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The Checkpoint in al-Slaikh

On the evening of August 7, 2003, U.S. soldiers from the Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment of the 1st Armored Division conducted a weapons search in the Tunis district of Baghdad’s al-Slaikh neighborhood. According to residents, troops blocked the main street at two points with armored vehicles as soldiers went through homes and shops. One checkpoint was established on the corner of Bilal Habashi Street and Street 5.

Around 9:15 p.m., a transformer blew on one of the electrical poles nearby. The electricity in the immediate area was out, although it is not clear whether this was because of the blown transformer or whether the lights had been out before the explosion. Two cars drove down Bilal Habashi Street, apparently unaware of the checkpoint. The first car with three young men approached the checkpoint at a high speed, music blaring. Soldiers yelled at the driver to stop and fired warning shots, a witness said, but when the car passed the checkpoint, the soldiers opened fire. Two men survived but the driver, Saif Ra`ad `AliSa`id al-`Azawi, was killed. Behind him, a car with six members of the al-Kawwaz family was fired upon without warning before it reached the checkpoint. The father and three children were killed.21

Car One: The Killing of Saif Ra`ad `Ali Sa`id al-`Azawi, age 20

As U.S. soldiers were searching homes and shops in the neighborhood—around 9:00 p.m.—Saif Ra`ad `AliSa`id al-`Azawi, aged twenty, asked his father for permission to borrow his blue Opel station wagon. A student at the industrial high school, Saif was excited by successful exam grades he had just received.22 His father agreed so Saif picked up two friends, `Abbas Shihab Ahmad al-Amary and `AliHussain al-Juburi, and drove off to visit a third friend named Ahmad.

According to `Abbas al-Amary, the three young men were driving home around 9:30 with the music playing loud. “The district had electricity but before we arrived at the top of the side street which takes us home there was a dark area,” he told Human Rights Watch.23

A resident of the neighborhood who lives and works near the corner of Bilal Habashi Street and Street 5 had a better view from the front of his tire repair shop. Ahmad Abd al-Samad Fatuhi told Human Rights Watch that Saif’s car was moving fast and the music was loud. The soldiers warned him to stop, he said, but he did not slow down. He told Human Rights Watch:

At that time, the electricity in the district was cut off and the interior light of Saif’s car was turned on, which prevented him from seeing outside clearly. He was accompanied by two other passengers, it seems that they were his friends. The Americans gave Saif a warning to stop the car by one of the African-American soldiers who yelled `’Stop! Stop!” but Saif did not stop the car because I think he was afraid of hijackers. As I mentioned earlier, the area was dark and without electricity. After that, one of the American soldiers started to shoot warning shots at the ground, but Saif did not stop the car and he penetrated the American checkpoint. The result of this action was an immediate shooting at Saif’s car which led to Saif’s death and to the injury of his two friends.24

This account was confirmed by another resident, Muhammad Sa`d `Adil al-Bayati, interviewed separately. He told Human Rights Watch:

I saw Saif’s car driving very fast. He was accompanied by two other people in the car. The person in the backseat had his head out the sun roof, the inside lights were on and the stereo was playing loudly. I shouted at him loudly: “Saif stop! There is a checkpoint there! There is an American checkpoint ahead!” but he did not hear me because he was driving very fast. I shouted at him, “the Americans will shoot you—there is an American checkpoint!” but he did not stop.25

The passenger `Abbas al-Amary said that none of the men in the car had seen any signs to indicate a checkpoint or any soldiers asking them to stop. Before they understood they were at a checkpoint, he said, they had come under fire from U.S. troops:

Suddenly Saif’s car was fired on and another car which was behind us [see al-Kawwaz family below]... I could not see where the shooting was coming from. I was sitting in the back seat of the car because when the shooting started I lowered my head. The shooting was full-automatic and the source of the gunfire was more than two machine guns. It continued for several minutes. After it stopped, I raised my head, I saw Saif’s face because he was on the side, and his face was opposite me. As I said, I was in the middle of the back seat. I started shouting and so did our friend [`Ali] but Saif did not reply. We realized he had passed away.26

On the side of the street, Muhammad Sa`d `Adil al-Bayati was also hit by a bullet in the right leg, suggesting that the shooting was not targeted exclusively on Saif’s car. He was hiding behind a parked car, he said, but was shot when he tried to crawl home.27

According to both the passenger al-Amary and the witness Fatuhi, U.S. soldiers approached Saif’s car and pulled the two surviving men out. The car was burning and Saif’s body was inside, but no one tried to put the fire out or to take the body from the wreck. Al-Amary told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

They came to the car and opened the front and the back doors of the right side, pointing guns to our heads. They took us out of the car and told us through a interpreter to shut up. `Aliand I begged the interpreter to take Saif from the car but the interpreter said “Shut up, it’s nothing to do with you.” After they removed us from the car, they made us lay down on our stomachs on the ground. After five minutes, they took us to another place ten to fifteen meters away from the car where the American vehicles were parked. While they took me there I saw the front of Saif’s car burning—the engine was burning. Again I asked the interpreter to take Saif from the car, but the interpreter did not reply. They left Saif in the car while we were lying on the ground.28

`Abbas al-Amary and his friend `Alial-Juburi were eventually put in a truck. A wounded man and young girl from the other car joined them, and all four were taken to a U.S. military base. The man and girl, both from the al-Kawwaz family, were taken to another room, and `Abbas and `Alisoon learned that they had died.

While all this was happening, Saif’s father had no idea his son had been killed. Around 9:30 p.m., when he returned home from evening prayers, he went looking for his son. Neighbors told him that U.S. troops had killed several people in cars and that one of the cars was burning. He told Human Rights Watch:

I was horrified and rushed to see. I found the car there with no American troops. The car was completely burnt—nothing could identify it except a small iron box which contains the car’s spare parts. I knew the car was ours and Saif’s corpse was charcoal. They killed an honest, peaceful young man who wanted to live in peace.29

`Ali al-Jaburi and `Abbas al-Amary were held and interrogated for two days at the base, `Abbas said. They received medical treatment for their light wounds. In total, they were held for more than one month, first at a center near the Shaab Stadium, then at the airport, and finally at a juvenile facility in al-Salihiyya before being released by a judge at the al-A`dhamiyya court. According to `Abbas al-Amary, the judge said they were free to go because no charges had been filed.

