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The following are extracts from the accounts of five detainees whom Human Rights Watch interviewed at the al-Karrada Criminal Court in Baghdad in September and October 2004.  They were among fifteen detainees interviewed upon their referral on various criminal charges, including theft and murder, and were in court for their investigative hearing or trial.  All were being held at police stations in Baghdad, including al-Sa’doun, al-Masbah, Baghdad al-Jadida, Balat al-Shudada’, and al-Muthanna.  Their accounts regarding treatment in detention at the hands of the Iraqi police were largely consistent with those obtained by Human Rights Watch from detainees held in the custody of the Ministry of Interior’s specialized police agencies and referred to the Central Criminal Court.

Case A

‘Ali Bargouth ‘Alwan: a thirty-year-old man living in the neighborhood of al-Saydiyya in Baghdad, employed as a guard in a car showroom.  He told Human Rights Watch that the police arrested him in June 2004, [he could not remember the exact day], upon finding a hand grenade in his possession.   He said he had bought it for 1,500 dinars from a group of men outside a restaurant in al-Bataween, who were insistent and said it was a cheap deal:

A few minutes later a car drew up, and four policemen got out after seeing the hand grenade in my hand.  They bound my hands behind my back with metal handcuffs, blindfolded me with a piece of cloth and began hitting me in front of passers-by.  They punched me and kicked me and hit me with the butts of their rifles on my head and all over my body.  While in the car on the way to the police station, one of them said if I gave him 50,000 dinars he would let me go before reaching the station, but I refused.

At al-Sa’doun police station, I was taken up to the interrogating officer’s room.  They removed the blindfold but left me handcuffed.  There were six of them altogether.  The first lieutenant started asking me questions as the others punched me, kicked me and used cables and pipes on my back and head.  One of them said I must say that the grenade was mine and reveal where I had got it from.  They continued beating me, with insults and verbal abuse, which lasted until two o’clock in the morning with a few minutes’ break in between.  At the end of the interrogation session they asked me to sign a statement, although I can neither read nor write, but no one read it out to me and I was obliged to sign it.

I was not allowed to contact my family to let them know I was detained, so no one visited me.  When I first got to the police station, there were about sixty or seventy people held there.  There was nowhere for me to sleep or rest, so I slept on the floor of the toilet.  The police gave us no food, and I ate from the food that the families of other detainees brought them.  There were no beds, and everyone had to sleep on their side because there was no room.

A week later I was brought before the investigative judge at the court in al-Karrada.  I had no lawyer and the court did not appoint one for me for the hearing.  I told the judge I was beaten while being questioned at the police station, but he did not respond to what I said.  He just asked me whether I had anything to add, and said my case would be referred to the misdemeanors court.223

‘Ali told Human Rights Watch that twenty days after his arrest, the police transferred him to Abu Ghraib Prison.  His case was later referred to the felony court, and on the day the organization met him, his trial was adjourned because the judge was absent.

Case B

Tahsin Dar’am Balasem: a twenty-five-old man from the governorate of al-‘Amara living and working in Baghdad, who told Human Rights Watch he belonged to the Badr Organization.224  On November 6, 2003, a U.S. military patrol arrested him and his brother on the 7 April Bridge in Baghdad and took them to al-Muthanna police station in the district of al-Zayyouna.  Tahsin said he was attempting to find and apprehend an individual whom he believed was responsible for killing his maternal cousin:

As soon as we entered the police station the Iraqi police blindfolded me and tied my hands behind my back, and took me into the interrogation room.  The interrogating officer began questioning me and told me to confess to having committed robberies and abductions.  I denied this. So they started beating me with cables.  They also used electric shocks by tying wires to my ears and to my penis.  After that I confessed.  The next day I was taken before the investigative judge, and I denied the charges, saying I had confessed under torture.  He did not refer me to the Medico-Legal [Institute] even though I showed him my body and the traces of torture.  I told the judge I was not a criminal, and that I had come to resolve a tribal case.  I said someone had killed my maternal cousin and I wanted revenge.  So they opened another case against me, but did not drop the first charges.

