Last November, a war crimes tribunal established in Malaysia “found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of ‘crimes against peace’ and other war crimes for their 2003 aggressive attack on Iraq, as well as fabricating pretexts used to justify the attack,” as Glenn Greenwald explained at the time. The seven-member Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, established in 2007 by Mahathir bin Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, “has no formal enforcement power,” as Greenwald also explained, “but was modeled after a 1967 tribunal in Sweden and Denmark that found the US guilty of a war of aggression in Vietnam, and, even more so, after the US-led Nuremberg Tribunal held after World War II.”
The tribunal “ruled that Bush and Blair’s name should be entered in a register of war criminals, urged that they be recognized as such under the Rome Statute, and also petitioned the International Criminal Court “to proceed with binding charges.” Though symbolic, the purpose was hugely important, as a Malaysian lawyer explained at the time, saying, “For these people who have been immune from prosecution, we want to put them on trial in this forum to prove that they committed war crimes.” In other words, as Greenwald stated, “because their own nations refuse to hold them accountable and can use their power to prevent international bodies from doing so, the tribunal wanted at least formal legal recognition of these war crimes to be recorded and the evidence of their guilt assembled.”
Greenwald also noted, “That’s the same reason a separate panel of this tribunal will hold hearings later this year on charges of torture” against senior US officials, and last week this second tribunal convened, hearing from three witnesses — former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, and Abbas Abid and Jameela Abbas, both victims of US torture in Iraq, as well as receiving written submissions from other victims.
On Friday the tribunal duly found George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William J. Haynes II, Jay S. Bybee and John Yoo guilty of the crime of torture, noting, as the Malaysian Insider described it, that “they had wilfully participated in the formulation of executive orders and directives to exclude the applicability of international conventions and laws” — namely the UN Convention against Torture (1984), the Geneva Conventions (1949), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter — “in relation to the war launched by the US and others in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in March 2003,” and also that, “Additionally, and/or on the basis and in furtherance thereof, the accused authorised, connived in, the commission of acts of torture and cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment against victims in violation of international law, treaties and aforesaid conventions.”
The ruling, like that in November, is not enforceable legally, but, as Yvonne Ridley explained in an article after it was announced, “Transcripts of the charges, witness statements and other relevant material will be sent to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as to the United Nations and the UN Security Council,” and it will, of course, add to the tarnished legacy that these men wish to avoid.
Ridley also explained that Mahathir bin Mohamad said, after the verdict was announced, “Powerful countries are getting away with murder,” and Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law in America, who was part of the prosecution team, said he “was hopeful that Bush and co. could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world,” as Ridley put it. “We tried three times to get Bush in Canada but were thwarted by the Canadian Government, then we scared Bush out of going to Switzerland,” he said. “The Spanish attempt failed because of the government there and the same happened in Germany.” In fact, two cases are still ongoing in Spain, although it is certainly true that the Bush administration pressurised Germany to shut down an investigation, and President Obama did the same with Spain.
Responding to a question about the credibility of the Commission in Malaysia, Boyle “referenced the Nuremberg Charter which was used as the format for the tribunal,” and explained, “Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit war crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any person in execution of such a plan.” He added that the US “is subject to customary international law and to the Principles of the Nuremberg Charter,” and also stated that the trial “was ‘almost certainly’ being monitored closely by both Pentagon and White House officials.”
In addition, Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, who headed the prosecution, said, “The tribunal was very careful to adhere scrupulously to the regulations drawn up by the Nuremberg courts and the International Criminal Court,” and added that he “was optimistic the tribunal would be followed up elsewhere in the world where ‘countries have a duty to try war criminals,’” citing “the case of the former Chilean dictator Augustine Pinochet who was arrested in Britain to be extradited to Spain on charges of war crimes.”
In order to make sure that people have access to further important information that was revealed in the trial, I’m cross-posting below edited versions of two articles from the deLiberation website about the witnesses’ testimony on the first two days, as written by the journalist Lauren Booth, and originally published here and here.
I take coffee with three Iraqi university students. They want to know why Palestine “whose dead number in the thousands” is the cause of such global outrage as opposed to Iraq, “where millions are dead and millions displaced.” Their genocide is being ignored, there is no doubt. A man with a beard shakes with emotion as he talks of the murder of thousands of scholars nationwide in Iraq. Another tells me that children for decades have struggled to even have pencils in schools because of the blockade and the subsequent occupation.
