Human Rights Developments in Government-Controlled Iraq
About 20 percent of Iraq's 19 million people spent 1992 outside the control of the central government, in the Western-protected Kurdish enclave. An additional, indeterminate number lived in the southern marshes region contested by Shi'a rebels and government troops. The remainder, Sunni Arabs like President Saddam and most of his ruling circle, as well as members of the subject Shi'a population, remained under full government authority. Most of the abuses noted in this report concern the second and third category of persons; a portion examines the record of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.
Subject to unrelenting international pressure, designed to dismantle its war machine and overthrow President Saddam Hussein, the Ba'th Party government in 1992 resorted to a blend of blandishments and repression to maintain itself in power. In the process, the full gamut of human rights abuses was recorded, from the indiscriminate bombing of rebel positions, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties, to the arbitrary arrest and execution of accused profiteers. Large parts of the country were subjected to blockades that prevented food, fuel and medicines from reaching the besieged populations. The blockaded regions survived only through a mixture of international aid, smuggling, and the bribery of soldiers at checkpoints.
Reliable information about human rights issues in Iraq remained hard to obtain, largely because of close government controls on foreigners and a pervasive climate of fear. But a number of factors combined in 1992 to give researchers an unprecedented look inside a machinery of repression that has been in operation since 1968. These were: the existence of the semi-independent Kurdish region, in which some Arabs have also taken refuge; the number of Iraqis permitted to leave the country legally, or who managed to flee abroad; the work of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iraq; and the discovery of a vast trove of secret police documents captured by the Kurds during their March 1991 uprising.
Rebuilt after the setbacks during the uprisings that followed the Gulf War, Iraq's security agencies reestablished a strong grip on the country. As in the past, the General Security Directorate (usually referred to simply as the amn, meaning security) appeared to have carte blanche to arrest any suspected opponent of the regime. Other security forces, such as the Military Intelligence (Istikhbarat) and the Special Security Agency (Jihaz al-Amn al-Khaas) played a supporting role in the maintenance of Ba'th power.
Throughout 1992, there were reports of punitive military operations in the marshlands area of southern Iraq which is home to an indigenous Arab people and has been used as a shelter for Iraqi rebel forces and military deserters. The counterinsurgency campaign included indiscriminate attacks by artillery, helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft on villages. The attacks were reportedly accompanied by the arrest and execution of civilians, including tribal leaders, the destruction of property and livestock, and the razing of entire villages.
In April, Gulf War Victims (gwv), a Tehran-based monitoring organization headed by a former Iraqi nuclear scientist and political prisoner, Dr. Hussein Shahristani, described the aftermath of one clash between the army and rebel forces in Hor al-Amara. According to gwv, whose accounts of events in the marshes were impressively detailed and appeared accurate, "the army arrested a large number of civilians of the area, including tribal chiefs, and shelled the area with heavy artillery....The fate of those arrested is unknown." Another report cited an attack by four helicopters on the village of al-Ager on July 17. After its 800 residents were ordered by loudspeaker to evacuate to a school, helicopters were said to have destroyed the village. By the summer, the repression in the marshlands south of Amara-a triangle about 150 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers-had reached its peak. An hour-long video clandestinely shot in lateJune showed traditional villages that had been destroyed by government shelling originating from the edges of the marshes. Destruction in some areas was extensive, and families were seen fleeing by boat. Although the video revealed that rebel fighters were mixed in with the civilian population-an apparent violation of the international prohibition against using civilians as shields-internationally recognized rules of war also forbid attacks on enemy positions when there is a likelihood of disproportionate civilian casualties.
In late July, after days of aerial strafing of villages south of Amara, especially near the town of Salaam, international observers reported that the main hospital in Amara was overflowing with "hundreds" of casualties. The heaviest attacks, which involved the use of highly destructive ordnance against villages, lasted from July 20 to 27. Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams confirmed that, for the first time since the Gulf War, Iraqi fixed-wing combat aircraft had been used to bomb areas of southern Iraq. Attacks were widespread and indiscriminate.
