let me congratulate the Spanish people for the fierce opposition
against the war and occupation of Iraq. And the Spanish government
that has listened to its people and has decided to withdraw from Iraq
because it became clear that this war was based on lies and was
illegal under international law.
The BRussells Tribunal was
originally a hearing committee composed of academics, intellectuals
and artists in the tradition of the Russell Tribunal, set up in 1967
to investigate war crimes committed during the Vietnam War. The
BRussells Tribunal was directed against the war in Iraq and
the imperial war policies of the Bush II administration. Its main
focus was the ‘Project for the New American Century’, the
think tank behind this war, in particular three of the co-signatories
of the mission statement: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul
a networking conference set up by the Bertrand
Russell Peace Foundation
at the end of June 2003 in Brussels, it was decided that a series of
hearings would be held in different places all over the world,
culminating in a final session in Istanbul. The BRussells Tribunal
was one of these commissions of inquiry, the opening session of the
Tribunal on Iraq.
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation accepted to support the
initiative. The World Tribunal on Iraq evolved as a worldwide
initiative and had Tribunal sessions and associated events in some 25
cities and countries worldwide. Many of the people present here were
involved in the WTI and we are still cooperating, as this seminar
shows. We work together on the basis of the platform text and the
conclusions of the WTI.
After our Tribunal session, we were
facing the question what to do next, how to proceed according to our
conclusions. We decided to ACT. The ongoing atrocities in Iraq need
our monitoring and the Iraqis need our support. A lot of our
international friends, who organised similar events, share this
viewpoint. That’s why we established a cooperation and bundled
our efforts. And let it be very clear: not only do we monitor the
occupation, we act against the war, against the illegal occupation of
the sovereign state of Iraq, and we support all attempts of the Iraqi
people to regain its sovereignty. We are a citizen’s
initiative, meaning that we work independent from political parties.
This independent, consistent and
effective way of working has attracted some fine and influential
people like Harold Pinter, José Saramago, Eduardo Galeano,
Samir Amin, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, Margarita
Papandreou, Naomi Klein etc. It’s an explosive mixture of
academics, activists, lawyers, artists, journalists and
intellectuals. They seem to believe in the format and the potential
of this network. In a way it’s reassuring, also for them, to
belong to an active group and be able to discuss recent developments
and actions. This is necessary in order to better understand the
situation in Iraq. All these people are connected with each other and
can ask or give advice, bring ideas to the forum, spread important
news, and so we attempt to help the peace movement solve some
difficult questions as f.i. should we support the resistance, should
the MNF-I leave Iraq etc. We also act as a sort of hub to connect
people. The way this committee works is a rather new concept, I don’t
know about any similar initiative. And it’s very workable.
backbone of our committee is composed of patriotic Iraqis, both from
inside Iraq and from the Diaspora. They belong to different currents.
We have the chairs from different Human Rights organisations, medical
associations, academic associations inside Iraq. This choice wasn't
made accidentally. They are better aware of the pitfalls. They know
better than all of us the realities on the ground. They know better
what has to be done in the current situation and can help on a
different number of issues. They understand what’s going on in
Iraq. It’s their country. If we want to spread correct
information and viewpoints to the Western audiences, we need the
Iraqis to advise us. The BRussells Tribunal is about THEIR country.
So we want to be a bridge between the Iraqi and the Western peace
movement. We publish regularly eyewitness accounts and Iraqi Human
Rights reports that we receive. That has helped us a lot because the
situation of Iraq is extremely complicated for outsiders like us. We
cannot make a decent analysis without their help or support.
I tell all this to give you some background and a context of who we
are and why we think we can speak with some authority about Iraqi
the Academics campaign
pattern of academics assassinated appears to substantiate claims that
a campaign exists and is being conducted to erase a key section of
the secular middle
in Iraq — a class that has largely resisted the US occupation
of Iraq and refused to be co-opted by the so-called “political
or Iraq’s US-installed puppet
are not the only ones being killed: 311 teachers killed the past 4
months, 182 pilots, 416 senior military officers killed in the first
3 months of 2006. 20.000 people kidnapped since the beginning of
were the Iraqi intellectuals who asked us to start a campaign to
create awareness for this problem.
we started, it was clear we had to avoid some traps and pitfalls.