Testimony of Abbas Abid, former prisoner in Iraq
The tribunal’s first witness is Abbas Abid. The defence council seeks permission for the witness to appear covered in court and for his image not to appear. We are told this is because he fears the risk of further reprisals and danger back in Iraq. He appears with a Palestinian kaffiyeh wrapped about his face revealing only his eyes.
The witness is a 48-year old man, married from Fallujah with five children born before his arrest. He was the former chief engineer at the Science and Technology Ministry in Baghdad.
First detained on August 28, 2005, he was removed violently from his house and afterwards transferred to a nearby base where he was detained for four weeks in the then-secret prison known as Al-Jadriya. In Baghdad there were five shelters against nuclear attack. One of these was changed into the secret prison named above.
The Iraqi National Guard and US troops launched a raid on his uncle’s home with four American Humvees and 12 trucks of Iraqi soldiers. More than 15 Iraqi soldiers stormed the house in a “terrifying manner,” smashing down doors and using sound bombs. They screamed and terrorised those inside the home — his brother’s family. His nephews came to his family’s home crying for help. His brother was absent at the time so he was called to help them. He said he was ready to answer any questions and was entirely cooperative. They said, “Why so many Holy books — there are too many holy books! I told them, everyone in the family has their own Quran.” The soldiers examined some articles from the internet on the situation in Iraq. He was told to follow them for questioning. He was taken to the Al-Muthanna Brigade headquarters for questioning. They beat him up demanding to know the names of “terrorists” in his neighborhood.
“They even electrocuted me,” he said. He was cuffed with his hands behind him. A cord with a positive and negative charge was attached to his hands and then attached to a power supply. He stood up to show us his hands behind him. The wire cable had a current in it immediately and he felt the shocks straight away. The place he was in was “new” and not a “professional place for torturing” so they had amateur tools which they used at this time.
“What was the effect of the electrocution?” he was asked. “I would turn into a dancer,” he said to nervous laughter around the court. “You cannot react and your senses stop and you just shake, dancing.” This was done more than three times and he was then threatened with being shot. The US soldiers would use an AK-47 and reload it with his eyes covered, then shoot near his ears saying the next shot would be to his head if he didn’t cooperate. He knew it was an AK-47 as it is a popular gun in Iraq.
He saw Americans in uniform. The eye cover had a small space at the bottom and he could tell from the lower attire of the US military uniform. Plus their voices and accents were American. After the torture was finished he would see that the soldiers involved were indeed American. They tortured some of his cousins to get testimony against him. With seven other detainees he was moved to Al-Jadriya. He was again tortured using a wide range of methods:
During the investigation period he was not given food and only drink with diuretics as above. They also pulled out his finger nails -– the audience gasped at this point — using pliers. More gasps. He was hung with his hands behind his back until his shoulders dislocated. Detainees were forced to have sex with each other. Solid objects were forced into the rectum of detainees. There was forced standing for hours. He was beaten on every part of his body — his genitals were assaulted. Detainees were used as “ash trays” by the torturers.
In a 6×6′ room he was with 30 detainees for three days. This room was a temporary room after torture, where detainees were brought in unconscious. Piles of bodies would lay there. He was wakened from time to time and would then faint again.
A bag was put over his head for two months and only removed when food was given. Some detainees would have a bag on their head for more than five months. All the time in the prison detainees had bags on their heads from the minute they arrived to the moment they left.
The room he was kept in was so overcrowded no one could sleep lying down and all had injuries. He said, “Everyone had to urinate in plastic bottles by the door. Visits to the toilet were permitted only once every four days. This was timed at one minute per person. At all other times we had to discharge our waste into plastic bags by the door. These would be trodden on or tip over and spill waste all over the floor. The bags were only emptied every four days.”
No medical care was available at all and men died from their injuries. He listed the names of almost a dozen men who died from their injuries in the eight weeks he was there.
Water was withheld. A liter per detainee every three days was the ration. Sometimes the detainees’ thirst would become so bad that they would drink from the urine bottles. He confirms that US troops not only knew about the torture facilities but that they visited them all the time.
