Urgent letter to The Special Iraqi Criminal Tribunal Regarding the Crimes of Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing and The Disappearnce of Hostages

The former Ba’athist regime commenced the deportation of our families to Iran on 4 April 1980. These inhumane and racist actions, which were comparable to those of the Nazis, continued till 1990. The regime accused them of being Iranian dissidents, not Turkish. Commencing in 1980, while living abroad, and on our personal initiatives we campaigned to expose these crimes to the world, and in June 1993, in London, we established the Committee for the Release of Hostages and Detainees in Iraq (CROHDI).

The main aim of the Committee was, and is, to ascertain the fate of these hostages, the sons and daughters of thousands of Iraqi deportees, the victims of ethnic cleansing. Although the great majority of these disappeared hostages are Faily Kurds CROHDI has campaigned, and is still working, to ascertain the fate of all the disappeared hostages, without any exceptions. Therefore we ask why this important case has been confined to Faily Kurds only, when over a million Iraqis were deported, and hundreds of thousands killed. The Saddam regime, in their campaign of ethnic cleansing and forceful deportations to Iran did not discriminate between Faily Kurds, other Kurds, Arabs, Persians or Turkomans, and the fate of all these victims was the same. Therefore we urge that this Special Iraqi Tribunal, in accordance with the documents to which CRODHI has presented to it, to call the relations of all these victims, and from all spectrums of Iraqi society who were affected by this, or are witnesses, to come forward and present their case directly in front of the Tribunal and prove to the people of Iraq, and the world, that Saddam’s Ba’athist regime was guilty of injustice and genocide.

We urge that the trials concerning this case be concluded, and that clear answers are provided which will enable us to establish the following:-

1- The fate of the disappeared hostages and the manner of deaths of those who were killed,

2- The whereabouts of their remains,

3- The official reasons given for the detention of the disappeared hostages – what they were accused of, and what excuses were given for their punishment,

4- The bringing to trial of Saddam’s former Foreign Minister Mohamed Saeed Al-Sahaaf (Comical Ali) now living in Abu Dhabi, in order to help discover the fate of the hostages,

5- The extradition and trial of Rahab Taha and Huda Saleh Mahdi Amaash – the two women doctors who headed the programme of conducting chemical and biological experiments on many of the hostages which led to the production of chemical and biological agents which were used during the Anfal campaign and the bombing of Halabja. They are now living in Jordan, having been released from prison.

Most of the hostages were separated from their families during the deportations and detained in Abu Ghraib, Qalat Al Salman, Baghdad Juvenile prison, Fathalia prison, Baghdad prison No.1 (for military prisoners) and other prisons.

In April 1981 the detainees in Abu Ghraib rebelled and broke out of their cells and occupied the courtyard, where they attacked Saddam’s portraits and chanted slogans demanding that they be released, or charged with specific crimes.

Later Saddam’s half brother Barzan Al Tikriti landed by helicopter, with a force of heavily armed guards, and tried to calm the detainees by promising that their conditions would be improved, but told them that they would not be released until the end of the Iraq/Iran war, when they would be released. The hostages protested and a clash arose between them and Barzan’s guards, and they were forcibly returned to their cells. A month later, some 700 prisoners, who were on a list of ‘ringleaders’ behind this prison riot were transferred to an unknown destination, and no trace of them has ever been found. My brother Jamal Aziz was one of them.

The Abu Ghraib uprising was a tremendous shock to Saddam’s Ba’athist regime and is of considerable historic importance.

After 3 years the remaining hostages were transferred to Qalat al Salman prison, near Samawa in the middle of the ArAr desert. Among them were 11 of my cousins and hundreds of my relations and close friends.

After a further year the hostages were transferred in small groups and scattered throughout Iraq in numerous prisons and detention centres, and to chemical and biological test centres, mainly in Habanya and Mosul. The Iran/Iraq war ended in 1988, but by 1989, out of all the thousands of hostages only a few hundred survived. Although some graves and mass graves have been found, the whereabouts of the great majority have not been found yet. The crimes committed by Saddam’s Ba’athist regime are considered to be ethnic cleansing and genocide. They were pre-planned and executed according to special programmes which were laid down well in advance, for reasons which are now known. Saddam orchestrated the attempted assassination of Tariq Aziz, formerly his foreign minister, at the gate of Al Mustancerya University in Baghdad on 1 April 1980 as an excuse to embark on the ethnical cleansing that the deportation campaign actually was.