I’ll sum up a few of the most important.
had to avoid complicity in any way with the occupying forces and its
puppet government. We don’t want to humanize this dreadful
occupation. That’s why we appeal to international human rights
organisations and the UNHCHR to investigate this matter, and not to
the Iraqi puppet government and the occupying forces, who are the
perpetrators of these crimes.
had to make sure to work with many different Iraqi anti-occupation
organisations and individuals, in order to be as inclusive as
had to avoid putting this issue in the context of a sectarian strife
between Sunni’s and Shia. I will develop this point later.
had to avoid to look at this issue as being a sort of revenge
against academics of the previous government. The
so-called Debaathification was the first step in the destruction of
Iraq’s educational system. It was used by the US to divide and
destroy Iraq. Most of these so-called “revenge killings”
that took place after the war can be attributed to the occupying
forces and collaborators.
had to counter the claims of the Iraqi puppet government, the US
occupiers, and the recently started campaign to safeguard the Iraqi
academics, backed by both the government of Iraq and UNESCO, that
criminal gangs are committing these assassinations.
we had to mention the possible role of the Mossad in these
assassinations, even though we have no hard evidence to substantiate
the many assertions that Israel in involved.
have to carry out this campaign in the most effective and prudent
way, in order not to put the Iraqi academics even in a more
dangerous situation. This requires close contacts on the ground and
a lot of consultation. We distributed questionnaires from UNHCHR to
the families of the victims. Not one has returned until now. The
reason that is being given is that the families are too afraid to
openly accuse the perpetrators. They are even too afraid to ask the
police for details about the crime.
drafted our petition very carefully, in cooperation with the Iraqis
of the BRussells Tribunal network. The result is that besides
over 8.000 academics worldwide, all the different patriotic currents
and Iraqi anti-occupation movements have signed our petition. It was
the first time something like this happened. So ours is a unifying
rather than a divisive action.
Death Squads and the Salvador
I would like to look into one major
point of concern connected to this issue, and that is the so-called
sectarian issue: some commentators claim that the assassination
campaign of academics is part of a so-called civil war between Sunni
and Shia. That’s it’s the ignorant Islamist Shia who
receives direct orders from Iran to kill intellectual Sunni’s,
and that it is unfortunately beyond the control of the US now. And
thus the occupying forces should remain in Iraq to restore law and
order. Mainstream media are raising this smokescreen to hide the
truth from getting out.
Another smokescreen is the claim that
most of the assassinations are carried out by criminal gangs, who
first kidnap their victims, and then a ransom is paid. And after that
either they are assassinated, and if not, they flee the country.
want to put this campaign in the context where it ought to be.
we are witnessing is the result of a carefully planned US campaign to
liquidate every Iraqi who opposes the occupation of his country, the
so-called “Salvador option”. In fact, since 1945 the
U.S. developed counterinsurgency policies based on the model of Nazi
suppression of partisan insurgents that emphasized placing the
civilian population under strict control and using terror to make the
population afraid to support or collaborate with insurgents.
January 1 2004, Robert Dreyfuss stated that: “part of a secret
$3 billion in new funds—tucked away in the $87 billion Iraq
appropriation that Congress approved in early November 2003 —
will go toward the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by
militiamen associated with former Iraqi exile groups. Experts say it
could lead to a wave of extrajudicial killings, not only of armed
rebels but of nationalists, other opponents of the U.S. occupation
and thousands of civilian Baathists—up to 120,000 of the
estimated 2.5 million former Baath Party members in Iraq. “They’re
clearly cooking up joint teams to do Phoenix-like things, like they
did in Vietnam,” said Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA chief of
counter terrorism. The bulk of the covert money will support U.S.
efforts to create a lethal, and revenge-minded, Iraqi security force.
“The big money would be for standing up an Iraqi secret police
to liquidate the resistance,” said John Pike, an expert on
classified military budgets at www.globalsecurity.org.