On release he was charged ten thousand US dollars by the authorities. He was released with three other detainees. On release two cars followed him — one a BMW with darkened windows. He evaded them. He later found out that the other two released at the same time were killed and their families forced to pay huge amounts of money in order to reclaim the bodies.
He stayed just one hour in his house with his family before moving to another house and then leaving his country. He is now back in Fallujah.
He said, “My suffering was a test from Allah which I endured with patience. I am now unable to have children. I have nightmares all the time … Terrible dreams of someone coming to catch me, torture me or hurt my family. My family have similar nightmares of soldiers coming to torture me.”
When he married he wished to have 15 children. And according to the plan, his wife would conceive every two years — that is, until the time he was detained. He was happy to be released and he was overwhelmed by the joy of his loved ones but the worst thing, that happened — the thing that took all his joy since — is the fact that he left his wife pregnant at the time of his capture, but, as a result of the trauma of his capture, she miscarried twins. After going back to his life he realized his dream of a large family was shattered. He cannot have further children due to his injuries. He gave this testimony to the world so that those who act cruelly must be brought to justice. [...]
Testimony of Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo Bay detainee
Moazzam Begg, the director of the human rights organisation Cageprisoners, and a 41-year old British citizen, said that he “wants to put on record his torture in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.”
In 2001, he went to build a school for girls in Afghanistan. When the region became dangerous due to the American invasion, he was evacuated, with his family, to Islamabad, Pakistan. On January 31, 2002, he was arrested in this house. He was questioned about his presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was held for three weeks then handed over to the Americans. The minute he was handed over he was shackled and thrown to the ground. He was reverse shackled and carried into a plane. He was punched and kicked throughout the journey, and a knife was put to his throat. Photos were taken of him in his hood.
On arrival he was punched and kicked. Cold steel ripped off his clothes. Photos were taken of him without clothes. Dogs were brought in and he was racially and religiously mocked and abused.
He was flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan where he was asked when was the last time he saw Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden. He was taken to a tent. On the way to interrogations barking dogs were brought to “bark in my face.” Once, he said, “I was asked to write my entire life story and then the entire thing was torn up.”
He was moved to Bagram. No one held there was allowed to walk, talk or move. He used to see the taxi driver Dilawar from his cell. The man was shackled to the sides of his cell. He saw him slumped at one time and instead of the soldiers administering medical aid they came in and kicked and punched him. He later found out that the man had died. The award-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side” focuses on this murder of an Afghani civilian detainee held by the US troops.
Moazzam was threatened with being sent to Egypt on several occasions. In Egypt, he learnt later, a man named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, captured in Afghanistan, was waterboarded and then gave false testimony that al-Qaeda had worked with Saddam Hussein on securing chemical and biological weapons. This testimony was then used to make the case for war by Colin Powell and others.
An American soldier told him he could be sent to Egypt or Syria. This, Begg said, proves “an intelligence link between the US and Syrian leaderships.”
“Did British intelligence play a part?” he was asked. “Yes,” he said, “an immense role. I was intensely interrogated for a month in solitary confinement by the CIA, FBI, US military intelligence and also by British intelligence. For the first time the British police are examining the British government for complicity in torture … inquiries have been ordered by the British Prime Minister into cases of torture.” [although the latter inquiry -- into British complicity in torture abroad after 9/11 -- has essentially been called off after NGOs boycotted it].
During his incarceration Moazzam Begg wrote letters via the Red Cross to his wife and never got replies. At one point photos were brought in of his wife and children. A woman was heard screaming terribly nearby and profanities were being yelled at her. He believed his wife was being tortured as a result of this. It was a ruse.
Speaking about conditions in Bagram, he said there was no tea, no fruit and no fresh food. Each cell was communal with ten prisoners with a bucket for a toilet. The stench was disgusting. Showers were communal and humiliating. Women prisoners were present during the showers and “trophy” photos were taken. He was shackled in a “three-piece suit” — shackles connecting the arms and legs to the neck and waist.
On the flight to Guantánamo Bay, with ear muffs over his ears and goggles on his eyes, which were so tight as to be agony, he begged for a sedative and was given one. He arrived in Guantánamo Bay groggy as a result.
