Iraq Theater

Incommunicado detentions persist at Iraq prison earmarked for closure: HRW

Mass arrests and incommunicado detentions persist at Camp Honor, a prison in Iraq's capital Baghdad that the Iraqi government promised to close last year, Human Rights Watch reported May 15. According to HRW, the Iraqi government is holding hundreds of detainees incommunicado for months at a time at Camp Honor, as well as two unnamed facilities in the Green Zone. Those being held at these facilities were reportedly rounded up by security troops who encircled neighborhoods and went door-to-door with a list of names of people to detain.

Federal appeals court revives lawsuits against Abu Ghraib contractors

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled 12-2 May 11 that the earlier dismissal of lawsuits against two Abu Ghraib contractors on the grounds that they have immunity as government contractors was premature. The court sent the cases against CACI International Inc and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc back to the district court for fact-specific scrutiny to determine the validity of their immunity claims. According to the en banc decision of the appeals court, the case must be remanded because, "[t]he appellants are requesting immunity in a context that has been heretofore unexplored. These are not disputes in which facts that might be material to the ultimate issue have been conclusively identified." Prior to the decision of the appeals court, the US Department of Justice filled an amicus brief claiming that torture claims are not subject to immunity and that the case should be remanded to the district court.

Iraq: court dismisses charges against former US detainee

Ali Mussa Daqduq, a former detainee of the US with ties to Hezbollah, was cleared of all charges in an Iraqi court, his lawyer said May 7. The US handed Daqduq over to Iraqi authorities in December as part of the "end of the Iraq War." US President Barack Obama considered trying Daqduq on US soil but was unable to come to an agreement with Iraqi officials. Since no decision could be reached, Duqdaq had to be transferred to Iraq officials pursuant to the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Baghdad. Many politicians expressed concern at the time of his transfer that Iraqi courts would not be able to convict Duqdaq. The US government did not immediately respond the dismissal of charges.

Iraq: illusion of stability

With last month's Arab League summit in Baghdad, Iraq's leaders boasted that the country has emerged from instability and taken its place in the international community. But on the eve of the summit, a car bomb killed a police officer at a Baghdad checkpont, and while the summit was underway March 29, three rockets were fired around the capital. One broke windows at the Iranian embassy; another exploded on the edge of the heavily fortified Green Zone, where summit was being held. With the region's Sunni leaders suspicious of the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government, only 10 leaders of the 22-member league showed up for the summit. After the summit Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, left the autonomous northern Kurdish region for Qatar. The Kurdish region has meanwhile again halted oil exports, accusing the central government in Baghdad of failing to make payments to companies working there in the latest escalation in the struggle for Iraq's oil. (Reuters, April 1; The National, UAE, March 31; Fox News, Reuters, March 29; CNN, March 27)

UN rights commissioner protests Iraqi execution state

Iraq appeared to retreat from its political impasse Feb. 3, as the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc agreed to end its parliament boycott. The bloc's return to the cabinet depends on how Iraq's premier responds, fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi told AFP. Hashemi, a Sunni, is accused of financing a death squad to target police, judges and officials. He has been hiding out in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region since December. (AFP, Feb. 3) Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized Iraq for carrying out a large number of executions—including 34 on a single day last month. "Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day," Pillay said, referring to executions carried out on Jan. 19. "Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure." At least 63 are believed to have been executed since mid-November in Iraq, where the death penalty can be imposed for some 48 crimes—including non-fatal offenses such as damage to public property. (Reuters, Jan. 24)

No jail time for last Haditha defendant

A military judge at Camp Pendleton, Calif., sentenced Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich to a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank after he pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty, ending the final court-martial resulting from a five-year investigation into the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha in 2005. But because of a plea deal with prosecutors, Wuterich won't serve any time in the brig, so his sentence amounts to a reduction in rank—to private—and a pay cut. Wuterich was charged with voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty in court-martial proceedings that began less than two weeks ago. All of the charges except dereliction of duty were dropped in return for his guilty plea. Wuterich was accused of overreacting to the death of another marine in a roadside bombing, sending his men into nearby houses to search for insurgents—resulting in the deaths of the civilians, including 10 women and children. In the sentencing, the military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, cited how Wuterich ordered his troops to "shoot first, ask questions later." Seven other marines were charged in the incident, but in six cases charges were dismissed, and one was acquitted. (CNN, Jurist, Jan. 24)

Blackwater settles last lawsuit in 2007 Baghdad shooting incident

Blackwater, now known as Academi, reached a confidential settlement agreement Jan. 7 with survivors and families of victims in a 2007 shooting incident in the Nisour Square area of Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. A subsequent FBI investigation revealed that 14 of the deaths were unjustified acts of excessive force. A federal judge ruled last year that the lawsuit could proceed in North Carolina state court, saying that nonresidents lack the right to sue in federal court for injuries sustained outside of the country but that federal courts are obligated to remand such cases to the state level, where North Carolina law permits such suits. Lawyers for the victims confirmed the settlement, and Academi said the settlement would allow the company to move forward while providing compensation to the victims and allowing closure for the losses they suffered. This settlement closes the last lawsuit against the company for the 2007 incident.

US transfers final detainee to Iraqi government

The US handed over the last detainee in Iraq, Ali Mussa Daqduq, to Iraqi authorities on Dec. 16 as part of the end of the Iraq occupation. Daqduq allegedly has links to Hezbollah and is accused of planning a raid in 2007 which resulted in the deaths of five US soldiers. US President Barack Obama considered trying Daqduq on US soil but was unable to come to an agreement with Iraqi officials. Since no decision could be reached, Duqdaq had to be transferred to Iraq officials pursuant to the 2008 status-of-forces agreement between the US and Baghdad. The decision to turn over Duqdaq will likely spark political controversy, because many US politicians were concerned with releasing Duqdaq to Iraqi authorities. John McCain and other senators wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (PDF):

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