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CAGE Africa releases review of how ‘War on Terror’ has affected Algeria

Johannesburg – CAGE Africa has launched its second chapter of the Africa Review, which provides a glance at how the ‘War on Terror’ has affected Muslims and justice in Algeria.

Starting with a history of the country and its legacy of torture under French invasion, the review touches on counter-terrorism legislation and its violations of due process, renditions that have occurred, prominent terrorism trials and how the atmosphere of the ‘War on Terror’ impacts policing and mosques.

The review also looks at the complicity of Western governments in ‘War on Terror’ atrocities such as the use of evidence gleaned from torture in Algeria to justify the Iraq War, and the alleged cover provided to al-Qaeda during the In Amenas gas crisis, recently revealed in the UK.

Karen Jayes, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, said:

“The review provides a much-needed alternative view of how the ‘War on Terror’ has impacted Algerians, and the similarities that exist between the past French military activity and current United States policy.”

“CAGE endeavours not only to highlight the atrocities and deceptions that have resulted due to the ‘War on Terror’, but we also make several recommendations aimed at bringing about a more just and equal society, not least of all is a return to the rule of law and a political atmosphere free from foreign intervention.”

You can download a full copy of the review here.

 

Algeria Flag image courtesy of Freestock


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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CAGE Africa releases review of ‘War on Terror’ in Algeria


Download here

This review provides a snapshot of how the ‘War on Terror’ has affected justice and society in Algeria. It starts by looking briefly at the history of the country up to its recent role in the US-led war.

The review also explores counter-terrorism legislation, prominent terrorism cases, instances of rendition and the history and current situation regarding torture as a practice in the country. Specific instances where the West has been complicit in violence are also explored.

The report makes essential reading for anyone interested in gaining a deeper insight into how the ‘War on Terror’ works, and in particular the challenges facing Muslims and all citizens in this toxic global climate.

For more information or to add your opinion or story to the report, please email karen@cage.ngo.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Revealed: Home Office ‘outsourcing’ surveillance to Far Right Henry Jackson Society

London – A recent High Court Judgement has exposed how the British Government outsources the designation of “extremists” for security purposes to the right-wing charity the Henry Jackson Society (HJS).

The HJS has several well-publicised right-wing links. It has been accused of generating Islamophobia, and it is known as an illiberal organisation which supports military intervention around the world.

In the case of Dr Salman Butt v Home Office, it was revealed that the PREVENT strategy uses information gathered by the opaque and covert Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU) to identify “extremists”. The EAU in turn uses information on individuals and organisations produced and provided by the HJS.

CAGE is today releasing a comprehensive report analysing the workings of the EAU and its implications for society. You can read the report here.

Ibrahim Mohamoud, CAGE Spokesperson, said:

“A matter that has dire implications for the rights of individuals and organisations is being outsourced to right-wing units and organisations. In this way, the Home Office itself has become part of the generation of Islamophobia and the status of these shadowy groups becomes a matter of urgent concern.”

“This case has exposed the inner workings of the EAU and how it relies on neo-conservative think-tanks to understand “extremism”. These include the Centre for Social Cohesion and the Henry Jackson Society. The views of these organisations are rooted in a perception that the West is at war with Islam, and their leaders betray a deep mistrust of Muslims.”

“The Home Office appears to be adopting the views of Douglas Murray, HJS Associate Director, who in 2006 said ‘conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board’. Such an approach does little for community relations and indeed will more than likely have a counterproductive effect.”

 


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Home Office ‘outsourcing’ surveillance to Far Right Henry Jackson Society – Report Summary

CAGE has released a new report which for the first time reveals the inner workings of the Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU) within the Home Office and its implications for wider civil society.

The high court case of Dr Salman Butt V Home Office has exposed how the British Government outsources the designation of “extremists” for security purposes to the extreme right-wing charity the Henry Jackson Society. The judicial review has presented a number of issues of huge significance.

At the core of Dr Butt’s legal challenge to being labelled an “extremist”, were the lawfulness of PREVENT guidance; the failure to have due regard for freedom of speech when implementing the policy; and the collection and storage of data by the Extremism Analysis Unit, which was argued amounted to warrantless surveillance and was in breach of the European Commission on Human Rights guidance.