He spent 20 months in Guantánamo Bay. He was designated a “high-risk detainee.” A document — a confession — was produced for him to sign. He was warned that failure to sign could lead to execution, or he would spend decades in Gitmo. He was in a state of constant anxiety. He continued, “The female psychiatrist I was sent to told me a way to commit suicide using my trousers.” Drugs were given to aid sleep after which he would suffer hallucinations.
“I never knew what my crime was to this day,” he said, adding, “The absence of due process became worse than the actual detention. I never imagined the United States to be a country that would behave in this manner.” When he heard US accents after being held by the Pakistanis at first he felt relief — “at last the good guys are here. That quickly changed.”
His testimony continued, “Nine people have died in Guantánamo,” he said [actually eight]. “Children are in Guantánamo who have grown into adults there. The US — Bush and his cohorts — have not accepted responsibility for anything … it was said of us that we were the ‘worst of the worst’ if so, then why have some 600 of us been released? There is no rule of law in the US. We still carry the stigma of being Guantánamo Bay inmates to this day … until someone is charged and prosecuted for this it is very hard to remove this from over our heads.”
The court was told that “Guantánamo is the tip of the iceberg. You can go through secret prisons that make Guantánamo look relatively tame.”
Under examination Moazzam Begg described having some conversations and relationships with US soldiers at Gitmo, and was asked, would he visit the US now?
He was invited recently, he said. He was asked to visit the family of a 14-year old boy who is now 24 and remains in Gitmo [Omar Khadr, actually 15 years old when seized, and now 25 -- a Canadian citizen]. When the boy arrived at Gitmo he had a bullet wound. Moazzam knew him. However, when he arrived in Canada to meet the boy’s family, he was taken off the plane by police for being a “former Guantánamo Bay inmate.”
The defence asked, “Are you a member of al-Qaeda?” Moazzam answered that he has never been a member nor ever will be and that the fact the British government has made an out of court settlement with him should be enough proof of this.
What of the school that Moazzam had gone to Afghanistan to help build? It was “hit by a cruise missile — it was lucky no child was killed.”
The defence asked about Moazzam’s book stall in the UK in the years before his detention. Was it a religious book stall? In 2001 there was a raid on this shop and items were taken away under the UK terrorism act, he said. The items were returned. He believes this was the process that was begun by UK intelligence and allowed the US to keep him imprisoned.
Moazzam said, “I have never been to America but America has been to me … I have never hurt an American but America has hurt me.”
He didn’t meet his son until he was three years old. There are, he said, “ways of asking, processes. What you can’t or shouldn’t do is take people to a place where the law doesn’t apply like Guantánamo Bay. Even iguanas are protected on the base but no one in orange jumpsuits has any rights there.”
He was asked if he was raped in Guantánamo Bay. Uncomfortably, he said, “things were placed where they shouldn’t be.” Asked if he thought the conditions had improved over time, he quoted Malcolm X: “You don’t take a knife and put it in a man’s back nine inches deep — withdraw it two inches and say things are better.”
The US propaganda — outlined so well in [former Guantánamo chaplain] James Yee’s book [For God and Country] — that “some prisoners put on weight” in Gitmo was brought up, as was the laughable sop that religious freedoms were respected. In Gitmo Moazzam did not know when Ramadan was, when Eid was, when the prayer times were at first.
Asked about books and TV, he said, “No TV. There were some books, usually English classics — Charles Dickens.” Under examination, he admitted to reading Harry Potter in Guantánamo Bay. Which ones? The first five. To laughter, and with a slight smile, he said, “These are some of the worst admissions I have had to make.”
He also said, “Am I angry? If anyone wasn’t angry there would be something wrong with them.” Recently he met with part of the Task Force for Detainee Rights. He used his time to talk to them. He has invited Americans who served at Gitmo to his home.
‘These Americans — some of whom kept me from my children — are now in my home playing with them. My thoughts are that I am ready to forgive any American who asks for forgiveness. I am not at liberty to forgive for anyone else who is still suffering at their hands.”
He was asked if he can “understand” the thought process that could have brought someone to close an eye to torture. The fear?
“I have met many people I would consider torturers in my life,” he said. “One was called the King of Torture and the Monster. He was responsible for the interrogation of many prisoners, one of whom said he tried to rape him. In Abu Ghraib he was present at the abuse of females. In 2007 or 2008, I received a call from my lawyers asking whether I would be a character witness to him in the case regarding female prisoners.” He said that Damien Corsetti, the US soldier called the Monster, said to him, “Please forgive me. What I had become in Bagram was as a result of the propaganda I had been fed by my country and my leaders.” Corsetti realized what he had done and suffered a series of nervous breakdowns as a result.