A week later, the three Western permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S., Britain and France, announced the establishment of Operation Southern Watch, imposing an indefinite "no-fly" zone south of the 32nd parallel. The ban on Iraqi aircraft was enforced by allied aircraft operating from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and bases in neighboring Arab countries. In northern Iraq, allied aircraft continued similar patrols north of the 36th parallel, operating from Turkey under Operation Provide Comfort.
Western officials claimed that the air exclusion zone in the south significantly reduced Iraqi military activity. But information gathered by Middle East Watch and the U.N. Special Rapporteur suggests that civilians obtained only partial relief. In one incident during the first week of August, over 2,000 people from the Al-Keba'ish marsh, in Nasiriyya governorate, were reportedly rounded up and transported to an army camp at Manareh, just south of the Iraqi-Kurdish cease-fire line, near the city of Erbil, where they were confined to large poultry sheds. According to Muhammad Sayyah 'Omran, a survivor who managed to flee to Kurdish lines, on each of the three nights he was at the camp, about 100 detainees were executed. He was deputed to clearing up the blood the following day. Farmers working land nearby, as well as a Kurdish border guard interviewed by Middle East Watch, corroborated the main lines of his account.
'Omran told Kurdish interrogators that he was a fighter from the principal Iraqi Shi'a opposition group, the Tehran-based Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (sairi). In early July, he and other fighters entered the eastern Hammar marshes region from Iran, to try and relieve another rebel unit being besieged by the Republican Guards' Sixth Brigade. After a battle from July 7 to 9 near Kermat Beni Sa'id, his contingent was forced to surrender. Together with an estimated 2,000 men and 500 women and children from the vicinity, the sairi prisoners were taken first to Baghdad and then transported further north to a depopulated district near the Kurdish lines. Told they would be permitted to farm there, they instead were systematically executed-in an operation that recalled the manner in which Kurds were deported and slaughtered in large numbers during 1988. Shi'a living in other sensitive regions away from the marshes are also believed to have been relocated during August and September. In late August, Shi'a living in the Kirkuk oil fields region were reportedly rounded up and taken away to unknown locations. A truck driver told an Associated Press reporter in northern Iraq, on August 29, that he had seen about 20 bus loads of people he believed to be Shi'a being taken to Makhmour, a town adjacent to the Manareh army camp. During the first week of September, convoys of Shi'a from Khanaqin, near the Iranian border, were reportedly taken to Manareh. Convoys were also seen heading for the military base at Topzawa, not far from Kirkuk. Middle East Watch had previously gathered much evidence as to the use of Topzawa as a transit point for Kurds deported during the Anfal campaign who were never seen again.
Representatives of the London-based Iraqi Civilian Aid (ica), a humanitarian organization that visited the marshes in early November, reported that the situation there was critical. The marshes were said to be totally blockaded by troops, preventing food and medicine from reaching civilians.Escape across the Iranian border was difficult because of stepped-up Iraqi patrols. Residents told ica that since August, when the "no-fly" zone was declared, the shelling of villages had tripled. ica saw houses in small villages that had been bombed and burned. Mines laid in waterways presented a constant danger, making movement by residents, in areas where there are no roads, dangerous. Several government water-diversion projects, coupled with the construction of embankments and barricades, appear designed-at least in part-to drain the marshes, facilitate the construction of roads for the movement of military vehicles into the interior, depopulate the area of civilians, and drive out the anti-regime forces located there. ica reported that the impact of these projects was quite visible. Large sections of marshland had dried up and water levels were low in other areas. The water color and quality had changed, according to one ica representative who has made many trips to the marshes. "The water was green in color and it tasted extremely bitter. This water was once drinkable. It smelled rotten," he wrote in a November report.
Repression was not confined to remote provincial districts. In late July, 42 prominent merchants were executed for alleged profiteering, either after summary trials or no trials whatsoever. Foreign Ministry officials confirmed that at least another 500 were arrested. One of the executed men was reported to be Ra`d Tabrah, a merchant from the prominent Mal-Allah family. Another was Saleem Hamra, former chair of the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce. To thwart possible public demonstrations, the government prohibited public mourning of the dead.
