death penalty for terrorist offence charges
resulting from the joint AFP-Indonesian police investigation will not
directly affect the AFP's involvement in the joint investigation".
By February 2003, a confidential note, cleared by the Attorney-General's
Department, raised concerns about the implications of Australia's
position. If evidence were requested: "Australia must refuse the request
[for evidence] unless you or your delegate are of the opinion that, given
the special circumstances of the case, the request should be granted.
'Special circumstances' has traditionally been interpreted to mean
circumstance where the death penalty will not be carried out or where the
assistance is of an exculpatory nature. An expansion of this concept could
complicate Australia's policy on mutual assistance with other countries."
A later undated document shows the Attorney-General's Department shifting
its boundaries. It discusses the difference between help offered by the
AFP in the Amrozi and Ali Imron trials. "The assistance sought in the Ali
Imron case involves arranging for witness to appear in Indonesia who can
provide evidence going directly to the culpability of the accused for
death penalty offences. These circumstances go beyond the facts you
considered when Indonesia requested assistance in the Amrozi case."
The documents say in the Amrozi trial, the AFP was able to help because
"of the nature of the evidence which could be provided", namely it did not
implicate Amrozi in the bombing but related to the impact of the bombing.
Ms Wright said the Government's position was "at the very least a stretch
regarding our obligations, if not a breach of [them], and marks a
significant shift "
(source: Sydney Morning Herald)
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