Car Two: The Killing of `Adil `Abd al-Karim al-Kawwaz, 42, Haidar `Adil `Abd al-Karim al-Kawwaz, 19, `Ula `Adil `Abd al-Karim al-Kawwaz, 17, and Mirvat `Adil `Abd al-Karim al-Kawwaz, 8

Around 9:20 p.m. on the same evening, August 7, `Adil `Abd al-Karim al-Kawwaz began the short drive home from his in-laws’ house. His pregnant wife, Anwar Kadhim Jawad, was in the front seat and their four children sat in the back. By 9:30, `Adil and three of his children were dead.

Anwar Jawad told Human Rights Watch what happened:

The Americans were stopping cars. There were no signs. We came close to them and the Americans began to shoot. Their cars had no lights on. There were two tanks. Our car had its lights on. We were 100 meters away. I heard nothing first—we were astonished by the shots. My husband was shouting but they were shooting... I saw the bullets flying. It was the first time I had seen someone get shot and I saw my husband get hit on the left.30

According to Ahmad Fatuhi, the neighborhood resident who witnessed the shooting, U.S. soldiers opened fire on the car without warning. “The car’s front lights were dimmed,” he said. “The Americans opened fire on that car without any warning or signal to stop the car, and they killed four members of one family.”31

Haidar `Adil al-Kawwaz, aged nineteen, and `Ula `Adil al-Kawwaz, aged seventeen, were killed instantly. Their father `Adil `Abd al-Karim al-Kawwaz, aged 42, and his daughter Mirvat `Adil al-Kawwaz, aged 8, were badly wounded but still alive. U.S. soldiers took them from the car and brought them to a military base in a truck, together with the two survivors from the first car, `Abbas al-Amary and `Alial-Juburi [see above]. Both `Adil and Mirvat died, either there or perhaps at a hospital where they were taken that night.

Human Rights Watch inspected the al-Kawwaz family car, a 1984 white Volkswagen Passat. The car had twenty-eight bullet holes on the front and left side, including four in the front windshield (see photos).

Anwar Jawad, who gave birth to a baby boy named Hassan one week after the incident, was summoned to visit the U.S. military on September 24. Two officers, who she thought were named Col. William Rabena and Col. Mansur, offered her $11,000.32 A document she signed said that she received the money “as an expression of sympathy.”33 The family is requesting formal compensation as well.

The Investigation

U.S. military authorities conducted an investigation to determine whether soldiers from the Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment of the 1st Armored Division had acted inappropriately by shooting at the two cars. According to the military coalition’s public affairs office as well as the U.S. Judge Advocate General’s office, the shootings were considered a “regrettable incident,” but it was determined that the soldiers had “acted in accordance with the rules of engagement.”34 It is unclear how this was determined in the case of the al-Kawwaz car, which was fired upon without warning.

The Killing of `Uday Ahmad Mustafa

In the early afternoon of July 10, twenty-four-year-old `Uday Ahmad Mustafawalked from his house in the Hay al-A’lam neighborhood to an auto-repair yard nearby. He was helping a friend fix his car, his brother said.35

The auto yard, a wide dusty street lined with mechanics and tire repair shops, lies behind the Iraqi police’s al-Dora Patrol Station, a two-story white building that was recently remodeled. Inside were Iraqi police as well as U.S. military police who were providing training. On the roof, in four sand-bagged positions, were soldiers from the Second Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Col. Kurt Fuller.

`Uday’s actions and what he held in his hand is a matter of debate. According to workers on the street, `Uday held a silver engine distributor as he walked past the shops. The U.S. military claims he was threatening the police station with a gun. Both sides agree that, approximately eighty yards from the station, he was shot twice and killed. One of the witnesses, a mechanic named Sabri Nayif, told Human Rights Watch what he saw:

He was walking with the distributor in his hand. He asked in the shop next to mine because he wanted to fix it. His back was to the station. I was working in my shop. I heard the first shot. I thought something in my shop had exploded, like a tire. But I saw a man in front bending over for one minute... After one minute, there was another shot and he fell to the ground.36

`Ali Hassan, a falafel vendor who witnessed the incident from the other side of the street, gave a similar account, but said the time between the two shots was a few seconds rather than one minute. He told Human Rights Watch:

I heard the shot and I saw him hit, and then I heard the second shot and he fell to the ground. It was a few seconds in between. After the first, he grabbed his stomach. He turned to look where he was shot from, and then he was shot again.37

Both witnesses said the Iraqi police arrived after a few minutes and were surprised to see that a man had been killed. People who had gathered around the body accused the police of killing the man, but the police said the shooter was a soldier on the roof. They took the man to the hospital.

Soon thereafter, soldiers from 82nd Airborne arrived. They searched the area for weapons, finding none, witnesses said. They then broke the window of a nearby car, which had parked there before the shooting, and found a pistol inside, claiming it was the weapon that `Uday had held.

One Iraqi man who did not wish to be named was present when the 82nd Airborne arrived at the scene. Everyone on the street was saying the victim had held a distributor, he told Human Rights Watch. But one man in the crowd told him quietly that the victim had held a pistol.38

This is also the view of the 82nd Airborne. Human Rights Watch spoke with Major Jenkinson from the division’s 2nd Brigade, based near the al-Dora Patrol Station. Based on the military’s investigation, he said, the victim appeared to be having an argument with someone nearby. He came out of a shop waving a pistol and fired some shots in the air, before aiming it at the police station, at which point he was fired upon. There were “two shots, maybe,” he said. When the Iraqi police arrived, he told Human Rights Watch, they found the gun.39

In Major Jenkinson’s opinion, the soldier (from an Alpha Company) operated within the rules of engagement, which allows a soldier to engage a target that “threatens U.S. forces or the compound.” No measures were taken against the soldier involved. “In this case, the Iraqi police backed us up, so there was no issue,” he said.