The government-controlled media made clear that the merchants were offered up as scapegoats to an increasingly impoverished public that was beleaguered by soaring prices of basic commodities. The daily al-Jumhuriyah editorialized at length on July 27 about "the greedy merchants," terming them "ungrateful infidels" who "eat of the people's flesh and drink from their blood." It noted that their "crimes are deemed, in view of the law and the special circumstances being experienced by our people, high treason, a crime punishable by death." A July 27 dispatch by the official Iraqi News Agency suggested that the merchants had been tried by a court, stating that "the measures taken by the competent authorities" were designed "to make others learn their lesson well, after the courts have handed down sentences to those who deserve them for having gone too far." Press reports said that some of those arrested were tied to telephone poles, to face public insults; their fate was unknown.
In 1991, the regime intensified its deliberate targeting of Shi'a cultural and other nonpolitical institutions, in an attempt to destroy the fabric of Shi'a society. (Shi'a Muslims represent approximately 55 percent of the Iraqi population.) The pattern continued in 1992, with reports that Shi'a mosques, schools and other institutions in Kerbala, Najaf, Baghdad, Basra and Samarra had been closed, confiscated or demolished. Entire areas of historic significance to Shi'a culture were destroyed by the authorities, including parts of the ancient Wadi al-Salaam cemetery in Najaf, revered by Shi'a worldwide.
Following the August 8 death of the Najaf-based Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Abul Qassem al-Khoei, a leading religious authority with followers among many of the world's 150 million Shi'a, the Iraqi government attempted forcibly to coopt his son, Sayyid Mohamed Taki. On September 23, Taki was detained in Najaf for several hours by government officials, who demanded that he publicly endorse the regime's candidate to succeed his father, visit Saddam Hussein, and condemn international protection efforts in southern Iraq. The regime also reportedly pressured the remaining non-Iraqi Shi'a religious community in Najaf, mostly Iranians and Pakistanis, to endorse the government candidate for Grand Ayatollah or face expulsion from the holy city. The entire community has dwindled to about 200 teachers and students, from a peak of over 10,000.
Iraq's refusal for nearly four months to renew a Memorandum of Understanding (mou) with the U.N, which expired at the end of June, had a severe effect on the ability of the international community to deliver relief supplies and monitor the government's compliance with various Security Council resolutions. The old agreement had enabled hundreds of foreign aid workers and 500 lightly armed U.N. guards to work in Iraq. However, Baghdad's refusal toissue new visas, coupled with increasingly violent harassment of foreigners, including car bomb attacks and mysterious shootings, sharply reduced these numbers. Between May and July 1992, the number of foreign relief workers in Iraq dropped from 169 to 29.
A new mou was finally signed on October 22, on terms more favorable to the government; it will remain in effect until March 31, 1993. The number of U.N. guards was reduced to 300, and they were confined to the Kurdish-controlled northern region. Up to 700 relief workers were also allowed to operate in Iraq. The government promised not to interfere with the delivery of aid to Kurds as the harsh winter months approached.
Such assurances were necessary. Private relief organizations and U.N. agencies encountered many obstacles during the summer and autumn when they attempted to send supplies to the north. The problems coincided with a tightening of the government's economic blockade of the northern region: by August, according to figures supplied by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), shipments of rationed basic foodstuffs previously supplied by Baghdad were down by 60 to 100 percent. The last delivery of medical supplies from the Ministry of Health in Baghdad took place on August 9.
Deliveries of food and fuel being supplied under the emergency "winterization" programs of the U.N. and the U.S. government for the Iraqi Kurds began in the third week of November. Initial shipments, sent through Turkey and Baghdad, went smoothly, with no government interference.