“And it has to be politically loyal to the United States.”
It’s also pouring money into the creation of an Iraqi secret
police staffed mainly by gunmen associated with members of the puppet
Iraqi Governing Council. Those militiamen are linked to Ahmad
Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (inc), the Kurdish peshmerga
(“facing death”) forces and Shiite paramilitary units,
especially those of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq. Technically illegal, these armed forces have been
tolerated, even encouraged, by the Pentagon.” End of quote.
was written on the 1st of January 2004. Soon after this
blood-money was drained to Iraq, the consequences of this secret
operation became clear. According to an
article published in New York Times Magazine, in September 2004,
Counsellor to the US Ambassador for Iraqi Security Forces James
Steele was assigned to work with a new elite Iraqi counter-insurgency
unit known as the Special Police Commandos, formed under the
operational control of Iraq’s Interior Ministry.
Many of the same men in charge of training El
Salvador's right-wing counter-insurgency forces during its bloody
civil war are revealed to be advisors to Iraqi security forces.
Fuller, a specialist in Latin-America, has investigated this matter
thoroughly. He writes: “From 1984 to 1986 then Col. Steele had
led the US Military Advisory Group in El Salvador, where he was
responsible for developing special operating forces at brigade level
during the height of the conflict. These forces, composed of the most
brutal soldiers available, replicated the kind of small-unit
operations with which Steele was familiar from his service in
Vietnam. Rather than focusing on seizing terrain, their role was to
attack ‘insurgent’ leadership, their supporters, sources
of supply and base camps. In military circles it was the use of such
tactics that made the difference in ultimately defeating the
guerrillas; for others, such as the Catholic priest Daniel Santiago,
the presence of people like Steele contributed to another sort of
are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador – they are
decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot
the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran
Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their
mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard;
their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces.
It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire
until the flesh falls from their bones, while parents are forced to
watch. (Cited by Chomsky)”. The responsible person for
these atrocities was John Negroponte, then Ambassador to Honduras
from 1981-1985, appointed as US Ambassador in Baghdad.
interior minister Bayan Jabr, has admitted death squads and other
unauthorised armed groups have been carrying out sectarian killings
in the country. In a BBC interview on April 11 2006, he denied these
groups were his responsibility. He added that there are
non-governmental armed groups called the Facility Protection Service,
set up in 2003 by the U.S. occupation, that number 150,000
effectives. These 150,000 hired guns are
"out of order, not under our control," along with another
30,000 private security guards, Jabr
the prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, described the Badr organisation
last summer as a "shield" defending Iraq, while the
president, Jalal Talabani, claimed the Badr organisation and the
peshmerga were patriots who "are important to fulfilling this
sacred task, establishing a democratic, federal and independent
Pace, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq, told
the March 2 British Guardian that many killings were carried out by
Shia militias linked to the interior ministry run by Bayan Jabr, a
leading figure in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq (SCIRI)". SCIRI is the main party in the coalition of
Shiite religious parties that heads the US-backed Iraqi government.
"The Badr brigade [SCIRI’s militia] are in the police and
are mainly the ones doing the killing", said Pace. "They’re
the most notorious."
However, I tend to
believe Bayan Jabr. I think he knows very well what’s
going on, but I believe him when he says these groups are not his
responsibility, because I think that these militia’s, who were
created, financed, armed and trained by the occupying forces, are
under the direct control of the US.
Steven Casteel works as a senior
vice-president of Vance, a security company. “Just
prior to joining Vance, Mr. Casteel was selected by the White House
to be Senior Advisor to Iraq's Ministry of Interior under the
Coalition Provisional Authority and later the Department of State. In
that capacity he advised former Ambassadors Bremer and Negroponte on
non-military security matters, set policy, and led the creation and
operations of the Ministry's critical services. Services included the
new Iraqi Police, Border Police, Immigration, Customs Service, Civil
Defense and Fire Programs. Responsibilities included recruitment,
training, equipping, and deployment of services and personnel “
So he was
involved in overseeing the training and creating of Iraqi police
As a former top
DEA man, he was involved in the hunt for Colombia’s notorious
cocaine baron Pablo Escobar, during which the DEA collaborated with a
paramilitary organization known as Los Pepes, which later
transformed itself into the AUC, an umbrella organization covering
all of Colombia’s paramilitary death squads.
