De : Ioan Rosca
Date : Dimanche 22, Février 2004 7:21 Objet : File din campania nemiloasa de jefuire a petrolului iraqian Ma intreb cind vor incepe romanii sa protesteze pentru implicarea oficiala a tarii lor intr-o actiune odioasa de cotropire si jaf? Dupa ce au asteptat jumatate de secol ca occidentul sa intervina auzind sunetul zdrobirii oaselor si constiintelor lor, iata ca romanii accepta fara sa clipeasca postura de slugi si complici pentru hoti si calai. Animalizati de pofte jalnice de prada, vizind pozitii de ieniceri pentru noua Poarta din Washington, nu le pasa eternelor victime mioritice de suferinta altor neamuri. Se gudura pentru un os minjit cu singe, pentru un contract de "reconstructie", pentru un strop de petrol. Dar mai cred ca au dreptul la solidaritati din afara... Ioan Rosca 'They were kicking us, laughing. It was a great pleasure for them' Rory McCarthy in Basra Saturday February 21, 2004 The Guardian It was dawn when the squad of British soldiers raided the Ibn Al Haitham hotel. Baha Mousa's night shift on the reception desk was coming to an end and his father had just arrived to drive him home. The soldiers ordered Baha, 26, to lie on the black tiled floor of the lobby with six other hotel employees, their hands on their heads. Troops searched the building and arrested the staff, driving them off to a British military base in Basra, southern Iraq. It was only a formality and the men would be released shortly, they said. Four days later Baha was dead. When his father, Daoud Mousa, a stout colonel in the Basra police force, arrived at the British military morgue to identify his son's body he was confronted with a bruised, bloodied and badly beaten corpse. "When they took the cover off his body I could see his nose was broken badly," he said. "There was blood coming from his nose and his mouth. The skin on his wrists had been torn off. The skin on his forehead was torn away and beneath his eyes there was no skin either. On the left side of his chest there were clear blue bruises and also on his abdomen. On his legs I saw bruising from kicking. I couldn't stand it." Two other hotel staff, who have been questioned by investigators, described in interviews with the Guardian how they were repeatedly punched, kicked and forced to crouch in stress positions for two days and two nights. One of the survivors was so badly beaten he suffered kidney failure, according to British military medical records. None was ever found to have committed a crime. A month after Baha's death in mid-September, the British military commander, Brigadier William Moore, wrote to Col Mousa expressing "regrets", offering "sincere condolences" and promising an investigation. Since then, officers from the special investigation branch of the 3rd Regiment, Royal Military Police, have been examining the circumstances of Baha's death. But to date no British soldier has been arrested or charged in connection with Baha's death, or the beating of the six others. The death of Baha Mousa is not an isolated case. Military investigators are studying the cases of seven Iraqis who died between April and September. Six are thought to have died in British custody and one was shot. Families have been promised inquiries, condolences have been offered, witnesses have given filmed testimony but no British soldier has been charged with any crime in connection with the deaths. Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence said the investigation into the deaths in custody, by the special investigation branch, would end shortly. "If British soldiers are found to have acted unlawfully appropriate action will be taken," it added. With the MoD refusing to give details of the incidents, the Guardian has been forced to rely on the accounts of relatives and survivors. The Ibn Al Haitham hotel was raided on September 14. Kifah Taha, a maintenance engineer, was asleep when the British soldiers began searching for guns. At the reception desk they found the three Kalashnikov rifles kept for hotel security. In a safe in a room rented as an office by businessman Haitham Baha Ali, one of three partners who owned the hotel, they found an Iraqi military uniform, two pistols and two small automatic rifles. Haitham, who had been in the hotel that morning, had disappeared by the time the safe was opened. He appears to have been the target of the raid and has been in hiding ever since. The soldiers also removed bundles of money from the safe. Col Mousa, who was waiting to collect his son, said he saw several soldiers stuff money into their pockets and under their shirts. He told a British officer what he had seen. "I explained it wasn't good for them to do this. The officer searched one of the soldiers and took the money out from inside his shirt," he said. The officer, whom he remembers as a Lieutenant Mike, promised that Baha and the others would soon be freed. The prisoners were handcuffed with plastic ties and driven to a military base in the city. "They started beating us as soon as we arrived," recalled Mr Taha. Hoods were placed over the prisoners' heads. "From the first second they beat us. There were no questions, no interrogations." At first the men were ordered to lean with their backs flat against the wall and their arms straight in front of them, palms together with their thumbs pointing up. "They were kicking us in the abdomen, like kickboxing," he said. "They were laughing. It was a great pleasure for them. We were in so much pain." Later, the soldiers forced the men to crouch, their arms straight in front of them, palms together. "We were like that for several hours and they continued beating us," he said. Each prisoner was given a footballer's name. "They called us names, like Van Basten, Gullit. They said if we didn't remember our names they would increase the beating." Another of the prisoners, Rafeed Taha Muslim, 29, who also worked at the hotel, still has scars on his wrists from the tight, plastic cuffs. "They were hitting us in the kidneys. They were punching and kicking," he said. At one point the soldiers made the prisoners dance. "They said: 'Like Michael Jackson. Disco.'" Baha appeared to suffer most from the beatings. On the second night he was taken to another room but his friends could hear him moaning through the walls. "I heard his voice," said Mr Taha, 44. "He said: 'Blood. Blood. There's blood coming from my nose. I'm