Encouragingly, the judge agreed that the PREVENT guidance does fail to have due regard to freedom of speech. This means universities will now have to weigh freedom of speech concerns up against the PREVENT duty and give platforms to speakers with this in mind.


Read more: Towards a closed society: The worrying themes of the leaked OSCT PREVENT Catalogue

However, what the judge failed to recognise were concerns related to the collection and storage of data on “extremists” by the Home Office departments Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU), a secretive group with strong neoconservative links.

He also failed to examine and interrogate the role of the Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU), which shapes the “hearts and minds” of British citizens and has been likened to Cold War propaganda units.

The witness statements in the Dr Butt’s case provided by Paul Willis from the EAU and Matt Collins from RICU provide an unprecedented look into the workings of the Home Office. These units help determine who is an “extremist”  in the UK, and it is necessary to reveal their scope and their links to dubious right-wing organisations.

The scope and focus of the EAU and RICU are broad and “fluid”

The role of the EAU is to determine and analyse “extremist” narratives, and to provide  “the Office for Counter Terrorism and other customer departments” with information about “extremist” individuals and organisations, that will affect counter-extremism policy and work.

The EAU primarily feeds information to PREVENT officers, but their “customer departments” can also be “international”. Meaning that determinations of “extremism” can be shared with foreign governments and agencies.


Read more: CVE has always been about targeting Islam and so has PREVENT

The EAU operates directly under the authority of the UK Home Secretary who is accountable to Parliament. Both the EAU and RICU assist the government in its Prevent strategy, by conducting research (EAU) and coordinating propaganda (RICU).

RICU’s extremism unit and the EAU are focussed on the threat posed by the “ideology of extremism”. They admit that their definition of extremism is “fluid” which is dangerously subjective. Furthermore, the focus of the EAU is clearly on “understanding Islamist extremism” with the majority of its resources and employees targeting Muslims.

In their focus on “extremism”, special attention is given to how “extremism” is linked to terrorism. While Collins from RICU, in his testimony, referred to a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that lead to terrorism, he implied that ideology is a key factor.

Rather than recognising the role of stereotyping, surveillance and disenfranchisement in pushing individuals towards violence, these units are still in the business of honing in on ideas,  and “rhetoric that is anti-Western, divisive or critical of core British values”, drawing a link between these ideas and the potential to commit violence.

In order to counter these ideas, RICU invests heavily in counter-narratives by funding projects and organisations whose aim is to stop “extremism”.  While the organisations currently funded by Prevent are not publicly declared, they are increasing; in 2015 RICU delivered 130 community-based projects which reached over 42,000 participants, almost double the number funded in 2014.

RICU and the EAU’s focus on narratives that challenge those of the state, as well as on Muslims, means that both units reinforce a structural form of discrimination. This can be easily extended to other groups due to the “fluid” definitions of “extremism” and the lack of consensus over what constitute “core British values”.

RICU and the EAU draw information from discredited right-wing organisations

Not only are the EAU and RICU operating from an extremely subjective and prejudiced space, but their views on terrorism and extremism are rooted in neoconservative politics and mistrust of Muslim communities.

RICU’s Collins quotes research conducted by the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), which is an organisation that was set up by Civitas who have promoted Baroness Caroline Cox’s vision of a civilizational struggle between the West and Islam.

The notion that Islam is incompatible with the West is reflected in CSC’s former director, Douglas Murray. Known for his mistrust of Muslims, Murray has consistently presented Islam and Muslims as being part of an existential threat to the western world.

In 2006, Douglas Murray told members of the Dutch Parliament: “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition. We in Europe owe – after all – no special dues to Islam. We owe them no religious holidays, special rights or privileges.”


Read more: The Henry Jackson Society’s fear-mongering report paints a totally false picture of Terrorism and Muslims in the UK

The Centre for Social Cohesion’s counter-extremism research was subsumed into the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), with Hannah Stuart assuming her position as a researcher, and Douglas Murray becoming associate director. It’s far-right, neoconservative funding streams come from Nina Rosenwald who has been dubbed “the sugar mama of anti-Muslim hate” by journalist Max Blumenthal.