After I was taken back to al-Muthanna police station, the police hit me again and used electric shocks by applying it to my ears and penis.  The torture lasted about four hours.  They asked why I had denied the charges before the judge, and why I had said my case was of a tribal kind.    Ten days later they brought a group of people whose car had been stolen, and one of them identified me as the person who stole it.  So they opened another case against me.  But even though they tortured me again for another two hours to confess to this crime, I did not confess either to them or before the investigative judge.  After a long time I was brought to criminal court in al-Karrada and was acquitted of this last charge, but I am still in prison because of the other two charges.225

Case C

Nasir Ghani Muhsin: a twenty-one-year old guard employed by the Ministry of Health, whom the police arrested on August 12, 2004, in the al-Bab al-Sharqi district of Baghdad.  He told Human Rights Watch that on that day, a gang robbed him in the street, stealing his watch, a bag containing clothes, and U.S. $120.  He said he asked a passerby for 500 dinars to enable him to get home, and that the passerby pointed to a police car nearby and said they may be able to help him:

I went towards the car, and the man whom I had asked for money came up behind me.  When we got there, the man accused me of having tried to rob him.  The two policemen were wearing ordinary police uniforms, but they were not armed and did not wear badges proving that they were from the police.  Their car was a black BMW.  After they heard the complaint against me, they started hitting me with a wooden stick in front of passersby, then they put me in the boot of the car and took me to al-Sa’doun police station.  It was a Thursday, at about one o’clock in the afternoon.

As soon as I got to the police station, they took me up to the second floor.  The interrogating officer asked me what my case was, and I told him I didn’t know.  All I had done was to ask someone for 500 dinars, who then made a complaint against me to the police.  The officer ordered that I be beaten in order to tell the truth, so one of the others punched me in the back and stomach, on my head and face.  He hit me on the mouth with the butt of his rifle, which cause my lips to bleed.  After that, I told them I was guilty and had tried to rob the man who made the complaint.  I had been tortured for a few minutes, but as soon as I confessed the torture stopped.  The officer took down my statement and asked me to sign it, which I did.

After that they took me to the detention cell at the station.  There were twenty of us in the room.  The police did not give us any food or water.  We drank water from the toilet, and shared the food that some of the detainees received from their families.  They did not allow me to contact my family to tell them I was at al-Sa’doun police station, but five days later I got word to them after one of the detainees was released.  I gave him my family’s address and asked him to contact them.

On August 20 they brought me before the investigative judge at al-Karrada.  There was another man in the room.  I didn’t know whether he was a defense lawyer appointed by the court for me, since he didn’t speak to me at all.  He just told the judge that the complainant had not turned up and his address was unknown.  So the judge postponed the hearing until the complainant was found.  I was taken back to the police station for another week, then to the Tasfirat [Transfer Prison] for a month, and then to Abu Ghraib for almost two weeks. Today I was acquitted and the complainant never turned up, but I have another charge pending against me, relating to the possession of an unlicensed handgun.  The same lawyer who defended me on the first charge, who was engaged by my parents, will defend me again.226

Nasir added at the end of the interview that once his parents learned where he was being held, they were able to visit him.  However, he said that on each occasion they were obliged to pay the police 5,000 dinars to secure the visit, which usually lasted between fifteen to thirty minutes.

Case D

Ra’ed Muhammad ‘Atiyya ‘Abbas al-Budairi: a thirty-year-old lorry driver living and working in Baghdad, who the police accused of stealing a car and an amount of gold from the Central Bank of Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Saddam Hussein government.227  He told Human Rights Watch that the police arrested him and his brother Ra’ad on March 24, 2004, at their home in the Hay al-Atibba’ neighborhood of Baghdad, at around seven o’clock in the morning.  Upon searching their home, he said police removed gold jewelry from his mother’s bedroom and took two cars parked in the garage, one of which he said belonged to his brother’s Lebanese business partner.  They took them to Balat al-Shuhada’ police station in the district of al-Dora:

Upon reaching the police station they put me and my brother in the detention cell and untied our hands.  Half an hour later I was summoned for interrogation.  They tied my hands behind my back with metal handcuffs.  Four of them questioned me, and told me to confess to having stolen the two cars.  They also accused me of having stolen the gold, and told me to confess to that.  I said I had nothing to do with it.  Two of them held me from behind, and Lieutenant Colonel [name withheld] used a wooden stick to beat me on the soles of my feet.  He also hit me on my back and other parts of my body, all the while telling me to confess to having stolen the cars and the gold.  This continued, with insults and foul language, for a whole hour. 

After that they took me back to the cell and immediately summoned my brother.  He was interrogated in the same way, with torture and beatings.  They did not allow us family visits, and did not give us any food.  Other detainees bought food by giving the police money to buy it for them, and shared it with us.  We drank water from the tap in the toilet, which we also used to wash ourselves.  When we first arrived at Balat al-Shuhada’ police station, there were thirty-five detainees.  There were bunk beds for everyone, but after a while they were taken away and we had to sleep on the floor.