The tribunal took evidence from Jameela Abbas from Iraq, who is 57 years old. The former chief of the corporation of unions in Kirkuk, she is now based in Damascus, Syria. She was held at airport detention centre and then Abu Ghraib, and this is a partial transcript of her testimony to the tribunal.
Testimony of Jameela Abbas, former prisoner in Iraq
January 13, 2004: In the early hours, the US military broke into her house with force in Kirkuk. The Americans rounded up the whole family including her 22-year old daughter, her son, 17, her nephew, 25, a female guest aged 23, and herself. She was accused of providing monetary assistance to the resistance and they wanted the money. They searched the house and found only 150 dinars for family expenses. They tied her hands behind her with wires very tightly. They dragged her by her hair into the garden in the rain. She was in her nightclothes. It was winter. They destroyed everything in the house — all the belongings including all electrical appliances. They searched the family car, found a car battery charger and accused her of using it to make bombs, then sprayed the car with bullets rendering it useless. Her head was covered with a hood. She felt she could not breathe, that she would suffocate.
She was pushed into a Hummer vehicle where she was “kicked like an animal” by the US soldiers. After twenty minutes in the vehicle she was shoved onto the road, then dragged along the paved road onto a cement floor. She was shoeless and in her nightclothes. She was in a hood all this time. When the hood was removed she was in a cement room with a window in the roof. She was asked her name and date of birth by a US soldier and she requested to have her hands untied as she was in pain. This was refused and she was kept with her hands tied standing in a corner of the room. She realised she was in Kirkuk military airport at that time. The hood was returned to her head and she was dragged to another room. The hood was removed and an American in civilian clothes was there along with an Arab man, a translator. She was sat in a chair. She requested her hands again be untied. Then she was told that if she continued to ask for this she would be slapped and thrown on the floor. The American then asked personal questions and asked about her relationship to the Ba’ath party. She was accused again of being a part of the resistance and of funding the resistance.
She told them that she was not, and that nothing was found in her home. The Arab man then slapped her hard across the face. He said, “This is just the beginning if you do not cooperate. You will face worse things than anyone has ever heard about.” She was very concerned for her daughter and her young female guest. She was refused water and the use of the toilet. Three days later, on January 16, the hood was again put on her head and she was dragged into the open air from her cell. It was very windy and the hood flew off and she saw the rest of her family. She became emotional because she felt that all that they were enduring was because of her. Her family tried to comfort her. The Iraqi interpreter was there. She said, “Look on me as if I am your mother. Care about this young female here and please contact her family.”
Then two helicopters came with American soldiers. Her son and nephew went with her in one, and the girls in another. The helicopter’s windows were open, despite the winter cold. She asked for the doors to be closed. The soldiers refused, citing the potential for an attack by the resistance even though, if shots were fired, it would have been her who would have been killed and not them. She said that “they were afraid of the resistance.” They were taken far away. She saw US soldiers who expressed surprise to see her shoeless and in only her nightclothes. She met her daughter and the female guest at the same place. The three were placed in a cell together and their hands untied. She had not been fed for two days nor had she been allowed to use the toilet at all. Her hands were tied again and she was asked more questions. She was taken to a wooden cell 2x2m with no facilities. She was tied again and taken for a full body search by a female soldier. This was at Baghdad airport facility. She had not been fed. She was not allowed to sit. She was dizzy and was asked again and again who were her comrades in the resistance and was accused of being in the resistance. Then one of the interrogators took her to see something she had never seen before. Details were spared for the witness here so she did not have to relive them.
She was taken to a room hung with two pictures of Saddam Hussein. They grabbed her hair, dragged her by the hair and threw her from one wall to the other continuously, many times. She lost consciousness many times. When she regained consciousness she was aware of blaring music. Inside the room was a radio. She was dragged to another cell and dropped. She was exhausted. An American soldier came but she could not stand for long so she leaned or tried to sit. Each time she did so she was hit with a stick. A bag containing food she did not recognize and water was thrown at her. In the night she heard music, dancing and shouting. Then her cell was opened and a large dog was brought in which barked at her and frightened her. After a while the cell door was closed but while it was open she realized the same thing was being done to all the other inmates too.