In the same vein, the EAU’s Willis explains that some of the EAU’s analysis is based on evidence provided to them by staff at the Henry Jackson Society through the organisation Student Rights, who “provide the information they were already sending to the Home Office in the form of a weekly digest” detailing extremism on campus.

The alignment of Student Rights can be understood through the involvement of Raheem Kassam as director of the organisation from 2009 to early 2014. Last year, speaking of their relationship while jointly running the neoconservative blog, The Commentator, Robin Shepherd said: “Raheem Kassam is a danger to British democracy, and the rule of law. I saw at first-hand behaviour that was so appalling it was, and remains, difficult to internalise.”

A “guidance” that has been misapplied with disastrous results

At no point do either RICU or the EAU make clear that they engage with scholars and experts from the critical terrorism studies community in order to maintain some balance in their assessments.

There is also no indication that those who have made assessments on them, are ever given an opportunity to challenge the final analysis. Rather, the EAU presents their determinations as objective and feeds them to public bodies to use in implementing PREVENT.

PREVENT in the beginning was marketed as a guidance, not an obligation. Its objective was to prevent terrorism, not so-called “extremism” – but now, in an increasingly fear-based environment, the pro-PREVENT lobby has shifted the boundaries. It is now increasingly an obligation, and its targets are the many who fall under the broad definition of “extremism”.

This has caused a misapplication of a “guidance” that was supposed to prevent political violence and which has done anything but. Not only this, it has resulted in a vicious campaign that has destroyed many lives, threatening individuals’ careers and the well-being of families.

The links between blatantly right-wing organisations and the EAU means the hunt for “extremists” is a political one, the end goal of which is to reinforce state power over individuals, organisations and families through court processes that violate due process.

CAGE calls for these court decisions to be reversed, and for families and individuals who have been branded as “extremists” based on these dubious assessments, to receive apologies for the damage it has done to their lives.


Download report here

 


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Blacklisted: The secretive Home Office Unit silencing voices of dissent


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This report provides a unique insight, for the first time, of opaque units that work as part of the government’s counterterrorism policies, the Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU) and the Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU). These two units, in particular, assist the government in its Prevent strategy, by conducting research and coordinating propaganda.

The report also exposes the influence of far right organisations, such as the Henry Jackson Society, in the secretive process of designating individuals as ‘extremists’.

The information in this report is primarily based on two sources, witness statements given by the heads of EAU and RICU in the case of Dr Salman Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

You can read the report summary here.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Freesia Movie – Special Guest Q&A

A multi-narrative journey that weaves between three families in present-day Bradford, where three worlds collide and leave a Muslim scholar fighting for his life. Yusif, the son of Mosque scholar Rehman, is doing his best to keep his dad’s dream at arms length. Zac is from a white working class family whose troubles hit fifth gear due to his radical behaviour. Khadija is second generation Iraqi and a recent graduate in politics whose ambitions are about to be put to the test. Fuelled by yet another grooming case making the headlines, they must face the storm before the calm.

Purchase your tickets for a special screening and Q&A panel with guest speakers:

  • Conor Ibrahiem – Director of Freesia
  • Maz Saleem – Anti Racism Campaigner
  • Moazzam Begg – Outreach Director of CAGE
  • Isa Muhammad –  Ex-EDL member now convert to Islam.
  • Sahar Al-Faifi – Regional Manager of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND)

Venue, Date and Time:
ODEON Birmingham Broadway Plaza on Thursday 10th August 2017 at 20:30.


Buy Tickets Now

Watch Trailer:


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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CAGE responds to senior police chief: PREVENT is a toxic policy that causes deep mistrust

London – Concerns surrounding PREVENT are well-grounded in facts and case-based research that clearly show PREVENT is a toxic policy.*

This conclusion has been echoed across the board, by hundreds of academics, politicians, trade unions, student bodies and survivors of the policy.

Moreover, the studies on which the PREVENT policy is based have also been discredited and proven to not be fit for general application.