Human Rights Developments in Iraqi Kurdistan
A large swathe of northern and northeastern Iraq remained outside central government control during 1992. The mountainous region is the homeland of about three quarters of Iraq's four million Kurds, a non-Arab minority which has long fought for greater autonomy and, at times, independence. Smaller minorities of Turkomen, Yezidis and Assyrian and Chaldean Christians live among the Kurds.
This semi-independent zone, under the authority of the principal Kurdish parties and the protection of the Western allies, was created in the summer of 1991. It came into existence by default: as some two million Kurds displaced by the abortive March 1991 uprising returned to their homes, government forces and Iraqi Arab officials withdrew behind a fortified line running diagonally across the country. Commencing in October 1991, Saddam imposed an increasingly tight economic embargo on the Kurdish region. But faced with ostentatious Western overflights north of the 36th parallel, the government made no further attempt to attack the rebels or restore government controls. The Kurds profited from the ensuing stalemate, busily rebuilding their shattered society and infrastructure and creating a self-governing political entity.
The paradox of the situation in which some Iraqi Kurds found themselves at the end of 1992 was that, four years after the Iraqi government had attempted to wipe them out as a people, they ironically were counting on the continuation of Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad. As long as the regime remained, they reasoned, Western protection of their fragile enclave-an undeclared and unrecognized state-would continue. The logic depended on there being no change in Western determination to see the Iraqi leader replaced and, crucially, on the West's continued ability to protect the region through the use of Turkish military bases.
But as 1992 closed, there were increasing signs of hostility from all of the enclave's neighbors-Iran, Turkey, Syria, and the rump Iraqi state-to the de facto creation of a Kurdish state in their midst. The hostility was manifested through sabotage inside the region, credibly attributed to both Iran and Iraq, and through constant Turkish pressure on the Iraqi Kurdish authorities. Between June 25 and July 19 alone, 12 attacks on international agencies were recorded. Even after the new mou was signed in October, Western relief agencies were subjected to frequent assaults, involving car bombs, grenades and roadside shootings.
In November, some 20,000 Turkish troops backed by armor occupied parts of the enclave, following a joint operation with Iraqi Kurdish fighters to dislodge Turkey's separatist Kurdish Workers' Party (pkk) from positions near the frontier. Ankara's reluctance to renew for a further six months the agreement permitting the U.S., Britain and France to station combat aircraftin southeast Turkey in order to defend northern Iraq was evident. But given the Iraqi government's record in dealing with the Kurds, and its continued flagrant human rights abuses in other parts of the country, no other acceptable solution appeared to be in sight. Baghdad's continuing blockade of the Kurds, which created much hardship, and its sponsorship of sporadic terrorist attacks against foreign and Kurdish targets, only contributed to the deepening stalemate.
Prior to elections held in May, the governing authority in the region was the Iraqi Kurdistan Front, a coalition of seven parties formed in 1988 and dominated by the two largest parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (puk), led by Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani. Local authority was parceled out to representatives of the puk and KDP, depending on their regional strength. No attempt was made to alter the Iraqi administrative or legal structure.
After several postponements, elections were held amid great popular enthusiasm. All residents of the enclave, as well as Kurds living in government-controlled districts, above the age of 18 were eligible; the vast majority participated. Nominally called to select a legitimate government for the region, the vote was also, in effect, a referendum on the Iraqi Kurds' future: while Barzani had argued in favor of autonomy in Iraq, to be negotiated with Baghdad, Talabani had pressed for self-determination, leaving open the possibility of eventual independence. During the election campaign, minor parties complained of intimidation by officials from the KDP in Dohuk governorate. There were also complaints of other irregularities during the polling, but these were not substantiated by international observers.
The outcome was a virtual dead heat between the two major parties; all others failed to meet the 7 percent threshold required to gain representation in the Erbil-based assembly. A coalition government was formed by the puk and KDP, under Prime Minister Fuad Massoum of the puk. But real power continued to reside with the two party leaders, Barzani and Talabani, and their peshmergha militias.
