raq’s death squads: On the brink of civil war
Most of the corpses in Baghdad’s mortuary show signs of torture and execution. And the Interior Ministry is being blamed. By Andrew Buncombe and Patrick Cockburn
Published: 26 February 2006 Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations’ outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed.
John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told The Independent on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city’s mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.
Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city’s mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution. The pattern prevailed throughout the year until December, when the number dropped to 780 bodies, about 400 of which had gunshot or torture wounds.
“It’s being done by anyone who wishes to wipe out anybody else for various reasons,” said Mr Pace, who worked for the UN for more than 40 years in countries ranging from Liberia to Chile. “But the bulk are attributed to the agents of the Ministry of the Interior.”
Coupled with the suicide bombings and attacks on Shia holy places carried out by Sunnis, some of whom are followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qa’ida’s leader in Iraq, the activities of the death squads are pushing Iraq ever closer to a sectarian civil war.
Mr Pace said the Ministry of the Interior was “acting as a rogue element within the government”. It is controlled by the main Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri); the Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, is a former leader of Sciri’s Badr Brigade militia, which is one of the main groups accused of carrying out sectarian killings. Another is the Mehdi Army of the young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is part of the Shia coalition seeking to form a government after winning the mid-December election.
Many of the 110,000 policemen and police commandos under the ministry’s control are suspected of being former members of the Badr Brigade. Not only counter-insurgency units such as the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpions and the Tigers, but the commandos and even the highway patrol police have been accused of acting as death squads.
The paramilitary commandos, dressed in garish camouflage uniforms and driving around in pick-up trucks, are dreaded in Sunni neighbourhoods. People whom they have openly arrested have frequently been found dead several days later, with their bodies bearing obvious marks of torture.
This was the sort of killing that touched off Lebanon’s civil war in 1975. Already an exchange of populations is taking place in Baghdad as members of each community move to districts in which they are in the majority.
The ability of the US occupiers to influence the situation is not only limited, but some of their actions are seen as making things worse.
I read this article and then went back and forth between the admin page here and the article. I find it so horrifying that I wasn’t sure I wanted to post it. I knew this was happening, but it’s as bad as I could possibly imagine.
It’s hard to know what to say about the brutal cynicism that has created this. Or to express the depth of the betrayal of the people of Iraq
They told us that Freedom was on the march in Iraq. The only thing on the march on the roads of Iraq is Death.
George W. Bush is a war criminal. Richard Cheney is a war criminal. Condoleeza Rice is a war criminal. Donald Rumsfeld is a war criminal. Colin Powell is a war criminal. And until these people are brought to justice, this is a criminal country. A rogue state.