going to die. I'm going to die.' After that there was nothing from him." On the third day the surviving prisoners were taken to Camp Bucca, the American-run detention camp at Umm Qasr, close to the Kuwaiti border. Mr Taha and Mr Muslim were so badly injured they were taken to a military hospital. A medical report written on September 17 by Major James Ralph, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care at the 33 Field Hospital in the British base at Shaibah, north of Basra, described Mr Taha's condition as acute renal failure. "It appears he was assaulted approximately 72 hours ago and sustained severe bruising to his upper abdomen, right side of chest, left forearm and left upper inner thigh," the report said. Another medical document, handwritten late on September 16 and marked Medical Restricted, said: "Severely beaten when arrested." Mr Taha spent two months in hospital recovering. Col Mousa, a policeman for 24 years, is furious at his son's death and the treatment the family has received since. Although he spoke to a British forensic specialist, a "Professor Hill," who conducted an autopsy on Baha, he was not allowed a copy of the report. The death certificate, dated September 21 and seen by the Guardian, marks the cause of death as "cardiorespiratory arrest/asphyxia." No further explanation is given. Since then the colonel has accepted $3,000 (about L1,600) as part of a compensation payment for his son's death. A final $5,000 was later offered without an admission of responsibility but the family turned it down. "That was an insult to our dignity," said Baha's brother Ala'a. "It is an ugly crime and nothing except full justice will get rid of the ugliness of this crime." Baha's two sons, Hassan, 3, and Hussein, 5, are orphans. Their mother died of cancer six months before Baha. "My son didn't die on the street, or in the hotel or in my house," said Col Mousa. "He died in custody and it wasn't a natural death. There should be a just trial and compensation for his children." In several other cases families in Basra complain that they have been promised investigations into the deaths of relatives but without result. In one case at least, investigators appear to have reopened their inquiries. Last week the body of Ather Karim Khalaf, 24, was dug from its grave in Najaf for analysis by British military officials. The young man died on April 29 last year, two months after he was married. He had been queuing in his taxi at a petrol station in the al-Mouwaffakia district of Basra when British soldiers ordered all the drivers to pull back. Mr Khalaf reversed his car but the passenger door swung open and knocked a soldier to the floor. "He didn't intend to do anything to the soldier," said his brother Uday, who was standing nearby at the time. "The soldier cocked his rifle and shot my brother through the open window. Then he pulled him out of the car and started to beat him on the ground." Mr Khalaf had been shot through the abdomen and died in an Iraqi hospital two days later. Only through pressure from a local human rights group and Mr Khalaf's visiting uncle, an American citizen, did the family start to see movement in the case. Still they have no written apology, no offer of compensation and no idea of how far the investigation has proceeded 10 months after Mr Khalaf was shot. "I don't think they will do anything to one of their own," said Uday. "But they killed an innocent human. Isn't that a big crime?" On May 13 Abdul Jabal Moussa Ali, 52, a primary school headmaster, was arrested and beaten by British soldiers. Several hours later he died in custody. Mr Ali was arrested with his son Bashar, 23, when British soldiers searched houses in the street. They found a Kalashnikov rifle in the family house, though that is permitted under current laws in Iraq. The two men were forced to lie on the floor of a military vehicle as they were driven to a nearby base. "They were slapping and kicking us," Bashar said. The two men were separated and put in different bases. "I never saw my father again." For three days Mr Ali's other son, Amar, called at the base asking for news of his father. On the third day he was told his father had died on the night of the arrest and his body had been taken to a local hospital. "I saw bruises over his heart and the outline of a military boot. All the body was covered in mud and there were outlines of fingermarks on his skin," said Amar. He was never given a copy of the British military death certificate. Officials from the special investigations branch took Bashar away for questioning about the incident and asked if he could identify the soldiers involved. Later they asked for permission to dig up the body of the boys' father for further examination. Amar, the eldest son, refused, saying it was dishonourable to his father. "That was in July. Since then we have heard nothing from the British military." The MoD has admitted that another four cases are being investigated. Little is know about Said Shabram, who died on May 24, or Hassan Abbad Said, who died on August 4. Amnesty International has looked at the case of Radi Nu'ma, who died on May 8. It reported that Mr Nu'ma, a father of three, was arrested by the Royal Military police and died the same day. A handwritten note to his family said he "suffered a heart attack while we were asking him questions about his son". The fourth case is of Ahmad Jabbar Kareem, 16. He was arrested with another teenage boy, also on May 8. According to a statement by the second boy, Ayad Salim Hanoon, and signed by an Iraqi police officer, the two were arrested in Basra by British troops. They were driven to the Shatt al-Basra waterway with several other prisoners, and ordered to swim to the opposite bank. "We reached the deepest point but Ahmad couldn't swim. He sank and I couldn't find him." The family has been told there is an investigation but they have been presented with no letter, apology or written explanation of the process. Ahmad's father, Jabber Kareem Ali, 44, wrote to the British military asking them to pursue the investigation. Yesterday Mr Ali sat on the cement floor of his single storey house in one of Basra's poorest slum districts as he talked about his grief. "He wasn't only my son. He was like a friend since he was just six years old," he said. "If an Iraqi did that to a British boy can you imagine what they would do?"