Thu, Nov 24, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Iraqi police waging a war of vengeance on Sunni population

An underground interrogation bunker has thrown more light on the campaign conducted by Iraqi government's commands against Sunnis

By Peter Beaumont  /  THE OBSERVER , BAGHDAD

Pressure was also brought to bear by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI), a joint effort that, by August at least, seemed to have brought some success when Interior Minister Bayan Jabr circulated an order reminding police that they must respect the rights of detainees.

But the reports would mark the beginning of an ever more violent and secretive campaign that would see disappearances in the Baghdad area escalate beyond anything that had been witnessed before.

It is a state of affairs forcefully described in the most recent UNAMI human rights report released in October, and handed to the Iraqi government. "It is extremely worrying," it reported on the issue of sectarian murders, "that some of these crimes are committed by individuals wearing police and military uniforms and using police or military equipment."

What is also of deep concern for both human rights officials as well as Iraqis like Alaa Maki is the fact that, despite repeated complaints, there appears to have be almost no effort by the government or the Ministry of the Interior seriously to investigate them. Indeed, last week, despite the powerfully worded complaint by the US ambassador over the latest human rights abuses, Bayan Jabr and his spokesmen continued to deny all knowledge of abuses and murders, attributing it instead to vague claims of infiltration of the "ministry and police," and accusing those drawing attention to the abuses of trying to stir sectarian violence.

It is not an answer that has much impressed Human Rights Watch, which has been cataloguing abuses by the Ministry of the Interior for the past year and a half.

"The point that needs to be made again and again," says Sarah Leah Whitson, an executive director of Human Rights Watch, "is that saying you do not know is no defense. The fact that the minister does not know is an admission of failure. It is his job to know what his own forces are doing."

It is a view echoed by Maki of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which last week called for an international investigation of the human rights abuses by Ministry of the Interior forces following the discovery of the secret detention facility in Jadriya.

"We blame the government for these events, and no matter how often we have complained there was been no investigation. I have spoken to the UN. I have handed over a dossier of what has been going on," Maki said.

In the meantime, as the disappearances have escalated in recent months, whatever small faith Sunnis had in Iraq's judicial process has increasingly collapsed, falling back instead on the tribal code permitting revenge killings in retaliation.

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