A new security force, known as the asaysh (the Kurdish word for security), was created in September, commanded by former puk and KDP peshmergha leaders. The declared purpose of the asaysh was to counter Iraqi espionage and terrorism, but smaller parties complained that they were also being victimized. Members of the small Parti Azadi Kurdistan, an affiliate of the pkk, in particular were rounded up and held without charge. Middle East Watch was able to confirm that some of the prisoners in asaysh detention centers had been tortured by Iraqi Kurdistan Front officials. Others appeared to have been held for months without reasonable grounds. Due process was lacking, as judges complained on several occasions that the asaysh were ignoring their orders to free detainees.
The Right to Monitor
No independent, locally based human rights groups operate in government-controlled Iraq. Iraq also continued to be off-limits in 1992 to international human rights monitors, with one important exception: from January 3 to 9, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iraq Max van der Stoel visited Iraq and met with six government ministers (although his request for meetings with the President and the Minister of Defense "remained unanswered"). He also traveled to Najaf and Karbala in the south and to Kurdistan in the north. While in Baghdad, van der Stoel spent one morning in the notorious Abu Graib prison west of the city, where he reviewed some records and spoke with a few prisoners.
From this visit and fact-finding elsewhere, the special rapporteur concluded at a March press conference that he found "no indication on the part of the Iraqi government that it was intending to change its ways," but "lots of evidence pointing to very grave and massive violations of human rights...continuing until this present day." He warned in his report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission that violations would continue "as long as the security forces have the power to decide over the freedom or imprisonment, or even life or death, of any Iraqi citizen." The access granted to the special rapporteur was extraordinary, and was not repeated. Following the release of his report, senior Iraqi officials criticized the U.N. representative in strong, personal terms.
Middle East Watch has received no positive response from the government to its numerous requests, dating back to 1989, to send a delegation to Iraq. Early in 1992, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, a government-run humanitarian body, invited Middle East Watch to make a visit, but the invitation appeared linked to the regime's attempts to publicize the effects of U.N. sanctions on its own population, and eventually it was dropped.
While foreign humanitarian bodies and Western reporters were frequently permitted to tour government-controlled regions, access to ordinary citizens was inhibited by the constant presence of official escorts. When people dared to speak, the results were sometimes fatal; a member of the Kurdistan Socialist Party who met Van der Stoel in Abu Graib prison in January died shortly afterwards. When his father collected the body, in February, it showed signs of severe torture.
Given the unceasing nature of the regime's rights abuses and the lack of domestic monitors in government-controlled Iraq, Middle East Watch believes that the stationing of independent human rights observers inside Iraq, to conduct continuous on-site monitoring and investigation of abuses, would provide some measure of protection for the population at risk. Such a proposal was first made in March by the special rapporteur, who argued that the situation in Iraq was "exceptionally grave" and required "an exceptional response." He urged that "no effort be spared to ensure that the monitoring system comes into being as soon as possible." He found the basis for this monitoring system in U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 of April 1991, which called on Iraq to end "immediately" the repression of its population.
In August, following reports of grave violations in the southern marshes, the special rapporteur took the unusual step of issuing an interim version of his scheduled November report to the U.N. General Assembly, to highlight these dangers and renew his call for monitors to be stationed in Iraq. Van der Stoel was twice invited by the U.N. Security Council to discuss his concerns, in August and November. The international community was initially lukewarm to the monitors proposal. But at the end of November, its debate by the U.N. Security Council appeared imminent. If implemented, it would be the first time that the U.N. had dispatched human rights monitors to a member country without the approval of the host government.
In June, Middle East Watch called on the U.S. government to take a leading role in marshaling world support for a human rights monitoring system in Iraq, as recommended by the U.N. special rapporteur. The Bush administration indicated its support for the proposal, but declined to bring it to an early vote at the United Nations, citing more pressing considerations with respect to Iraq, the reluctance of other Western nations, and the cost of implementing the plan. The reluctance of the U.N. Secretariat and Security Council to act on the Van der Stoel proposal faded later in the year, although fears remained that China might exercise its right of veto if the plan were brought to a vote.