Colombia’s death squads, Iraq’s Police Commandos
deliberately cultivate a frightening paramilitary image. During raids
they openly intimidate and brutalize suspects, even in the presence
of foreign journalists. Significantly, many of the Commandos,
including their leader, are Sunni Muslims.
Many of the highest-ranking officers
in the Wolf brigade f.i. are Sunnis and, when asked about other
minorities, Abul Waleed, a 41-year-old three-star general from the
old regime, mentions Kurds and even a Yazidi, as members of these
brigades. General Adnan Thabit, a Sunni and general under Saddam
Hussein, is the leader of Iraq's Special Police Commandos.
Of course some of the sections of
these militia’s may follow an Iranian agenda, or a sectarian
agenda, but if you look at the composition and actions of these death
squads, they should certainly not be called “Shiite death
squads”, but “anti-resistance death squads”.
primary blame for these killing on criminal gangs or on Iran, is
serving the US interests in the region. Continuously linking
“Shiite” to “death squads” also serves the US
agenda by fuelling sectarian strife and so contributing to the
deliberate disintegration of the country.
Many of the murdered academics are
Shia, and what most of those killed academics have in common, is
their opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.
Lang, former chief of Middle East analysis for the U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency says: “What those of us in El Salvador
learned was that American policy might call for surgical action, but
once the local troops are involved, they’re as likely to use a
chain-saw as a scalpel. And that, too, can serve American ends. In
almost any counter-insurgency, the basic message the government or
the occupiers tries to get across to the population is brutally
simple: “We can protect you from the guerrillas, but the
guerrillas can’t protect you from us, and you’ve got to
choose sides.” Sometimes you can win the population’s
hearts and minds; sometimes you just have to make them more
frightened of you than they are of the insurgents.” And for
this aim they use the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpions Brigade, the Lions
Brigade, the Peshmerga’s and the “security forces”
of the Ministry of Interior.
receive many eye-witness reports from inside Iraq. They are published
on the BRussells Tribunal website.
report describes a case where people are arrested by the Badr
Brigade, with the help of US forces and brought to secret prisons
under the control of the Badr brigades.
report describes how in the aftermath of the bombing of the Askariyah
shrine in Samarra, the village of Al Fursan, south of Baghdad, is
ethnically cleaned by black-clad militias and police commandos while
American tanks are standing by, watch what happens and don’t
interfere while people are being slaughtered, houses being burned.
latest report dates from 17 of April. Men
in police uniforms attacked the Al-Adhamiya neighbourhood in
Baghdad. The Ministry of Interior claimed the uniformed men
didn’t belong to the puppet forces, but local residents are
quite sure they were special forces from the Ministry of
Interior, probably Badr brigades. The neighbourhood was
sealed off and electricity was cut off.
When the uniformed forces
entered the neighbourhood, the National Guards that are usually
patrolling the streets left. Young armed men from the
neighbourhood fought side by side with mujahedin against the
attacking forces to protect Al-Adhamiya. Several residents
have been killed in the streets. US troops also entered the
neighbourhood. At first, they only stood by and watched; later on
they, too, fired at the locals, who tried to repel the attacks.
These reports show that there is at least complicity of the US forces
in the actions of the militia’s.
examples show that there is at least complicity of the US forces in
the actions of the militia’s.
conclude I would like to denounce the total lack of interest in human
lives by the occupying forces and the Western mainstream press. There
is obviously a lot of racism involved in the way this occupation is
handled by the MNF-I and covered by the media. Some of the academics
assassinated were among the finest scientists not only in the Middle
East, but worldwide. Nevertheless, none of these murders have been
investigated, and very few commemorations appeared in the Western
press when these famous academics were killed. And that is another
BRussells Tribunal Executive
Additional sources (taken from: Death Squads in Iraq: A timeline)
14, 2005: Newsweek breaks the "Salvador Option' story.