The second day in that prison, a hood was put on her head, and she was subjected to questioning. She was told again “confess!” If not, they said they would throw her son in prison and rape her daughter. She begged them, saying she did nothing with the resistance and that she would swear on the Quran or the Bible.
Icy water was poured on her and she was forced to crawl from one side of the wall to the other again and again. Then they hit her with a plastic tube with wood inside. When she fell to the floor they kicked her. She began bleeding, from the shoulders, arms and legs. This continued for many hours. She was taken to the cell, told to stand straight and beaten if she leaned. Her bleeding wounds were not tended. The translator came and asked for her to be allowed to rest but was told by the Americans that this was her punishment.
Back in the cell her hands were tied, she was dragged by an Afro-American female soldier and sobbed, “Allah take me.” Somehow her hands became free and she lashed out at the soldier and she was smashed against the wall in anger by her. She was then left without interrogation for two days.
On the third day she was taken again and hooded. When it was removed she saw her daughter. Her hair had been cut short. She was told to confess. Her daughter was a university student — she felt she should not go through this. She became ready to confess to anything just to end the suffering of her daughter.
She added, “I was feeling guilty that I was the reason my daughter was there.” But her daughter said strongly, “Iraq is for us all not just for you.” So she decided not to sign anything the Americans asked her to. She was hooded and then a shot was fired and she was told, “We have killed your daughter.” They told the daughter that she had been killed. At this point she “lost her mind” and began to shout. In this condition she was taken back to her cell. Later in the day she was taken to a hamam and she saw her daughter to her great relief.
Next she was taken to a black room and there was her nephew before her completely naked. She was in only her underwear. They said, “We will beat you until you confess.” Then they beat and kicked them both. Loud sounds were being played. They were beaten with plastic chairs to the degree that part of the plastic chairs they used became imbedded in her feet. This went on for hours. Then they brought a machine and said this would be used to harm her, and that she would have her head chopped by this machine. Her nephew, who was naked, was beaten in his privates. The interpreter later told her her daughter had been released. This was a lie. They had released the female guest, but not her daughter.
She was taken in a helicopter and she asked for medical assistance for the part of the chair embedded in her foot, but this was refused. She was taken back to Kirkuk and taken to a house where she was chained hand and feet.
Next day, after the first real food she took a piece of bread, but the interrogator took it back and asked again about the resistance fighters. She was slapped and her hands re-tied and she was put into a pick-up truck and taken to a large house converted into a prison. There were friends and colleagues inside who recognized her and threw her some food by hurling it into her cell.
After three days she was taken back to Baghdad airport prison. She was told her son and nephew had been released but again this was a lie. She was getting a fever from an infection due to the piece of chair embedded in her feet. The next day surgery was performed — without anaesthetic. The plastic was surgically removed from her foot, which was very painful.
Two days later she was taken to Abu Ghraib by truck. She was given a wristband and a number which was to be her name — 157574. She no longer had a name. A hood was again placed on her head. She was examined by a doctor who said she had serious injuries. The interrogator dismissed this and refused treatment. Back in the cell medicine was given just once and no follow-up medicine. The cell was 2x2m. In front of the cell was a bath where men were tortured with cold showers and threatened with dogs. She was barefoot from the day she was taken and without proper clothing. She was told to cooperate and then she would be released. It was winter and at around 10 pm every night cold water was poured into her cell which made it very cold and damp. This cold irritated her injuries.
Jameela Abbas was in Abu Ghraib for six months and approximately 20 days in Kirkuk and Baghdad airport.
One day, after the conditions in Abu Ghraib were revealed to the world, the press were allowed in. The prisoners shouted and the press were surprised to hear women’s voices, as the US military had said no women were held there. There were around 120 members of the press on that visit. Before that time they had visited the head of the prison and told there were no women or children in the prison. At the same time the women were being beaten elsewhere. “We called it ‘the scream of Abu Ghraib.’ We were about five women there in fact,” Jameela Abbas said.
For alerting the press to their existence in Abu Ghraib the women were denied proper sustenance. Abu Ghraib had a department for complaints called the CID. She lodged a complaint there about ill-treatment and her situation. Unknown to her, her sister had also complained about her detention. Afterwards a US committee visited and she made her statement to them. They acknowledged her as a war victim.