It was clear that in President Bush's own view such a monitoring operation would not be inconsistent with U.N. Security Council Resolution 688. In a July 16 letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, President Bush cited Resolution 688 and its finding "that Iraq's repression of its civilian population threatens international peace and security in the region." He pledged that the U.S. would "continue to monitor carefully the treatment of Iraq's citizens in concert with our Coalition partners, and together we remain prepared to take appropriate steps if the situation requires."
The U.S. was consistently aggressive during 1992 in pursuing whatever means were available, covert and overt, of keeping the government of Saddam Hussein under pressure. Together with Britain and France, it refused to consider any easing of trade sanctions and took the lead in efforts to seize Iraqi assets abroad. On October 2, the U.N. Security Council gave its assent to the assets seizure, which U.S. Ambassador Edward Perkins estimated could yield $500 million. U.S. officials told Middle East Watch that the seized assets would be used for three purposes: paying for the U.N.'s own operations in Iraq, especially the special disarmament commission working to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction; compensation for victims of Iraqi aggression,notably in Kuwait; and humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians.
Despite commendable actions that had the effect of furthering human rights concerns over Iraq, the Bush administration apparently was not motivated primarily by concern for victims of the regime or by the need to uphold international law. Evidence gathered by a special Defense Department legal team of possible Iraqi war crimes in Kuwait was not pursued; nor was the administration enthusiastic about a possible Genocide Convention action against Iraq at the International Court of Justice, based on the government's 1988 Anfal campaign.
Where human rights issues suited the administration's overall strategy of toppling Saddam Hussein, they were adopted; where they ran counter to the strategy, they were subordinated or dropped. In a revealing moment, National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said on August 23 on CBS TV, "Saddam right now is a peril only to his own people, and the whole purpose of this U.N. inspection regime is to keep it that way."
The Work of Middle East Watch
In June, Middle East Watch published Endless Torment: The 1991 Uprising in Iraq and Its Aftermath, a report based on interviews with Iraqi refugees in Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and London, and with Iraqis in rebel-controlled Iraq. The report documented atrocities on a massive scale committed by Iraqi government forces as they retook the cities from south to north that had erupted in March 1991 in an unprecedented challenge to Saddam Hussein's rule. The abuses included indiscriminate attacks on residential areas, attacks by helicopter gunships on fleeing unarmed civilians, summary executions, and mass arrests. The report also included information about gross abuses committed by rebel forces, including summary executions of suspected members of the security forces.
In July and August, Middle East Watch interviewed Sunni and Shi'a Iraqis living in exile in Syria and Jordan. The majority left Iraq in 1991, the first time they had been outside their country, and thus the first time they felt free to speak. These exiles, who either themselves suffered rights abuses or who provided testimony about victimized family members, stressed the need for Saddam Hussein and his ruling clique to be held accountable for past abuses throughout Iraq, not only in the Kurdish north-a view with which Middle East Watch concurs. The exiles' accounts, to be published in a newsletter, provided detailed information about the process of interrogation by the security forces, including torture methods; conditions of detention; the conduct of summary political trials, which often resulted in sentences of execution or life imprisonment; deaths in detention; and the summary executions of military officers.
In Syria, Middle East Watch also gathered testimony about the Iraqi Shi'a families-Arabs and Kurds alike-who were forcibly deported to Iran in two little-noticed and largely forgotten episodes, the first in the early 1970s and the second in the early 1980s. By some counts, as many as 200,000 people may have been expelled. These mass deportations were carried out without due process, as entire families were rounded up. Birth certificates and passports verifying that the targeted Shi'a were native-born Iraqis carried no weight; these documents typically were confiscated by security forces.
The deportees were forced to sign statements renouncing any future claim to businesses, homes, bank accounts and other property in Iraq. Families were loaded into vehicles and driven to the Iraqi frontier. In a November 1992 article published in Middle East International, the London-based biweekly magazine, Middle East Watch sought to respond to the deportees' pleas that attention be focused on their plight. The deportees call for the right of return without the threat of retaliation from the authorities, the return of personal property and compensation for confiscated assets, and the release-or an accounting-of their male family members who disappeared inside Iraq.