25, 2005: Human Rights Watch releases a damning report alleging
torture and mistreatment of detainees by the new Iraqi government.
(Human Rights Watch)
28, 2005: The new Iraqi government is approved. The Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution wins control of the Interior Ministry.
The new minister is Bayan Jabr. (Juan
1, 2005: Many of the same men in charge of training El Salvador's
right-wing counter-insurgency forces during its bloody civil war are
revealed to be advisors to Iraqi security forces. (NYT Magazine)
16, 2005 55 dead bodies are discovered in Iraq. (CNN)
22, 2005: An elite group of commandos known as the Wolf Brigade
is profiled by Knight Ridder. The group is notorious for its brutal
treatment of detainees.(Knight Ridder)
12, 2005: 20 bodies are found around Baghdad. Many of them show
signs of torture. (CNN)
28, 2005: Numerous Sunni males turn up dead after being detained
by men wearing police uniforms. (Knight Ridder)
7, 2005: Horrifying descriptions of torture by Iraqi security
forces emerge. (The Observer)
8, 2005: The U.N. expresses concern over abuses by pro-government
forces in Iraq. (Reuters)
16, 2005: CBS reports on the torture and execution of numerous
Sunnis. (CBS News)
7, 2005: At least 537 bodies have been found since April, many of
them Sunnis. (Associated Press)
12, 2005: Sectarian hatred extends itself into the Iraqi
military. (Knight Ridder)
15, 2005: U.S. Forces discover a secret torture center run by
Iraq's Interior Ministry. (Washington Post)
27, 2005: Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi claims that the
human rights situation in Iraq is just as bad, if not worse, than it
was under Saddam. (CNN)
28, 2005: Abuse of prisoners in Iraq is called routine. (Knight
Bayan Jabr defends the alleged torture camp. (CNN)
29, 2005: The NY Times and LA Times both run stories about
allegations of Shiites running death squads that target Sunnis. (Los
Angeles Times)(New York Times)
11, 2005: Torture is discovered at a second Interior Ministry run
prison in Iraq. (Washington Post)
27, 2006: US refuses to handover jails and prisons to Iraqis
until conditions improve(Times Online)
22, 2006: Iraqis attempt to find officials without ties to
militias. USA Today
25, 2006: Sunni leaders urge followers to defend against deadly
house raids. (Knight Ridder)
5, 2006: 14 blindfolded tortured bodies found in Baghdad, called
common occurrence. (Washington Post)
16, 2006: Iraq's government launches investigation into death
squad claims after US general catches Iraqi policemen about to
execute a Sunni. (BBC News)
22, 2006 Powerful blast destroys Golden Mosque in Samarra.
Shiites swear revenge. (New York Times)
23, 2006: 47 predominantly Sunni workers are stopped at a
checkpoint and massacred outside Baghdad. (Knight Ridder)
26, 2006: Andrew Buncombe and Patrick Cockburn report that
hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death every month by
Interior Ministry death squads. (The Independent)
28, 2006: Violence since mosque explosion kills more than 1,300
Iraqis. (Washington Post)
2, 2006: Director of the Baghdad morgue claims that up to 7,000
people have been killed by death squads in the past several months.
8, 2006: the State Department criticizes the Iraqi government's
human rights violations in its annual report. (State Department)
Gunmen dressed up as
Interior Ministry commandos raid a private security company and
abduct 50 people. A US Military patrol comes across a bus with the
bodies of 18 men piled up inside. (Washington Post)
12, 2006: Iraqi officials admit to the existence of death squads
operating from inside the government. (Knight Ridder)
14, 2006: Iraqi authorities find 80 dead bodies over the course
of two days.(BBC News)
20, 2006: The US continues to arm and train the same Iraqi
security forces accused of having a sectarian bent and committing
numerous massacres. (Time)
22, 2006: The U.N. demands that the Iraqi government reign in
their abusive security forces. (UN News
James Steele and General Abul Waleed (Responsible person of the Wolf
Brigade) in Samarra