About one month later she was released on June 22, 2004. She produced an exhibit of her release letter from Abu Ghraib and from the ICRC confirming her detention. She was released without charge. She made it clear that her statement was just a small part of the suffering she endured and witnessed.
Her daughter stayed about 35 days, as well as the female guests. The nephew stayed about six months despite having no relation with any resistance at all. What hurt her most was to see the children in Abu Ghraib, some twenty-five of them aged from 5 to 12. “What could they have done?” she asked Some of the children stayed for a year and half. She heard some of them killed themselves. “What you hear and see from the media is just a drop in the ocean to what went on in Abu Ghraib. My cell was in front of the interrogation cell. I never imagined anything like this in my life — not in horror movies,” she said. “They actually have no conscience. They are not human, they have no humanity inside them.” She became emotional and raised her voice.
“All the time in Abu Ghraib I wore the same clothes with no shoes. They were trying to negotiate — get me to confess for food and shoes. I refused because I knew nothing. There was no real interrogation about me as such, just questions generally about Iraq and the people. The accusations were made to everyone the same things — you are against the soldiers, you are resistance.” She implied that there was no intelligence about her, that it was a general round-up of civilians — innocent or not — who cared? “I asked why my name came up to one soldier. She said, ‘We are using you to scare the women of Kirkuk and beyond.’” She added that women of influence were rounded up and tortured to terrorize others.
She also said, “I asked the same soldier if she felt what she was doing was wrong — destroying my house, my family. As a single mother whose husband had died I had responsibility for the home and children.”
Even on her release she was told by a US general, “If you stay in Iraq we will arrest you again.” Later on she heard there was a second letter of arrest issued for her. So she left for Syria. Her friend who was with her in the prison was rearrested and spent another two months there.
To this day Jameela Abbas cannot return to her country, and to this day she endures physical suffering as a result of the beatings she received and the conditions she was kept under by the US army. She cannot move her left leg freely, and it cannot support her. Her left arm is affected and does not work properly. She suffers continual aches in her limbs. She still cannot wear shoes that cover her feet due to the injuries. She must wear only surgical/open shoes. She cannot endure cold or air conditioning. The injuries to her lower back need further treatment which she cannot afford.
Jameela Abbas is just one of thousands, tens of thousands, who have suffered as war victims. She has, she says, seen so much suffering at the hands of the American forces. Women have suffered in Iraq terribly. Many have been raped. The female soldiers that tortured her beat her especially in the neck and the back continuously. They used some tools to do this. It was the same for all prisoners.
The prosecutor Francis Boyle drew attention to the use of Jameela and her family as “human shields” in the Apache helicopter incident. This is illegal under the Geneva Convention. He added that it was “a cowardly despicable act.”
He raised the point too that for two months Mrs. Abbas was not registered with the ICRC. He stated that it was common practise in Iraq not to register civilians with the ICRC, “the better to allow them to be tortured, murdered or disappeared,” also known as “keeping them off the books.”
“This woman was a victim of torture and her treatment was a crime against humanity,” Francis Boyle said, and asked the judges to take this into account.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Holly Berry wrote:
It’s unfortunate that JUSTICE takes some time to prevail, but finally its time is here.
Thanks, Holly. The time for justice has certainly been reached in Malaysia, although it’s disappointing that this ruling received almost no coverage in the Western media, and certainly no coverage at all in the major US print media or on any of the major networks. But the pressure is building …
Holly Berry wrote:
The US media is dictated to “dummy us up”. These issues are important. Education & following up on these issues is vital so that Justice prevails & “We the People” stand up for what is right before all of our freedom no longer exists. Thanks Andy for sharing this.
You’re welcome, Holly. I agree re: education. US citizens need to know about this ruling, and also to know that, although there is no direct mechanism whereby it can lead to putting Bush and co. in the dock, the legal basis for the ruling is sound. The only absence of legitimacy is in the US, where the disdain for international laws and treaties continues.
Donald Pratt wrote:
True, it is a symbolic gesture, but perhaps one that requires bravery. I wonder if the US gov’t privately threatened Malaysia with “diplomatic consequences” if they did not quash the tribunal.