Iraqi police with knowledge of the case hotly disputed that claim. One high-ranking police officer, who declined to be named for fear of angering the 82nd Airborne, insisted the police found no weapon at the scene. He suggested that the U.S. military had found a random gun in a parked car to justify the killing of `Uday. The Iraqi police at the al-Dora Patrol Station had a good relationship with the U.S. Military Police, he said, but the 82nd Airborne was aggressive and rude. “They don’t understand Iraqis,” he complained. “They must know that if they kill one person, they must deal with the tribe. The whole tribe will be upset.”40

Human Rights Watch spoke with a soldier with the U.S. Military Police who had knowledge of the al-Dora Patrol Station and the killing of `Uday Ahmad Mustafa. He did not question the soldier’s decision to shoot `Uday, accepting the argument that the Iraqi had threatened the station, or at least that the soldier had perceived a legitimate threat. But the behavior of the 82nd Airborne after the incident was arrogant and undiplomatic and caused unnecessary tension, he said.41

It is possible that `Uday Ahmad Mustafaheld a pistol instead of a distributor, as the U.S. military and one unnamed Iraqi said. It is even possible that he raised the gun, thereby threatening the soldiers on the roof or possibly people inside the station. According to the official autopsy report, viewed by Human Rights Watch, the victim was shot from front to back, which contradicts the shop owner’s testimony that `Uday had his back to the station.42

But Human Rights Watch questions whether it was necessary to fire lethal shots, especially the second shot after `Uday apparently no longer posed a threat. U.N. policing standards applicable to a situation of military occupation require soldiers to avoid the use of lethal force except as necessary to protect life. Even if `Uday Ahmad Mustafahad held a gun, a man with a pistol eighty yards away posed a minimal threat to a soldier behind sandbags on the roof. In the very least, warning shots might have averted the loss of life.

On October 5, Human Rights Watch submitted a request for more information on the case to the 82nd Airborne, 2nd Brigade’s legal department. As of October 16, there had been no response, despite promises to have a reply within four days.43

The Killing of Farah Fadhil al-Janabi and Mardan Muhammad Hassan

In the early morning of September 1, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment raided the apartment of Fadhil Hamza Hussain al-Janabi in al-Mahmudiyya on the outskirts of Baghdad after receiving a tip from a local pool hall about “bad guys” in the neighborhood. Al-Janabi’s nineteen-year-old daughter Farah was killed, as was a neighbor. The army claims it came under fire during the raid, both from the apartment and later from the roof or a high window. There is no evidence to support this claim but, even if true, witness testimony and ballistics evidence point to a disproportionate and indiscriminate use of lethal force that killed two civilians and put others at risk.

Mr. al-Janabi was not home on the night of the attack but was sleeping with four of his children in a new apartment he had just rented and where the family was planning to move. That night in apartment number seven, on the first floor of building 198 at al-Qadissiyya complex were his wife, Malak Salman Dawud, their daughter Farah, nineteen, and their son Harun, sixteen.

Just after midnight, Malak and Farah were sleeping and Harun was turning on the television because the electricity had returned. All three family members were shocked around 12:15 a.m. by loud knocks and demands to open the front door. “We thought it was looters or criminals because we heard only Arabic,” Harun said.44 Malak thought it was angry Shi`a from the neighborhood.45 This was the day after the car-bomb attack at the Imam `Alishrine in al-Najaf that killed 124, including the important Shi`a leader Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim. Tension in Iraq was high.

As is currently allowed in Iraq, the family had an assault rifle for protection. Malak retrieved it and gave it to her son. “He thought to shoot it to scare them away,” she said. “Just to show there is a man inside with a weapon.” According to Malak and Harun, he fired one bullet into the wall or ceiling. U.S. soldiers dispute that claim, saying they received direct fire through the door.

U.S. soldiers burst through the front door shooting. Standing in the hall, Farah was hit in the foot. Malak told Human Rights Watch:

We were shocked and did not know what to do. My daughter was hit. I tried to pull her from the door. The door broke open from the bullets. I saw U.S. soldiers in uniform with the red spotlight of a laser and he shot a kind of cannon and there was fire in the room.46

According to Malak and Harun, the wounded Farah tried to hide in the kitchen. U.S. soldiers tossed a grenade through the window while she was there, which exploded and inflicted lethal wounds.

Once the soldiers had the situation under control, a neighbor carried the injured Farah to the front door. She was alive, he said, but with bad cuts on her legs and burns on the face and hands.47 According to neighbors, she lay there alive for three hours, but the soldiers, speaking through a interpreter from either Lebanon or Syria, would not let them take her to the hospital.48 Around 4:30 a.m., the soldiers took her away, but she was either already dead or she died shortly thereafter.

The soldiers returned around 5:00 a.m. and arrested the son, Harun, and a neighbor, `Ali `Abd al-Hussain. The sixteen-year-old Harun was handcuffed and a black bag was put over his head. He was held at the U.S. military camp in al-Mahmudiyya for four days, he said, the only minor in detention among a group of adults.

The next day, the father, Fadhil, went to the U.S. base in town to look for his daughter. Soldiers informed him that she was at the police station. Outside the station he found her body in an ambulance together with another victim, but the Iraqi police would not let him take the body until a U.S. officer arrived. Despite his requests to remove her body from the hot van, Fadhil said, he was not allowed to do so until 1:00 p.m. when an American officer gave his approval.

The other body in the ambulance was that of the second victim of the same raid, Mardan Muhammad Hassan, a thirty-eight-year-old former employee of the Iraqi Navy from Basra who was visiting his family. According to the victim’s brother, Muhammad Qassim Muhammad Hassan, Mardan was shot while walking outside.

Qassim was visiting a friend nearby when the raid began. “I am used to bombing from the Iran-Iraq war,” he said. “But this was intensive and heavy. Nobody could go out.”49 Fearing for Qassim, Mardan’s mother asked him to go looking for his brother. According to Qassim, a random bullet hit Mardan while he was outside. “It was just one bullet but it worked like a drill,” Qassim said. “Some eyewitnesses told me they saw him get shot but they could not go out to help him. I spoke with the Americans and they said my brother resisted. But there was no resistance here.”

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who participated in the raid disputed the witness accounts. They claim that Harun shot at them through the door when they arrived, and that they took fire from the building roof or one of the top-floor apartments once the raid was over.

Human Rights Watch did not speak directly with these soldiers, and a request submitted to the legal department of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade on October 5 was never answered. But a journalist from the Christian Science Monitor reported the views of the Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment out of Fort Bragg, N.C., which had arrived in Iraq in early September.50

According to the soldiers, they moved in on the family after getting intelligence from a local pool hall. Neighbors told Human Rights Watch that Fadhil al-Janabi had been a member of the Party, which may have motivated someone to denounce him to U.S. troops.

Contrary to witness testimony, the soldiers claimed they used English at the apartment door, yelling “U.S. Army” and demanding the family to open the door. They used a “knock and talk” approach, they said, but “instantaneously” came under fire from inside.

“If you knock on the door and people shoot, there is not much left to talk about,” said 1st Sgt. Wylie Hutchinson. “Nobody in this unit wants to see dead people—we’re here to help... [and performed] exactly the same as any 82nd Airborne company would do on month No. 1 or month No. 12.”51

U.S. soldiers said Farah was dead when they found her in the kitchen, and that an AK-47 assault rifle lay beside her. In addition to anti-U.S. and pro-Saddam leaflets, they claim to have found at least two assault rifles, bandoliers of bullets, and four empty rifle magazines with 50 to 60 empty bullet casings. Four U.S. soldiers reportedly suffered burn wounds in the raid.

The soldiers confirmed that they had used a percussion grenade, but they said the second explosion that killed Farah was sparked by an Iraqi or U.S. tracer round that hit a propane tank. U.S. medics treated Harun but came under small arms fire from the roof or a high window as they evacuated their casualties, 1st Sgt. Hutchinson said.

The ballistics evidence at the scene does not support the claim that U.S. soldiers took fire from inside the apartment and from the roof, and puts into question the military’s assertion that the raid was strictly “by the book.”

Of particular concern is the north side of building 198, where U.S. soldiers were standing after the raid. Human Rights Watch counted 177 high-caliber bullet marks on the wall facing north spanning an area thirty yards wide and ten yards high. This does not include the bullets that entered apartments through windows. In just one inspected apartment, number 4 on the second floor, Human Rights Watch counted five bullet marks in the kitchen.

The company commander, Capt. J. C. White, said the soldiers, “returned fire at just the right level to gain control of the situation.” But even if the army had come under small arms fire, the sustained and dispersed shooting on a residential building with high-caliber machine guns was both excessive and indiscriminate. At the same time, no bullet marks were visible on the buildings across the street from the northern wall, also an apartment block, to prove that U.S. soldiers came under fire.

The Killing of Ra`ad Fahd Shallal, Sa`id Majid Sa`dun and `Uday `Abbas`Aday

Human Rights Watch documented two cases of friendly fire deaths in Baghdad. The first incident took place on July 10 in the Baya’a neighborhood, where soldiers from the 82nd Airborne killed three Iraqi guards.

According to the U.S. military, looters were trying to rob a liquor store on a main street. Non-uniformed guards based at the sanitation treatment plant across the street left their post, which they were not supposed to do, and tried to fight the criminals off. A mobile patrol pulled up at that point and, not understanding that guards were fighting looters, opened fire on both groups. The criminals got away but three Iraqi guards were killed: Ra`ad Fahd Shallal, Sa`id Majid Sa`dun and `Uday `Aday.52

A witness to the attack, however, had a different version of events. Falah Mahdi `Awad was walking home from his fruit stand around 10:30 p.m. when the incident took place. He heard shooting on the main street and, before he realized what was happening, “the Americans fired at me,” he said.53 `Awad was hit on the left side near the waist, and Human Rights Watch saw the scar from that wound. He spent fifteen days in al-Yarmuk Hospital, he said, and underwent two operations.54

According to `Awad, no criminals tried to loot the liquor store that night, but someone did try to set the store ablaze. He also did not hear any shots before the U.S. soldiers arrived to suggest the Iraqi guards were fighting thieves.

The liquor store owner, Muthanna Jassim Khudair, shared this view, saying that someone threw a Molotov cocktail into his shop to set it on fire. Five days before the incident, he said, someone had fired a rocket propelled grenade at his shop, and he believed both attacks were from Islamist militants trying to close him down for selling alcohol.55

Major Jenkinson from the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade told Human Rights Watch that the robbery had started with two rocket propelled grenades. The Iraqi guards left their post across the street and tried to fight the criminals away. At that point, a U.S. gun truck section rolled up. The Iraqi guards were not in uniform and they were back lit from the fire. “We felt horrible,” he said. “We trained those guys. We had to retrain the guys and put them back out there.”56

The military did not conduct an investigation into possible wrongdoing, but the families of the three killed guards each received $2,500, according to a lawyer who dealt with the case.57

On October 5, Human Rights Watch submitted a request for more information on the case to the 82nd Airborne, 2nd Brigade’s legal department but, as of October 16, there had been no response, despite promises of a reply within four days.58

The Killing of Lt. ‘Ala’ `Ali Salih and Sgt. Muhammad Hilal Nahi

On Saturday, August 9, around 8:00 a.m., three Iraqi policemen from the al-Yarmuk police station went to guard the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. A car bomb had exploded outside the embassy two days before, killing at least ten people. Only one of the three policemen was in uniform, and their white Hyundai car had no police markings.

In the early afternoon, a white Kia minibus drove by with four people. According to one of the Iraqi policemen present, Hamza `Atiya Muhsin, the men in the car opened fire on the police in their unmarked car and sped away.

The policemen followed in pursuit, with Hamza `Atiya Muhsin behind the wheel. From his position in the front passenger seat, Lt. ‘Ala’ `AliSalih shot at the minivan with his pistol, trying to blow the tires. The police followed the assailants onto the highway in the direction of Abu Ghraib.

They also called for back-up, and another police car, this one marked, was soon in the chase. At that point, the speeding cars came close to a U.S. military checkpoint with two tanks manned by solders from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry of the 1st Armored Division’s 3rd Brigade. Hearing shots and apparently not realizing who was who, the U.S. soldiers opened fire on the white Hyundai carrying the three police as the criminals in front sped away. Hamza `Atiya Muhsin told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

I stopped the car on the side of the street. Meanwhile, the policeman in the back [Sgt. Muhammad Hilal Nahi] said “Hey, I think I’m shot in the hip.” One tank was to our side and another was behind but came up to us. Lt. ‘Ala’ opened the door and stepped out with his hands up. He threw his gun aside and said “No, police. No, police.” The distance between the tank and the car was about thirty-five meters. Then a bullet hit him in his right eye. He fell to the ground. I hid between the car seats. The tank was perpendicular to our car. I saw it and then I heard the Americans shouting very loudly. From the other police car, about twenty meters away, someone said on a megaphone, “no, police!”

When I hid between the seats, there were shots at the car by the Americans. I didn’t know what happened to the policeman in the back. I got out of the car and I hid next to the car and took out my police badge. The Americans came, took my badge and hit me and beat me on my head with their weapons. They kicked me, cuffed my hands and kicked me twice in the face. Then they put their boot on my head. Then they took me to the tank. They kicked me again and they put me near the tank. Capt. `Ala’ came and told the Americans to give me to him. They refused. They told him they must take me to their base for an investigation, and they threw me in the tank. I saw them. They kicked Lt. ‘Ala’ as he lay there dead. The interpreter was with them. He told them that the victims were from the Iraqi police but they didn’t care.59

A foreign journalist spoke with an Iraqi guard stationed nearby, who said he saw U.S. soldiers kicking one of the policemen while he was on the ground, although it is not clear whether this was Lt. ‘Ala’ or Hamza Muhsin. The same journalist also interviewed Hamza Muhsin shortly after the incident and saw “cuts to his nose and head, a black eye...and bruises over much of his back and on his chest.” The journalist’s inspection of the white Hyundai revealed “six bullet holes on the passenger side, ten bullet holes in the front window, which had remained intact, one on the driver’s side and one in the roof.”60

The soldiers took Hamza Muhsin to a nearby base. His hands were uncuffed after forty-five minutes, he said, but they held him there for a few hours for questioning. “Then the MP came and told me they were sorry there had been a mistake,” he said. “They took some photos because my face was swollen from the kicks.”

The Investigation

The military conducted an investigation into the two deaths. According to the military press office and the JAG, the investigation determined that soldiers of the 41st Infantry, had “acted in accordance with the rules of engagement.”61 A military spokesman later told the press that the unit involved was the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, part of the 1st Armored Division’s 3rd Brigade.62 Human Rights Watch also spoke with a U.S. Military Police officer who had knowledge of the case. He said the MPs conducted their own investigation because they were upset their trainees had been killed, but he did not comment about the beatings or the details of Lt. ‘Ala’s death.63

The Killing of Muhammad Subhi Hassan al-Qubaisi

Muhammad Subhi Hassan al-Qubaisi and Wafa’ `Abd al-Latif have four sons, aged twelve to twenty. The two youngest are twins, Muhammad and Mustafa. According to the family, the older boys liked to sleep on the roof during the hot summer months. The older brothers made the younger twins carry their bedding upstairs.

The same ritual took place on June 26. But on this night, a foot patrol of the 82nd Airborne was in the neighborhood, Hay al-Jihad, as young Muhammad went upstairs around 10:30 p.m. Apparently mistaking the bedding for a weapon, the soldiers shot Muhammad dead. Muhammad’s mother Wafa’ `Abd al-Latif told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

I was downstairs. I heard the shot and Mustafa shouted “Muhammad!” We brought Muhammad downstairs and he was bleeding. I held him. The soldiers were moving around and when they heard the shot, they came here. Maybe they thought they had been attacked.64

Two neighbors took the wounded Muhammad to the hospital in a car, but U.S. soldiers at a nearby checkpoint did not let them through because the 11:00 p.m. curfew was approaching. One of the neighbors, Yassir `Ala’, told Human Rights Watch that he and another neighbor, Jassim Muhammad, put Muhammad in his car.65 The interpreter with the soldiers said he would call ahead to the checkpoint to let the car through but he either did not call or the message did not get through because the road was blocked, `Ala’s said. Instead, the soldiers made them sit in the car for fifteen minutes and then forced the two men to lie on the ground while Muhammad was bleeding in the back. Muhammad died in the meantime and they were told to return home.