Dr Adnan Siddiqui, CAGE Director, said:

“PREVENT is part of the state’s ever increasing intelligence and monitoring programmes as admitted by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Statistics show that PREVENT overwhelmingly targets Muslims.”

“PREVENT has had a destructive effect in families and has isolated and traumatised children, causing deep mistrust. Its implementation has had an influence on the UK plummeting from a ranking of 11 to 156 in global children’s rights rankings.”

“Additionally, the policy has a counterproductive effect. It has been accused of fuelling ‘extremism’ by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.”

“The rightful rejection of the policy by communities stems from this reality, one that its interest-driven advocates would rather ignore in favour of creating further myths.”

 

CC Image courtesy of Mark Norman Francis on Flikr
*The police chief’s comments were made on BBC Asian Network


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Serious questions remain after multi-million pound Birmingham terror trial

London – The case of three Birmingham men – and a fourth from Stoke-On-Trent – convicted this week for hatching a terror plot involving a meat cleaver and a pipe bomb, raises serious questions regarding entrapment, police conduct and due process.

Text messages exchanged between undercover agents during the trial – despite them being instructed not to communicate with one another by the judge – reveal a startling degree of impunity.

One undercover officer, referred to as ‘Vincent’, repeatedly refused to answer questions in court and was unable to give explanations about numerous discrepancies on his version of events. A deleted message from him read: ‘The situation we Find ourselves in with BSS [British Security Service] is not ideal (understatement) either way I’m even more determined to put in an Oscar performance when I get in that boxI won’t let you down … I would die First .

On February 24 last year, just before the trial was due to start ‘Vincent’ wrote: “It’s nothing we ain’t seen before … usual bollox we planted it all and Fitted ‘em up!!”

Defendants claimed from the beginning that police had planted the evidence that was later used against them. Despite the ‘sting’ operation set up by the police, there was also no video or forensic evidence of the accused obtaining, purchasing, handling or even knowing of the items ‘discovered’ in the car.

The trial was held partly in secret in the interests of national security and two anonymous witnesses gave evidence behind closed doors.

Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for CAGE, said:

“West Midlands Police was accused of entrapment, perjury and falsifying evidence during the five-month trial. Such accusations have startling repercussions on future trials and arrests, and will gain momentum in the minds of communities.”

“The last successful terror attack in Birmingham occurred in 1974 and resulted in the convictions of “the Birmingham Six”. They were eventually freed after sixteen years in prison when the Court of Appeal accepted that police had fabricated and suppressed exculpatory evidence and ruled the convictions “unsafe and unsatisfactory”. Had the police in the case of the Birmingham Six also enjoyed anonymity and their evidence remained above scrutiny it is reasonable to conclude their victims would have remained in prison. The true culprits have yet to face justice but, the city of Birmingham is still traumatised by this event and the deep mistrust of the police that followed.”

“The case of the “Three Musketeers” has chillingly similar echoes and has the potential for regenerating that mistrust at a time when the terror threat at its highest in decades and when anti-Muslim hatred and sentiment is at unprecedented levels.”

“There are too many questions about the conduct of the police, the transparency of the courts, the impartiality of the judge, the direction of the jury and reporting by the media to render this conviction safe and satisfactory. At the very least there must be an inquiry into how the police were able to escape scrutiny in a case filled with so many lies, inconsistencies and cover ups.”

 

Images courtesy of West Midlands Police


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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War crimes we endorse: pursuing IS with impunity has created monsters

By Moazzam Begg and Karen Jayes

Introduction: The use of chemical weapons by coalition forces, an illegal invasion, torture at Abu Ghraib and other black sites, beheadings by Iraqi forces and impunity for war crimes ushered in by the pronouncements of the US President are major contributing factors to the insanity that is Iraq today. In order to understand its present, and diffuse a potentially catastrophic future, it is necessary to examine the recent past and, crucially, learn from it.  

War crimes we endorse: pursuing IS with impunity has created monsters

The images were too disturbing for even the tabloids to publish: a video of an Iraqi soldier dancing with two severed heads, allegedly those of “jihadists”, on a Mosul street. He is smiling broadly as his legs move to the beat of music in the background.

In another brazen example of impunity, another Iraqi army soldier boasts of his beheadings, recording his actions and disseminating the videos on social media. He has decapitated over 50 victims, he says. Falah Aziz and his comrades beat bound and gagged men with batons, suffocate them to death with their bare hands and slaughter their captives with a knife.

Other videos released by Iraqi army and militia operatives depict beatings, systematic torture and sexual violence. All this debauchery is justified in the name of destroying ISIS and “fighting terror”, a repetitive and oft-repeated US trope. The sheer brutality depicted in these videos and pictures is unbearable to watch. So most people don’t.

On the other hand, perpetrators of these war crimes feel confident enough to film and disseminate their grisly recordings because they’re fighting an equally soulless opponent against whom America and its allies have declared endless war.

One journalist who had been embedded with Iraqi forces last year had to escape with his life after he went public with horrors he witnessed. Ali Arkady was brought in to photograph and record the apparent Sunni and Shia cooperation in the fight against IS. As commanders began to trust him, however, he became privy to extreme torture, sexual abuse and murders committed by the Iraqi Army’s elite forces – the US trained heroes who had come to liberate the oppressed. Arkady now lives in hiding after receiving death threats.

This ‘War on Terror’ paradigm has become familiar to us. The barbarity of (IS) has been eclipsed only by that of US coalition-backed troops. In an attempt to reclaim the moral high ground, the UN calls for Iraq to investigate, but stops short of holding its US sponsors accountable.

The pressure to “kill the terrorists” continues in a toxic global climate. On the ground in Iraq, a living hell materialises where a man’s worth is measured by the brutality by which he can kill, and the number of people that are his victims or who are silent witnesses to it. From the lessons of history, we know that this killing becomes indiscriminate.

But this depraved situation did not emerge out of a vacuum. This kind of violence is taught and learned. To understand and defuse it, it is necessary to examine its recent history.  


Facebook Live video: Shocking war crimes in Mosul and the culture of impunity by Moazzam Begg

Use of chemical weapons supported by US and UK is in Iraq’s history

The US coalition’s approach to Iraq is beset by hypocrisy. Before the US coalition turned on Saddam Hussein in 1990, British, French and German companies, with the knowledge and support of the United States, supplied Iraq with chemical weapons including mustard gas. The coalition also supported him in his war against revolutionary Iran between 1980 and 1988. During this war over one million people were killed.

Britain and US have been bombing Iraq non-stop since 1991 – this makes it a 26-year-old transcontinental bombing campaign, which is the longest in human history. Between 1990 – 1991, during what is commonly referred to as the ‘Persian Gulf War’ coalition forces dropped bombs and fired artillery shells containing depleted uranium on Iraq which some have called the “most toxic war in history.”

This has resulted in congenital birth defects and the development of neuroblastoma in children. In some areas, almost half the population will develop cancer. A WHO report in 2013 stated birth defects had risen to a “crisis” right across Iraqi society as a result of the use of uranium by Britain and the US, not only during 1990-1991, but also more recently.

The US and Britain bombed Iraq, then prevented crucial medical supplies from reaching the country through 13 years of sanctions and embargo which at a conservative estimate by UNICEF claimed the lives of 500,000 children. US Secretary of State Madelaine Albright blithely said when questioned about this mass murder at the time, that the price was “worth it”, betraying a startling disregard for the sanctity of human life.

An illegal ground invasion by US and UK in 2003

It is ironic then given the history of their support and supply of chemical weapons in Iraq that Bush and Blair claimed their countries needed to embark on a ground invasion of Iraq in 2003 to destroy “weapons of mass destruction”.

This we all now know was a lie, since in 2004, 1,625 US and UN inspectors released a report after searching nearly 1,700 sites in Iraq at a cost of over $1bn which found no evidence of such weapons as they had been destroyed.

The same could be said for the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, announced by Colin Powell in a speech to the UN in 2003 also to justify the US-UK ground invasion, and based on “evidence” gathered from the torture of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi.

These links, the CIA later found, did not exist. Instead, Powell managed to mention the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 21 times, gathering the relatively unknown al-Qaeda figure greater prominence in Iraq, which helped lay the groundwork for ISIS.

The initial invasion of Iraq saw coalition forces fighting both Sunni, Baathist and Shia groups in the name of “bringing freedom to the people of Iraq”. Soon, however, it became clear that the coalition chose sides after igniting sectarian conflict.

A culture of impunity developed. The active support or tacit approval of Iraqi government or aligned forces saw coalition troops either involve themselves in human rights violations or offer silent approval of Iraqi government or aligned militia’s war crimes, which included kidnap, torture, rape, and extortion. This continued even after the official end of the occupation.

An atmosphere of torture and killing cultivated by occupation forces

In the wake of the pre-emptive invasion, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, alarmed at the growing insurgency and frustrated at the lack of intelligence coming out of Iraq, ordered top military officials to “Gitmoise” Iraq.

Under the auspices of a 17-person “tiger team”, military intelligence officers were placed in charge of prisons in Iraq and interrogations were centralised at Abu Ghraib.

Abu Ghraib had been the centre of Saddam Hussein’s torture programme. Now the abuses were set to continue, this time under US watch. Inhumane measures such as isolation, abuse by dogs and sexual humiliation became the norm.

Former US Army Lieutenant General of coalition forces in Iraq Ricardo Sanchez wrote in his memoir: “The civilian leaders at the highest levels of our government … unleashed the hounds of Hell.”


Read more: The Iraq war was born and raised in torture

The world was soon to see the devastating results. In 2004, CBS News published the now well known photographs of prisoners at Abu Ghraib – some were hooded and connected to wires, others were naked and leashed like dogs.

The scandal, however, was minimised. Despite the orders clearly having come from the top echelons of the Bush administration, only a handful of lower enlisted soldiers were prosecuted.

It was explained away as an ‘isolated incident’ even though the emergence of a further 2000 images in 2009 (which were blocked by Obama for fear of harming the US mission in Iraq), were evidence that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the torture was “essentially official policy. It was widespread at different facilities under different commanders”.

Over time, further atrocities came to light. US war crimes included the Mukaradeeb wedding massacre in 2004 where 42 civilians were killed and generals refused to apologise, the 2005 Haditha mass executions where US Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians.

Perhaps most shocking was the gang-rape by five American soldiers and the killing of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murder of her family in 2006 – including her 6 year-old sister at Mahmudiyya. For this, the men responsible received life sentences but the culture of abuse by the US military remained unaddressed, their inhumanity starkly evident. Appealing his conviction one of the perpetrators told the US courts, “I did not think of the Iraqis as humans” after being exposed to the extreme violence of the conflict.

Three days after this brutal incident, US soldiers raided a house north of the city of Balad. Iraqi troops accused them of deliberately shooting and killing eleven civilians, among them five children and four women, including a 6-month old baby.

And in 2007, four Blackwater operatives – private military contractors operating in the shady mercenary world that has gone hand-in-hand with US operations in Iraq – opened fire on and killed 14 civilians in Nisour Square. During their trial in 2013, one of the men told how they had seen the conflict through the prism of mainstream media lies, viewing the murder as “payback for 9/11”. No link between Iraqis and 9/11 has ever been proved.

The actions of British forces have also been called into question. Several cases entered the British legal system where Iraqi civilians had alleged that British soldiers had tortured, beaten and sexually assaulted them between 2003 and 2008. Key amongst these was the case of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi civilian who died after “lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions [were] used by British troops”.

The rise of ISIS in the dark vacuum after Fallujah

US military operations severely affected civilians. During the two sieges of Fallujah in 2003 and 2004, media was accused of drastically under-reporting the US atrocities; at least 6000 Iraqis were killed, and one-third of the city was destroyed.

Several independent news sites, however, reported how the United States gave the citizens of Fallujah two choices prior to the second siege: leave the city or risk dying as “enemy insurgents”.

Local journalists and residents told how Americans entered houses and killed people because they couldn’t understand and therefore obey their orders, which were in English. Accounts of people being shot by Americans as they attempted to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege emerged.