I am sure pressure was exerted, Donald, yes, so it is indeed brave. Thanks for the comment!
I don’t understand the point about the ruling not being ‘legally enforceable’.
Does this mean that even if Bush or Blair turned up on Malaysian soil they couldn’t be arrested? Does the ruling have no power to compel the Malaysian authorities to act, in such a case? Or does this just mean that the judgement has no enforceable implications outside of Malaysia?
Good points, Paul, which make me think that, fundamentally, we’re discussing legitimacy, and how it is perceived internationally. So the UwS, for example, has refused to sign up to the ICC, and the Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal was partly established because of perceived bias in the ICC, in that the focus is never on Western countries.
America certainly behaves as though no laws apply to it, but having said that, I doubt that Bush or any of his cronies will be in a hurry to visit Malaysia after this ruling.
In reference to Donald Pratt’s comment
The US is notorious for threatening countries in order to get them to “go along”. I wouldn’t be surprised if a diplomat gets “caught” in a “compromising” position or the MSM finds stories to spin the government as corrupt. That being said, it is important to keep the real news flowing and keep discussions going on-line.
For that, like always, I thank you.
As it is, we have the internet being threatened by the governments that want to control the message.
We must keep it free in order for all of us to gain freedom.
Thanks, Jan. It’s certainly a bold move on the part of Malaysia, and I agree – we should keep our eyes and ears open for any indications of pressure exerted by the US as punishment.
This May 11, 2012 judgement by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal offers some relief, but I can only suggest that the list of (8) defendants absentia is a practical beginning of those responsible for war crimes, but what of those ultimately responsible from the U.S. Legislative Branch? It was Nancy Pelosi, and (3) others that were the top legislative leaders that were part of various military/intelligence ‘top secret’ group that were accomplice, having knowledge of and perhaps participating in the direction of the executive branch to torture, murder, disappearance and various cover up actions. Of course The U.S. Legislative branch can only pretend to be removed somehow from the U.S. Executive branch’s actions, but as we read the verdict of this Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal, does not the U.S. Legislative Branch leaders also qualify for the definitions of charges 1-22?
Easily charges paragraphs 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 5.3, 8.2 (and probably others apply) should also apply to the U.S. Legislative Branch from the top down. In American culture, its always about ‘follow the money’ as de facto linkage to responsibility, there are U.S. Legislators and authorized subgroups within it, that are responsible to funding, strategy, and even the smokescreen of spam law & political controversy that attempts to cover the harshness of war crimes directed and coordinated with the U.S. Executive Branch. I would not excuse the U.S., or British Executive Branches from justice, nor should the various Legislative Branch leaders be without justice.
Thanks, wild. Good to hear from you, and for the interesting points you made about responsiblity and accountability.
Tamzin Jans wrote:
We need the USA to do the same and find these war criminals guilty.
We do indeed, Tamzin. Thanks for the comment.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I’m digging this, Andy.
Thanks, George. Glad to bring it to your attention …
Nello Bucciero wrote:
Michael S. Kearns wrote:
Andy… I spent many days in Malaysia with a Special Branch mate back after I first met you… more later when we chat next!
Musa Adams wrote:
And so what do you expect the outcome to be, Andy? Do you think these men will be imprisoned for their crimes or even executed for them?? I think you will find the reason no western media has made any coverage of this is because none of those men were present at that so-called trial and none of them will be punished as a result of it.. the West Inc. obviously considers this trial completely insignificant and of no authority at all in their books!! And be careful what you say and to whom you say it if you have “Special Branch” watching you because they are the equivalent to Hitler’s Gestapo!!!! These men are employed by the state to do seriously questionable things and they are NOT on your side nor anyone’s side except the state for whom they slave!!!! These people do NOT see you as their “friend”.. they see you as someone who needs to be closely watched!!
Thanks, Nello, Michael and Musa – and everyone who has liked and shared this. Michael, I look forward to hearing more when next we meet! Hopefully I’ll get another visit in before too long! And Musa, yes, the West wants to ignore this ruling, but it does have legal resonance as a key component in an ongoing struggle against those who believe that the laws regarding war, torture and detention must be adhered to, and those who regard them as something to be turned on and off at will. The torturers cannot ultimately win, as Article 2.2 of the UN Convention Against Torture states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: