Amnesty: United Against Terror

Amnesty International today published its report on abuses of human rights by armed groups in Iraq. Although not its principal focus, the Amnesty report also properly highlights “gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” by US forces, including the violations at Abu Ghraib for which only low ranking soldiers have been brought to justice.

Amnesty’s clear identification of a broad range of serious war crimes commited by armed groups starkly contrasts with the position of the Stop the War Coalition, which last year expressed unconditional solidarity with “the resistance”, circulating a statement which:

“recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary”

By contrast, what follows is the perspective of Amnesty International on the means these armed groups have found necessary:

Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and thousands more injured in attacks by armed groups in the past two years. Some died or were wounded in attacks aimed primarily at United States (US) or other troops comprising the US-led military alliance that toppled Saddam Hussain’s regime but others were victims of direct attacks intended to cause the greatest possible civilian loss of life. Many of the killings of civilians were carried out in a perfidious way, with suicide bombers or others disguising themselves as civilians, or were marked by appalling brutality – as in the cases of hostages whose deaths, by being beheaded or other means, were filmed by the perpetrators and then disseminated to a wide public audience.

Many of these killings by armed groups, in Amnesty international’s view, constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. As such, there is an obligation on both the Iraqi government and the international community at large to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are identified and brought to justice.

Amnesty’s recommendations are as follows:

To the armed groups
– Amnesty International calls on all armed groups in Iraq to:
– Immediately cease all attacks against civilians and other non-combatants, all indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and all attacks carried out while pretending to be a civilian;
– In particular, immediately cease all attacks against members of the UN and international and local humanitarian organizations and agencies, and ensure unhindered and safe access for humanitarian agencies to all areas;
– Immediately cease all abductions and hostage-taking;
– Immediately cease all executions, torture and ill-treatment of people under their control;
– Immediately cease all threats of death or abduction against civilians;
– End immediately the harassment, death threats and violent attacks against women who exercise their rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of religion;
– Remove any members suspected of abuses from positions and situations where they might continue to perpetrate abuses;
– Publicly condemn all attacks against civilians and other non-combatants, indiscriminate attacks, hostage taking, executions, torture and ill-treatment, and issue instructions to members strictly prohibiting such acts in all circumstances.

To the Iraqi government and the Multinational Force
Amnesty International urges the Iraqi Transitional Government and the MNF to:
– Exercise due diligence and protect the human rights of everyone under their jurisdiction, in particular civilians, Iraqis and non-Iraqis, including their rights to life, liberty and security of person;
– Ensure that all attacks against civilians and other non-combatants, as well as other abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, are promptly and thoroughly investigated and that those suspected of carrying out or ordering such actions, as well as those organizing or assisting in such actions, are brought to justice, according to procedures that meet international standards of fairness and without imposing the death penalty or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment;
– Ensure that all operations by Iraqi armed forces and other security forces against armed groups and individuals belonging to these groups comply with applicable international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular the prohibition on attacks against civilians and other non-combatants, indiscriminate attacks, collective punishments, torture and ill-treatment, excessive use of force and arbitrary detention;
– Ensure that all operations by the MNF within Iraqi territory against armed groups and individuals suspected of involvement in attacks against civilians comply with applicable international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular the prohibition on attacks against civilians and other non-combatants, indiscriminate attacks, collective punishments, torture and ill-treatment, excessive use of force and arbitrary detention.

To religious and community leaders in Iraq and abroad
Amnesty International urges religious and community leaders, especially of the Sunni community, to:
– Publicly condemn all attacks by armed groups against civilians and other non-combatants, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, hostage-taking, executions, torture and ill-treatment, and declare and disseminate widely that such acts are never justified, and must not be carried out under any circumstances;
– Publicly condemn attacks targeting women and groups promoting women’s rights;
– Initiate a public campaign, including through the media, aimed at promoting opposition to all abuses by armed groups.
– Take all possible steps to use their authority and influence with respect to armed groups and their supporters to convince armed groups not to commit abuses.

To other governments in the region and elsewhere
Amnesty International calls upon other governments to:
– Unequivocally condemn all abuses by armed groups and, where such governments have links with armed groups in Iraq, use their influence to get such groups to cease attacking civilians;
– Prevent their territory being used by anyone to provide military or other assistance to armed groups in Iraq that could contribute to abuses such as those described in this report;
– Bring to justice anyone suspected of involvement in abuses against civilians who may be found in their jurisdiction and cooperate with the Iraqi authorities in their efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators.

This is an extract of the section of the report which focuses on the role of Sheikh Qaradawi:

Many prominent personalities in the Middle East vehemently criticized Shaikh al-Qardhawi’s fatwas and declarations, especially his ambiguous position on the killing of US civilian nationals in Iraq. For example, at the end of October 2004, more than 2,500 Arab and Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries signed a petition to the UN calling for an international treaty to ban the use of religion for incitement to violence. The petition also called on the UN Security Council to set up an international court to try “the theologians of terror.” Among those they singled out was Shaikh al-Qardhawi. ‘Abdel-Rahman al-Rashed, a prominent Saudi journalist and director of the Dubai-based satellite network al-‘Arabiya, stated: “The danger specifically comes from the ideas and the preaching of violence in the name of religion.” He added: “Let us listen to Yusuf al-Qardhawi, the sheikh – the Qatar-based radical Egyptian cleric – and hear him recite his fatwa about the religious permissibility of killing civilian Americans in Iraq. Let us contemplate the incident of this religious sheikh allowing, nay even calling for, the murder of civilians. This ailing sheikh, in his last days, with two daughters studying in ‘infidel’ Britain, soliciting children to kill innocent civilians. How could this sheikh face the mother of the youthful Nick Berg, who was slaughtered in Iraq because he wanted to build communication towers in that ravished country? How can we believe him when he tells us that Islam is the religion of mercy and peace while he is turning it into a religion of blood and slaughter?”.