The U.S. military offered Muhammad’s father, Subhi Hassan al-Qubaisi, $500 to cover the funeral expenses, but the father told Human Rights Watch he had engaged a lawyer and was requesting more. Some members of his tribe were pressuring him to take revenge, he said, but he was still hoping the incident could be resolved “with some forgiveness and some compensation.”66

The U.S. military did not conduct an investigation into the incident. Human Rights Watch requested information on the case from the legal department of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade on October 5 but, despite promises of a reply within four days, there had been no response as of October 16.67 According to Major Jenkinson, with whom Human Rights Watch spoke briefly about the case, Muhammad was not holding bedding, but an assault rifle. “The kid had an AK-47 on the steps,” he said.68

“The soldiers determined the situation was hostile and engaged the individual,” U.S. military spokesman Maj. Sean Gibson told the press at the time of the incident. “It was not until after the search was under way that they discovered that it was an eleven-year-old boy.”69

Checkpoint in al-Mansur

Car One: Killing of Zaid `Imad Ghazal Ibrahim al-Ruba`i, 14

Car Two: Killing of Klemantine Salim `Abd al-Karim, 75, Tamir Alber Alias Kasira, 40, and Mazin Alber Alias Kasira, 35

On July 27, U.S. soldiers from Task Force 20, a special operations team searching for Saddam Hussain and other former ruling elite, conducted a raid on the home of Shaikh Abdul Karim al-Gubair in the upscale al-Mansur neighborhood. Soldiers set up checkpoints in the area while the operation took place, although it is not clear whether these soldiers were from Task Force 20 or another unit. One witness said all the Humvees at the checkpoint had the same sign—a horse and two crossed swords—but another witness saw Humvees with “<20>” on the doors.

One witness told Human Rights Watch that three cars were fired upon when they did not realize they were supposed to stop, killing four or five people, one in one car and three or four in the other. Press reports said a hospital in the area reported at least five Iraqis killed and up to eight wounded.70 The U.S. military acknowledged two deaths in one car, although it is not clear to which car the military is referring.71

According to the witness interviewed by Human Rights Watch, four or five U.S. Humvees blocked a small street near the al-Sa’ah Restaurant at 5:00 p.m. One vehicle was parked in the road and soldiers were diverting traffic. The soldiers left after five minutes, leaving no sign other than the vehicle that cars should not pass, but local shop owners were warning drivers to stay away. A man who worked in an optician’s shop across the street, Ahmad Ibrahim al-Shaikh al-Jaburi, told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

A gray Chevrolet Malibu appeared from the other side of the alley, not from the main street. The Americans started waving for the car to stop, but it did not stop. One of the soldiers who was sitting on top of one of the Humvees turned his machine gun mounted on top of the Humvee and started shooting at the Chevrolet with the machine gun. There was more shooting, probably from one of the [other] soldiers. They hit the car from a distance of fifty meters. The front windshield of the car was full of bullet holes. As a result, the driver of the car lost control and the car stopped slowly after colliding with a Humvee. After the car stopped and the shooting ended, the driver got out of the car raising his hands, and seconds later he collapsed. The soldiers surrounded the car and took out the other passenger and they began to drag him in the street. This was done by one soldier who was pulling him by his shoulder, his legs were being dragged. They put him on the pavement next to a house under construction which belonged to Fahd al-Shajra, the former minister of education.72

The driver of that car was Muhanad `Imad Ghazal Ibrahim al-Ruba`i, seventeen years old. He told Human Rights Watch that he was driving with his younger brother Zaid, fourteen, and their cousin Fahd Ahmad, sixteen, to pick up food rations. U.S. soldiers were blocking the road with bricks and told him to turn around, so he took another street to the main road which seemed open. He asked some young Iraqi men if the road was clear and they said it was, as long as Muhanad drove slowly and stopped when ordered. He told Human Rights Watch what happened next:

We started driving slowly towards the Americans preparing to stop, abiding by what the young men had informed us to do. But the soldiers were hidden on both sides of the street—we could not see them. We could see two Humvees a long way from us. One was parked on the pavement and the other was nearer to us but the road was not blocked. While we were driving slowly, and as we were approaching the Humvee nearer to us, there was an intensive shooting at our car from all sides and directions. When the shooting started I lowered my head so I lost control of the car. The car continued to move very slowly until it collided with a Humvee and stopped. Fragments from two bullets hit my head, so when I saw the blood flowing from my head I lost consciousness until the car collided with the Humvee and stopped. For that reason I did not know what had happened to my cousin, who was sitting next to me, or my brother, who was sitting in the back.73

According to Muhanad al-Ruba`i, he and his cousin Fahd were dragged from the car and forced to sit on the pavement. He was given some bandages, he said, but also beaten every time he tried to ask about his brother Zaid. After approximately thirty minutes, he said, two U.S. soldiers in civilian clothes with beards, machine guns and pistols in their belts arrived in a pick-up truck. Muhanad and Fahd were put in the back together with a uniformed soldier.

At this point, Muhanad said, a Toyota Corona turned onto the alley from the main street. The two soldiers in civilian clothes got out of the truck and, together with the soldier in the back, opened fire on the car. Muhanad told Human Rights Watch:

They were all shooting at the Toyota; the shooting lasted for three to five minutes. When shooting stopped the two American civilians with other soldiers went to the car and took the two passengers out of the car, they only took out the wounded and they left the driver inside the car because he was dead.74

The witness from the optician’s shop, Ahmad al-Jaburi, confirmed this account. He told Human Rights Watch:

I saw a Toyota Corona driving from a side street on the right side of the alley. The side street was open, there were no soldiers there or even a checkpoint. As soon as the car reached the intersection where the side street connects to the alley, there was intensive shooting at the car which led to the death of all the passengers. I think there were either three or four passengers. I saw an old woman with gray hair opening the door of the car. She started walking towards the soldiers for a few meters and then she collapsed. She was covered with blood.75

Soldiers brought the elderly woman and another injured person from the car to the pick-up truck, and put them in the back with Muhanad and Fahd. The driver of the Corona was dead and stayed in the car. Muhanad recalled:

They brought the two wounded to the pick-up. One was an old woman with gray hair and another was a young man. When they brought the lady she started asking about her sons and she was screaming in pain. There was blood all over her body, her body was full of blood. She begged them for some water but one of the soldiers started hitting her in the stomach and she kept quiet. After that a soldier came and sat with us in the back of the pick-up.76

