KUALA LUMPUR, 8 May 2012 – The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal heard the testimony of the prosecution’s third witness Jameelah Abbas Hameedi, who used to be the Head Chief of the Cooperation Unions in Kirkuk. The 57-year-old Iraqi told of her torture in the Baghdad Airport and Abu Ghraib prisons in 2004.
She told the 5-member tribunal panel via a translator that on 13 January 2004, the American military broke into her home by force in Kirkuk and rounded up her whole family including her 22-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son, a 25-year-old nephew and a 23-year-old female guest.
She said, “We were told that we were providing monetary assistance to the resistance and they wanted the money. The searched the whole house and found nothing except for 150 dinar which is for daily expenses.”
She told the tribunal she was dragged by her hair outside of the house into the winter rain in her nightclothes and her hands were tied very tightly at the back with a wire. They destroyed all her belongings in the house and alleged that the car battery charger they had found is used to explode bombs.
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She further told the tribunal she was taken to the Kirkuk military airport via a military vehicle and in the process was hooded, kicked like an animal, pushed out of the Hummer onto the road, dragged on the paved road and later left standing at a wall.
She said that that she was asked about her relationship with the Baath party and accused of being part of the resistance, assisting and funding the resistance. She was told that if she did not cooperate she would face worse things that no one had seen or heard about.
She further related that on their way to the Baghdad Airport, she, her daughter and the female guest were taken in one helicopter while her son and nephew in another. She said they asked for the doors and windows to be closed because it was very cold. She said the soldiers had said that it could not be done because to avoid attacks from the resistance. And if the resistance shot at the helicopter, they would hit first.
In essence, they were being used as human shields, a fact Prof Francis Boyle stressed to the tribunal. Boyle pointed out their actions as a despicable act by the US Armed Forces and it was indeed a war crime.
Jameelah further related that she was placed in a tiny wooden cell with no windows with her daughter and her female guest. They were not fed for two days and not allowed to use the toilet. She said that she was eventually taken to an individual 2 metres by 2 metres cell with no amenities.
“I was feeling dizzy and felt very weak. I asked to sit but they refused to allow me. The asked me to confess that I was part of the resistance and also who were my colleagues in the resistance,” she related.
She further related that she was taken to a room with two pictures of Saddam Hussein with eyes cut out and was dragged by her hair and thrown from wall to wall continuously until she lost consciousness several times. Further beatings were inflicted upon her person when she was asked to stand up and not lean against the wall.
She was told that if she did not confess her other son would be put in prison and her daughter raped. She said that she was willing to swear on the Quran or Bible that she had not done anything wrong and had no connection with the resistance. She related that the American had said to her that he was the devil himself!
She revealed to the tribunal that she was taken to a black room, her clothes removed and asked to sit on her knees and hands and icy water poured on her. She related that she was then beaten with a plastic tube inserted with wood and when she dropped on the floor she was kicked until she was bleeding on her shoulders, back, arms and legs.
“The interrogator was very cruel and kept doing this for many hours. My wounds were also not attended to by the soldiers. I was told that I could not rest and that it was part of my punishment,” she related.
She related that to get her to confess, she was made to believe that her daughter was shot dead. She found out later that the daughter who was still alive was made to believe that she had been shot dead.
She related that due to being beaten with plastic chairs for hours she sustained injuries. Part of the broken plastic chair pieces got embedded in her feet. They threatened that her head and that of her nephew, whom they were also beating up in the same room, would be chopped with a machine. They continued to beat her nephew on his private parts. Her nephew was kept naked and later taken to Abu Gharib in the same condition.
She revealed that she was later taken to Abu Gharib and given a wristband with a number by which she was known and no longer by her name. She was refused any treatment and given little medicine. During winter cold water was poured in the cell to make the cell very cold and to further aggravate her injuries. She was given little clothing and no footwear.