This Committee has approached a number of prominent people who had close links with Saddam Hussein and asked them to mediate directly with him to secure the release of the hostages or at least to give us news of them. Among them were, in 1984, the former 1st President of Algeria, Ahmed Bin Billa, in 1993, the late Sir Edward Heath, former UK Prime Minister (on this occasion we were accompanied by the former hostage Mr. Ali Hussein Abas and Helen Allan, our late Secretary) and, in 1993 and 1994, George Galloway MP, who had a close relationship with Saddam’s regime and Barzan al Tikriti, Saddam’s half brother. We also had a meeting in March 1995 in London at the conference on Kuwaiti prisoners of war with Ambassador Ramsay Clerk, special US envoy for the Middle East.

I have personally discussed and followed up this issue with al of them but none gave me any information about our detainees, except for a formal official letter form the then Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaaf, in reply to a letter from us that George Galloway had given personally to Saddam. It states that Dr. Ketuly’s brother Jamal Aziz was released from detention in 1986. This letter is written in English, and is now is our possession.

We now have good reason to believe that some of the above named politicians were told of the fate of our hostages, but kept silent.

Since the downfall of Saddam’s regime in 9th April 2003 and the search throughout his prisons, none of the hostages has been found alive yet, though the grave of some of them have.

We now realise that the reasons that politicians who kept silent about the fate of our loved ones were political.

After the establishment of the Special Iraqi Tribunal, and Saddam being brought to trial on 1st July 2004, the Court read to him 7 specific charges against the Iraqi people, but it had overlooked, or intentionally neglected the case of the deportations, the hostage taking and the hostage disappearance.. We consider this case to be one of the most important of Saddam’s crimes, and to be one of his earliest. For this reason we decided to bring an official case to the Tribunal on 24th July 2004. It was given the number 7, under the title ‘Criminal Case concerning the crimes of genocide against humanity’. Since then, in stages, we have submitted copies of all documents and letters, including that from Mohammed Saeed Sahaaf, both hard copies and computer files. We have also submitted photographs. This was all give to Judge Ali Al- Kahachi, in Baghdad. We had a meeting with him 3 years ago and discussed the preparation of this case, and the bringing forward of witnesses and their statements. But Judge Al-Kahachi was replaced with another judge, and then a further one, and the progress of our case was therefore delayed, although other cases have progressed. This committee along with other concerned organisations and individuals, including some Iraqi MPs, other politicians, writers, journalist and especially internet users continued to remind the Court not to neglect this important case, and, at last, the Presiding Judge of the Tribunal officially declared that the case would commence on 26 January 2009.

The full details of the case presented to the Tribunal and the back grounds of this case can be found on the CROHDI website. We urge the Special Iraqi Tribunal to keep a record of all the sessions of this trial which will form an official legal document that will enable the people, both deportees’ and hostages’ families, who have been affected by these crimes to claim their just rights.

These rights should include:-

1- The right to reclaim all the confiscated properties, businesses and belongings which were taken, or to be given fair compensation in lieu.

2- The right of all Iraqis deported externally since 1980 to have their citizenship papers and passports reinstated and/or re-issued,

3- The right to retirement benefits for all who reach retirement age, the return of their job to all who still wish to work, compensation for the years they have been prevented from working and the right to land and/or furnished houses,

4- The right to see all the laws which Saddam introduced in order to legitimise his campaign of deportation and hostage taking abrogated

5- The right to receive an official apology from the present Iraqi successor Government,

6- The right to see all the disappeared hostages considered officially as ‘Martyrs of Iraq’, and to see the erection of a monument to the memory of these martyrs on which the names of all of them – more than 20,000 – shall be inscribed, as recently promised by Prime Minister Noori Al-Maliki,

7- The right of all deportees, still living outside Iraq, especially those who have lived in camps in Iran, some since 1980 to be encouraged and assisted to return, and to be compensated as above,

8- The right to see the people who collaborated with the Saddam regime, and took over the properties and belongings of the victims of these deporations, brought to trial, some of which properties and belongings were given to the collaborators and cronies of Saddam’s regime, and some of which were sold in public auctions,

9- The right to see the strengthening of the new ‘disputed ownership’ law under which, at present some victims have not been ably represented or been able to regain their properties,

10- The right to compensation for lost rent from the time of deportation and expropriation of property till the time of reinstatement to the original owners, 11- The right to compensation for all the lost income from the businesses of the deportees, and,

12- The right to see all those who collaborated in Saddam’s heinous crimes brought to trial.

Dr. Kamal Aziz Ketuly (Academic Lecturer)
Chairman: The Committee for the Release of Hostages & Detainees in Iraq
26th January 2009
E-mail: Iraqi_hostages@hotmail.com
Web site: www.9neesan.com/iraqihostages