Loaded with the four wounded civilians, the pick-up drove to the presidential palace, accompanied by four Humvees and an armored personnel carrier (APC). The door of the Humvees had the marking “<20>”, Muhanad said. At the presidential palace, two helicopters took the wounded to what Muhanad believed was the airport, although he was blindfolded after they landed. He and Fahd were held briefly and then told they could go. A Humvee left them on a road near the highway around 9:30 p.m., he said, and they luckily got a ride home from a farmer who lived nearby. When they returned home, they learned that Zaid had died.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed a relative of the three people shot in the Corona. Yelda Hermiz, who lived with the three victims, said they were on their way to church when the incident took place. The driver of the car was Mazin Alber Alias Kasira, an air conditioner technician who had a partially amputated leg. He was killed instantly and the family retrieved the body that night from al-Yarmuk hospital, after searching hospitals in the city. As for Klemantine and Tamir, however, the family had no information until September 28, two months and one day after the incident. “On that day, Americans came to our house and asked us to come to the airport to receive their corpses,” she said.77

In addition to these deaths, the witness al-Jaburi said he saw soldiers shoot at a third car, a Toyota Landcruiser that had driven down the alley and parked. One person in the car was wounded in the stomach, he said, and Iraqis took this person to the hospital. From all the shooting, two parked cars also caught fire and were destroyed, one of them belonging to a worker in al-Jaburi’s shop. They received $4,500 in compensation from the U.S. Army. Negotiations for compensation were conducted with Lt. Col. Richard Bowyer from the 1st Armored Division, who apologized for the incident.

The U.S. military issued a press statement on July 29 that acknowledged two deaths in one car. “The forces fired on the vehicle when it did not slow down at the checkpoint and started to run the barriers, appearing to be hostile,” the statement said. “Coalition forces were not involved in any other incident in the area.”78 On the day of the incident, a military spokesman, Staff Sgt. J.J. Johnson, told the press “there are rules of engagement when somebody approaches a checkpoint.... The soldiers have a right to defend themselves.”79

The U.S. military maintains the secrecy of its rules of engagement for security reasons. But soldiers and commanders should not hide behind the secrecy of its rules to tolerate the beating of detainees and the denial of medical care to the wounded.

A Bomb and Shooting on Haifa Street

On July 3, around 9:15 a.m., a group of school children was walking home on Baghdad’s central Haifa Street. Six children around the age of twelve stopped in front of one of their friend’s apartments, building 74, when a large explosion nearby threw them to the ground. According to family members, two of the children died and seven were wounded. One of those wounded was twelve-year-old `Aliyya `Adil Na`ama, who had just finished her English exam. `Aliyya’s sister, who was upstairs when the bomb went off, told Human Rights Watch:

Someone knocked. When I opened the door, someone was carrying `Aliyya and her cheek was hanging down. The left side of her face was gone. I could not see her eyes because of the blood.80

After surgery, `Aliyya and another injured boy, Ahmad Wahid, were taken to Germany for medical care by a German humanitarian organization.

According to the U.S. military, the explosion was from an RPG fired at a convoy of three military vehicles from a car on the street. “An innocent Iraqi citizen sitting on a street corner was also killed by the blast, according to reports we are hearing,” Major Scott Patton told the press.81

The military did not comment on its response, which witnesses said involved heavy and indiscriminate shooting that killed the driver of the attacking car and wounded civilians in the area. One witness named Majid Sa`di told the press that he saw the car of the alleged attacker riddled with bullets and he thought the driver was dead.82

Human Rights Watch found another witness to the incident, a man coincidentally driving down Haifa Street, who was seriously wounded by a gunshot to the leg [see photo]. Interviewed in the al-Wassity Hospital the day before he was to undergo his fourth operation, Haidar Hussain Karim al-Fitlawi said he was driving his blue Volkswagen Passat down Haifa Street towards the gas station when the explosion took place. Suddenly, he said, he came under fire from U.S. troops. He told Human Rights Watch:

They hit my car with more than ten bullets. Five of them hit the fuel tank but luckily it did not catch fire. I got out of the car and I was lying on the ground. I could just feel my leg bent over my shoulder. I lay there bleeding for ten minutes. People stopped a small bus and put the injured in there. I remember a little child in there. They took us all to al-Karama Hospital.83

According to al-Fitlawi, no U.S. soldiers were hurt in the attack, although it is doubtful he would have had a good look given the shooting. “The Americans were very scared,” he said. “That is why they were shooting at everyone and everything.”

21 Some media reported that on the same night U.S. forces killed another man, `Ali Hikmat Salman, on a road nearby and, in an interview with Human Rights Watch, Salman’s family supported this claim. [Human Rights Watch interview with `Ali Salman’s mother, Samira Sabri, Baghdad, October 5, 2003. See also “Jittery U.S. Soldiers Firing in the Dark Kill Six Iraqis Trying to Get Home Before Curfew,” by Scheherezade Faramarzi, Associated Press, August 10, 2003.] Based on interviews in the neighborhood, however, Human Rights Watch believes that `Ali Salman probably died on the highway in a traffic accident unrelated to U.S. troops.

22 Human Rights Watch interview with Ra’ad `Ali Saied al-Azawi, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

23 Human Rights Watch interview with `Abbas Shihab Ahmad al-Amary, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

24 Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Abdel Samad Fatuhi, Baghdad, September 29 and October 5, 2003.

25 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Sa`d `Adil al-Bayati, Baghdad, October 5, 2003.

26 Human Rights Watch interview with `Abbas Shihab Ahmad al-Amary, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

27 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Sa`d `Adil al-Bayati, Baghdad, October 5, 2003.

28 Ibid.

29 Human Rights Watch interview with Ra’ad `Ali Saied al-Omran al-Azawi, Baghdad September 26, 2003.

30 Human Rights Watch interview with Anwar Khdim Jawad, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

31 Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Abdel Samad Fatuhi, Baghdad, September 29 and October 5, 2003.