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In Kuala Lumpur, a War crimes Tribunal has heard evidence from former detainees in Iraq and Guantanemo Bay, of torture methods used by US soldiers. On ‘trial’ former U.S. President George W. Bush, former VP Dick Cheney and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld plus five other staff members were absent.
She related that when news of Abu Gharib had reached the outside world, she had been in Abu Gharib for almost 6 months and before that about 20 days in Kirkuk and Baghdad Airport.
“The members of the press came one day to see Abu Gharib prison and we raised our voices and the press heard us and realised that there were women in the prison. The press was surprised that women were there when officially women were not supposed to be there,” said Jameelah, who was released from Abu Gharib prison on 22 June 2004.
She said, “To date, I endure physical suffering due to my beatings and conditions in which I was detained. I am unable to move my left leg freely and my left arm is also affected and I am unable to use it like I used to and I suffer aches. I am also unable to wear shoes that cover my feet.”
She also said that what has been revealed and shown about Abu Gharib prison in the news is just a drop in the ocean. “They have no humanity in them,” she concluded.
The tribunal also heard two other Statutory Declarations of Iraqi citizen Ali Sh. Abbas alias Ali Shalal and Rhuhel Ahmed, a British citizen.
Ali Shalal, 48, was arrested on 13 October 2003 on his way to prayer at Al-Amraya. Ali Shalal was one of the detainees in Abu Gharib who suffered intense torture in the hands of the American soldiers. Ali Shalal was charged with being an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, that he supported the resistance, and he instigated the people to oppose the occupation and that he knew the location of Osama bin Ladin.
During his imprisonment at Abu Gharib, Al Shalal suffered tremendous mental and physical abuse including severe electrocution at the hands of the soldiers. In his statement Shalal related details of the electrocution torture – “The bag was placed over my head and I was left alone for a long time. During this time, I heard several screams and cries from detainees who were being tortured. The interrogated returned and forcefully placed me on top of a carton box containing can food. They then horizontally connected the wires to my fingers and ordered me to stretch my hand out horizontally and switched on the electric power. As the electric current entered my whole body, I felt as if my eyes were being forced out and sparks flying out. My whole body was shaking all over.”
He was electrocuted on three separate sessions and throughout the time of his torture the interrogators would take photographs. This picture of a hooded man standing atop a cardboard box, attached to electrical wires with his arms stretched wide became cited worldwide as an indelible symbol of torture at Abu Gharib.
Ali Shalal was eventually released in March 2004 when it was discovered that he was wrongly arrested. He was put into a trunk and taken to a highway and then thrown out.
Rhuhel Ahmed, a British citizen, was visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan with his friends when the American forces arrested them in October 2001. Rhuhel who was 27 at the time of his wrongful arrest was periodically hooded, severely beaten, feet chained and hand cuffed by the soldiers, first at the Shabarghm prison in Afghanistan and later when he was sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Rhuhel was often interrogated about his personal background and family details by the American soldiers as well as by the British intelligence. He had asked to be released but was told by the British intelligence that they could not do so as he was in American custody.
Rhuhel was being accused of being in a photograph taken from a video that they called the ‘Turnip Farms’, which was taken in Afghanistan showing Osama bin Ladin giving a speech. The Americans alleged that he was in the video along with his friends.
Eventually the British intelligence confirmed that he was in the UK during the time the alleged video was filmed. Rhuhel stated that even after the intense interrogations ceased and he was taken out of solitary confinement, the regular interrogations continued, as did the abuse of punching and kicking. He was eventually released in March 2004.
The prosecution concluded the day’s proceedings by showing a documentary called “Taxi to the Dark Side” directed by Alex Gibney, who also directed “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Rooms”. The documentary featured the true story of a taxi driver who was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and who died in American custody at the prison in Bagram a few months later due to severe and harsh physical abuse.
The trial will be a public hearing held in an open court on 7-12 May 2012 at the premises of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW) at 88, Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.