None of the relief teams from the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad were allowed into Fallujah three weeks after the invasion and food and water stores were cut off or destroyed.

During the “battle” for Fallujah, the US army used white phosphorous, a chemical that can burn through the flesh, right through to the bone, and which reignites days after release. The actions were justified by a Pentagon spokesperson, chillingly, as a “shake and bake” mission. There are also reports of the use of uranium in Fallujah, resulting in birth defects neural tube, cardiac, and skeletal malformations, and cancer.

Ironically, as the US and Britain created a lie based on torture evidence linking Saddam to al-Qaeda where there was none, the invasion of Iraq and its occupation by coalition forces, particularly the atrocities in Fallujah, directly led to the rise in popularity of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its eventual transformation into the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). This state of affairs was openly acknowledged by President Barack Obama in 2015 who admitted that the rise of ISIS was an “unintended consequence” of the US-led invasion.

Coalition invasion frustrates sectarian divisions, dismembers the state

Into the nightmare of chaos that was the coalition occupation – which has been termed an “atrocity producing situation” by former US marine Ross Caputi – and through the installing and propping up of sectarian leadership, age-old intra-religious faultlines and divisions were reignited.

The execution of Saddam Hussein on the day of Eid 2006 was choreographed to further incite Shia-Sunni violence. In records of Saddam Hussien’s last words, a group of individuals are heard chanting “Moqtada! Moqtada!” referring to the Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Saddam Hussein is heard to reply (translated): “Moqtada…Moqtada! Do you consider this bravery?” (Moqtada in Arabic is roughly translated as “valour”)

That same year, US war planes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house to kill al Zarqawi but reports that came to light in 2006 from witnesses and a member of the Delta team told how he was still alive after the bombing and his head was wrapped in cloth before he was bludgeoned to death.

US actions in Iraq were characterized by illegality. The killing of innocent civilians was facilitated by the systematic use of “reconnaissance by fire”, which is when soldiers fire into a house first to see if anyone is inside. Former marine Caputi wrote of how US troops stole from dead bodies and mutilated them.


Read more: Chilcot Report must acknowledge tortured ‘confessions’ as reason for Iraq war

It was these US soldiers that trained the Iraqi military. The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force known as the Golden Division, assisted by Iranian-supported Shiite militias and US military advisors and hailed in the Western media as heroes against ISIS, was consolidated in 2005.

By the time the US withdrew between 2007 and 2011, the brutality had caught on. Imprisonment, arbitrary detention, torture and execution of prisoners by Iraqi forces followed. Iraq became one of the four top countries for carrying out executions.

A descent into sectarian barbarism while US and UK rubber stamp abuse

Abuses continued as ISIS increased its hold on Iraq, and secured major victories, capturing important strongholds like Fallujah in January 2014 and Mosul in June that same year. Between a rock and a hard place, Sunni Iraqi civilians persecuted by Shiites cautiously welcomed ISIS as the lesser of two evils. But ISIS capitalized on the ongoing sectarian divisions since the state had collapsed and been divided along sectarian lines, roughly pitting the Kurds and Shia against the Sunnis.  

When Mosul fell to ISIS, the collapse of the Iraqi Armed Forces gave rise to the Hashad al-Sha’bi (Popular Mobilization Forces). This non-state, sectarian military force, was made of a mesh of Shia militias that enjoyed government support.  Abu Izrael, one of their most prominent fighters is hailed as a hero for his crimes, one of them being roasting a prisoner alive on a spit then carving his flesh like a kebab.

Into this chaos came the US-backed and trained Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force known as the Golden Division which rose to prominence after the killing of Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi the leaders of ISI in 2010.

In 2015, graphic images of members of the Golden Division massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads emerged.

But the impunity continued. In early 2017, the US coalition openly used white phosphorous in highly populated areas of Mosul. Also this year, US President Donald Trump – with no castigation by his British ally Theresa May – declared that “torture works”, officially rubber stamping war crimes on all sides of the conflict.

The War on Terror frames, facilitates and encourages abuse

The bombardment of Iraq from the sky has not ceased. Between February 19 and June 19 2017 alone, in what the Western media coined “the battle for Mosul”, coalition strikes reportedly killed 3,706 civilians, according to Airwars, an independent monitoring group in Iraq.