The interrogation continued for about a week.  Each time they took me or my brother and tortured us for an hour or so, usually at around midday.  Then a lawyer arrived and said my parents had engaged him to defend us.  We talked for ten minutes.  The next day they referred me and my brother to the judicial investigator at the police station.  The torture stopped and they allowed us family visits.228

According to Ra’ed’s account, two and half months later detaining officials brought him and his brother before an investigative judge at al-Bayya’ criminal court, who told them that the car theft charge would be dropped.  Three days later they were transferred to Bab al-Shaikh police station, where they spent seventeen days without questioning.  The police subsequently moved them to the Transfer Prison to await their court appearance on charges of having stolen gold from the Central Bank of Iraq.  Ra’ed told Human Rights Watch that the police had brought him to al-Karrada criminal court by mistake, caused by the similarity between his name and that of another detainee.   He said they were taking him back to the Transfer Prison, and wondered what was to become of him and his brother.

Case E

Hamid Farhan Salman: a thirty-five-year-old casual laborer living in the district of al-Za’faraniyya in Baghdad, who the police arrested on March 15, 2004, on a murder charge.  He told Human Rights Watch: 

A sharp dispute broke out between me and a lorry driver in traffic, so we started firing at each other with our guns, as a result of which a passerby was killed.  At the same time, a group of people from the nearby headquarters of the Da’wa Party also started firing, as well as a number of policemen.  The group from the Da’wa Party captured the lorry driver and handed him over to al-Za’faraniyya police station, and I ran away.  Half an hour later I went to the police station to turn myself in.  It was about 7.30 in the evening. 

I confessed to my part in the dispute, and wasn’t certain whether anyone had been killed.  I was arrested immediately, and fifteen minutes later they took me and the lorry driver to the interrogating officer’s room.  They questioned us without hitting us.  The lorry driver denied knowing me or that he was involved in a dispute with me, which was not true.  A week later, I was brought before the investigative judge.  I didn’t have a lawyer, so the court appointed one for me, but he didn’t say a word to me and I never saw him again after that.  I returned to al-Za’faraniyya police station, and a week later I was interrogated again.

I was blindfolded, and my hands were tied behind my back.  The lieutenant colonel accused me of having bribed the investigating officer in my case, and started hitting me with a cable on my back to make me confess.  This continued for about ten minutes.  Then two of them held me back, and I was punched all over the body.   The following day I made a complaint against the interrogating officer to the head of the police station, and the officer was transferred to another station.  I stayed there for about a month and a half, and then they transferred me and the lorry driver to al-Masbah police station.  The police there treated us well, but they never gave us food.  My family visited me every Thursday, and on the other days the police allowed them to visit after three o’clock in the afternoon for ten minutes each time, in exchange for a sum of money.   After about two months, the lorry driver was released on bail, and two weeks later I was moved to the Tasfirat [Transfer Prison].  The following day I was sent to Abu Ghraib.229

Hamid described the treatment at Abu Ghraib as good.  He said he received three meals a day, had family visits once a week, was allowed to go outdoors for exercise without chains once every two weeks, and was seen by the ICRC.  At the time of the interview, he was still being held in Abu Ghraib.  He told Human Rights Watch that he had resolved the case with the family of the passerby who was killed in the traditional tribal manner [fasl ‘asha’iri].  In exchange for a payment of five million dinars, the family had agreed to drop the murder charge against him.  Despite that, he said, he had not been released.  He was due to be tried on the day Human Rights Watch met him, but the judge postponed the session until October 30, 2004. 

[223] Human Rights Watch interview with ‘Ali Bargouth ‘Alwan, al-Karrada Criminal Court, Baghdad, October 12. 2004.

[224] The Badr Organization was formerly known as the Badr Brigades, the armed wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shi’a political party.  It was renamed in compliance with regulations introduced by the CPA in June 2004 banning party militias (CPA/ORD/02 June 2004/91: Regulation of Armed Forces and Militias Within Iraq).

[225] Human Rights Watch interview with Tahsin Dar’am Balasem, al-Karrada Criminal Court, Baghdad, September 15, 2004.

[226] Human Rights Watch interview with Nasir Ghani Muhsin, al-Karrada Criminal Court, Baghdad, October 10, 2004.

[227] A third brother, Khalid, was also implicated in the bank theft.  Human Rights Watch independently had interviewed him upon his referral to the Central Criminal Court more than six weeks earlier (See Section VII, Case 3).

[228] Human Rights Watch interview with Ra’ed Muhammad ‘Atiyya ‘Abbas al-Budairi, al-Karrada Criminal Court, Baghdad, October 11, 2004.

[229] Human Rights Watch interview with Hamid Farhan Salman, al-Karrada Criminal Court, Baghdad, October 13, 2004.

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