32 Col. Peter Mansoor is commander of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade and LTC William S. Rabena is commander of the 2nd Batallion, 3rd Field Artillery.

33 The receipt calls the money a “Solatia payment from CERP” and is from Cpt. Robert Brewer and ordered by Cpt. Casey D. Coyle.

34 Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Marc Warren, Col. Mike Kelly, Major P.J. Perrone, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

35 Human Rights Watch interview with Mustafa Ahmad Mustafa, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

36 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabri Nayif, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with `Ali Hassan, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

38 Human Rights Watch interview, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

39 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Jenkinson, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

40 Human Rights Watch interview, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

41 Human Rights Watch interview, Baghdad, September 29, 2003.

42 Ministry of Health, Forensic Institute, Number 4185, July 27, 2003.

43 Human Rights Watch discussion with Specialist Juan Arevalo, 82nd Airborne, 2nd Brigade legal division, Baghdad, September 29, 2003. The head of the brigade’s legal team, regimental judge advocate, is Capt. Patrick Murphy.

44 Human Rights Watch interview with Harun Rashid Fadhil al-Janabi, al-Latifiyya, Setpember 19, 2003

45 Human Rights Watch interviews with Fadhil Hamza Hussain al-Janabi, al-Latifiyya, September 19, 2003, and Baghdad, September 21, 2003.

46 Human Rights Watch interview with Malak Salman Dawud, al-Latifiyya, September 19, 2003.

47 Human Rights Watch interview with Khudair Tuma`a, al-Mahmudiyya, September 19, 2003.

48 Human Rights Watch interview with Khudair Tuma`a and his wife, al-Mahmudiyya, September 19, 2003

49 Human Rights Watch interview with Qassim Muhammad Hassan, al-Mahmudiyya, September 19, 2003.

50 “In Iraq, One Incident, Two Stories,” by Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, September 28, 2003.

51 Ibid.

52 Human Rights Watch saw autopsy reports for the three killed men. Ra’ad was hit by two bullets—one under the right shoulder and one on the right side of the neck [Ministry of Health, Forensic Institute, Number 4929, August 12, 2003.] Saadi died from a fractured skull and brain damage caused by a bullet [Ministry of Health, Forensic Institute, Number 4929, August 12, 2003.] `Uday was hit by one bullet in the head [Ministry of Health, Forensic Institute, Number 4234, August 12, 2003.]

53 Human Rights Watch interview with Falah Mahdi `Awad, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

54 al-Yarmuk Hospital, Number 4739, Dr. Mahdi Jassim Musa.

55 Human Rights Watch interview with Muthanna Jassim Khudair, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

56 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Jenkinson, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

57 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Zamil al-Sa`idy, Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

58 Human Rights Watch discussion with Specialist. Juan Arevalo, 82nd Airborne, 2nd Brigade legal division, Baghdad, September 29, 2003. The head of the brigade’s legal team, regimental judge advocate, is Capt. Patrick Murphy.

59 Human Rights Watch interview with Hamza `Atiya Muhsin, Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

60 “U.S. Soldiers Shoot Dead Two Iraqi Policemen Police,” by Rory Mulholland, Agence France Presse, August 11, 2003.

61 Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Marc Warren, Col. Mike Kelly and Major P.J. Perrone, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

62 “Questions Arise Over Friendly Fire Probe,” by Tarek al-Issawi, Associated Press, September 25, 2003.

63 Human Rights Watch interview, Baghdad, September 26, 2003.

64 Human Rights Watch interview with Wafa’ `Abd al-Latif, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

65 Human Rights Watch interview with Yassir `Ala’, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

66 Human Rights Watch interview with Subhi Hassan al-Qubaisi, Baghdad, September 24, 2003.

67 Human Rights Watch discussion with Specialist. Juan Arevalo, 82nd Airborne, 2nd Brigade legal division, Baghdad, September 29, 2003. The head of the brigade’s legal team, regimental judge advocate, is Capt. Patrick Murphy.

68 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Jenkinson, Baghdad, September 23, 2003.

69 “American Soldier Shot at Baghdad Market,” by Jim Krane, Associated Press, June 27, 2003.

70 “Witnesses: U.S. Forces Raid Baghdad House, Kill Iraqi,” Associated Press, July 27, 2003, and “Iraqis Kill Five More U.S. Soldiers,” by Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 28, 2003, and “U.S. Comes Up Empty-handed in Raid of Home,” by Sabah al-Anbaki and Paul Wiseman, USA Today, July 28, 2003.

71 Coalition Joint Task Force Seven press release #030729c, “Forces Kill Two Iraqis at Checkpoint,” July 29, 2003.

72 Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Ibrahim al-Shaikh al-Jaburi, Baghdad, October 9, 2003.

73 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhanad `Imad Ghazal Ibrahim al-Ruba`i, Baghdad, October 9, 2003.

74 Ibid.

75 Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Ibrahim al-Shaikh al-Jaburi, Baghdad, October 9, 2003.

76 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhanad `Imad Ghazal Ibrahim al-Ruba`i, Baghdad, October 9, 2003.

77 Human Rights Watch interview with Yelda Hermiz, Baghdad, October 9, 2003.

78 Coalition Joint Task Force Seven press release #030729c, “Forces Kill Two Iraqis at Checkpoint,” July 29, 2003.

79 “U.S. Comes Up Empty-handed in Raid of Home,” by Sabah al-Anbaki and Paul Wiseman, USA Today, July 28, 2003.

80 Human Rights Watch interview with Hawra `Adil Na`ama, Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

81 “Three Iraqis killed, 10 US soldiers wounded as violence flares in Iraq,” by James Hossack, Agence France Presse, July 3, 2003.

82 Ibid.

83 Human Rights Watch interview with Haidar Hussain Karim al-Fitlawi, Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

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October 2003