ISIS also reportedly killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, and Amnesty International accused them of herding civilians into conflict areas to use them as “human shields”. Amnesty, however, accused the Iraqi government forces and the US-led coalition of “failing to adequately adapt their tactics to these challenges – as required by international humanitarian law – with disastrous consequences for civilians”.

Reading between the lines, it is abundantly clear that the US coalition is fully aware of their own actions and that of their allies but there is little reporting in the mainstream news of the widespread terror and chaos they are unleashing.

Instead, isolated stories make it to the news. Last week, Linda Wentzel, 16, from Dresden, Germany who joined IS was captured by Iraqi troops who posed with the child, smiling, after they reclaimed Mosul this month. Wentzel is currently being detained by Iraqi forces, known for torture and sexual abuse.

The impunity with which war crimes are occurring in Iraq is rampant. The ‘War on Terror’ narrative has ensured that the moral compass on the ground is determined by the example of its leading nation, the United States, whose President advocates torture.

Plainly speaking, this must stop. There must be an immediate cessation of all hostilities and military action against areas with civilian populations and a halt to ethnic cleansing and arbitrary detention of non-combatants. Objective investigations into the multitude of war crimes committed in Iraq needs to take place.

In the light of the silence by the British media, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee or the Intelligence and Security Committee must investigate Britain’s complicity in the brutality unleashed in the region.


Read more: In his first days as president Donald Trump has openly endorsed war crimes

With networked communications abuzz around the world, we are all witnesses to the ineptitude or unwillingness of governments to act to put a stop to the cycles of violence. We simply cannot offer ignorance as a viable excuse.

Putting a stop to the violence means seeking accountability for war crimes at the very top of our bastions of power and attempting the seemingly impossible task to restore justice to all the people of Iraq.

Not learning from the lessons of the recent past and the ongoing open support by our governments for the forces unleashing this horror will by necessity lead to a creation of a threat far greater and more brutal than IS.

 

(CC image courtesy of Eddie on Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Iraqi Ambassadors’ statements over returning “IS fighters” to South Africa are counter-productive

Johannesburg – The pronouncements of the Iraqi Ambassador to South Africa urging the South African government to adopt an aggressive approach to “returning IS fighters” to South Africa is counter-productive and must be challenged.

The response of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation has been rightly to demand evidence to Iraqi Ambassador Saad Kindeel’s claims that there are “fighters” making their way home.

Such pronouncements aggravate suspicion and fear of young Muslims, particularly those of a conservative religious persuasion. They also serve as pressure from foreign interests for the South African government to enact counter-extremism programmes which further US and foreign interests in South Africa.

Karen Jayes, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, said:

“CAGE Africa is aware of one family wanting to return to South Africa after leaving ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq. The family of seven including a young baby are currently stranded in a refugee camp in Jordan. They regret their decision to leave South Africa, are in fear for their lives and have appealed to the South African government for assistance. The approach to such individuals should be one of compassion, particularly when there are woman and children involved.”

“Should individuals be returning from IS-controlled territory it is more than likely with a level of regret for their actions. South African security services should objectively assess this without foreign outside interference and enlist community support for their reintegration into society, and return to a normal, peaceful life. Returnees should be investigated for any wrongdoing with proper due process according to existing criminal laws.”

“The people of Iraq deserve our sympathy, not just for the atrocities committed by ISIS, but also due to the atrocities committed by the Iraqi government forces and the United States coalition, which in the battle to reclaim Mosul between February 19 and June 19 this year alone, killed 3,706 civilians.”

Amnesty International has claimed  that the actions of the Iraqi government forces, US forces and their allies, like the actions of ISIS, include rape, torture and civilian killings, and amount to war crimes. These perspectives are somehow lost in the hysterical media coverage of IS, but it is crucial that they are figured in when journalists choose to quote the views of members of these governments in the press.”

 

Press enquiries:
Karen Jayes
karen@cage.ngo

 

CC image courtesy of Håkan Dahlström Photography on Flikr


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.