In 1992, Middle East Watch broadened its efforts of the previous three years to document the Iraqi government's Anfal campaign against the Kurds. With unimpeded access to much of northern Iraq possible for the first time, it sent researchers to the region for six months. These field researchers interviewed several hundred people with first-hand accounts of mass deportations, village clearances, mass executions, the use of chemicalweapons, and other gross abuses committed between 1987 and 1989. Middle East Watch was able to establish that tens of thousands of persons disappeared, and are presumed dead, after being transported to various remote destinations in central and southern Iraq. Among those interviewed were seven people who survived mass deportations and executions in 1988.
Evidence about the Iraqi government's crimes against the Kurds was also gathered in two other ways: from the exhumation of collective graves, and the analysis of captured Iraqi documents. Between December 1991 and June 1992, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, the Boston-based organization, sent two teams of forensic anthropologists and archaeologists to northern Iraq. In February, Dr. Clyde Snow, scientific leader of the teams, made a third visit, together with a Middle East Watch representative and a team from the CBS "Sixty Minutes" program.
Exhumations were carried out near the cities of Erbil and Suleimaniyya, and in the village of Koreme and Birjini in Dohuk governorate. The results were published in an initial report entitled Unquiet Graves and in a separate forthcoming report on "a genocide-in-miniature": the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the villages of Koreme in August 1988, the on-site killing of 27 of its men, the deportation of its women and children, and the disappearance of its other males after being seized by government troops. Taking part in the latter investigation, which lasted a month, was a team of Latin American human rights experts drawn from groups experienced in exhuming victims of government death squads.
Aside from its own reports, Middle East Watch publicized its findings about the Anfal campaign through a CBS TV "Sixty Minutes" program broadcast in February and through a long magazine article in The New Yorker magazine. Many other articles in the U.S. and European press made reference to Middle East Watch's pioneering fieldwork building a potential case for genocide. In September, a consultant writer began work on the organization's first, full-length report on the Anfal campaign. The book is scheduled for release in early 1993.
In parallel with the written accounts, Middle East Watch also pursued the visual documentation of atrocities committed against the Iraqi Kurds, in recent times and in the past. A video and photographic record of the field research was compiled, and the possibility of a documentary film was explored. The most dramatic aspect of the evidence-gathering process involved the airlifting to safekeeping in the United States, in May, of 14 tons of Iraqi secret police documents captured by the Kurds themselves the previous year. Middle East Watch acted as the custodian of documents entrusted to its care, and to the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, by the puk. These documents were then stored in the U.S. National Archives, outside Washington. Work on the large task of classifying, translating and analyzing the millions of pages of documents began in October, under the direction of a newly created Middle East Watch team. Preliminary results of the research corroborate testimonial findings about the nature of government atrocities, in the process providing massive detail on the Iraqi bureaucracy of repression.
Middle East Watch was active during 1992 in pressing its concerns about Iraq at the U.S. Congress and State Department, as well as in various European foreign ministries. It also worked closely with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iraq. The possibility of legal action against Iraq at the International Court of Justice was explored with several parties; during 1993, Middle East Watch anticipates that this aspect of its work, embracing the building of a legal brief, will be expanded. Efforts also continue to bring further caches of captured documents held by other Kurdish parties out of northern Iraq, for safekeeping and research.
Together with other branches of Human Rights Watch, Middle East Watch participated during 1992 in international efforts to tackle the problem of uncharted land mines that have a disastrous effect on civilian life. The indiscriminate strewing of millions of land mines was a side-effect of the Iraqi government's various military actions in the Kurdish region, including the Anfal. As a result, thousands of civilians, many of them children, were either killed or lost limbs in Iraqi Kurdistan between March 1991 and the end of 1992. A Middle East Watch report on the problem, Hidden Death, was published in November.