Accessibility links

Iraq Report: October 21, 2005

21 October 2005, Volume 8, Number 35

RFE/RL has launched a special page on the referendum for the constitution: The page includes breaking news and analysis on the draft constitution, as well as interviews from RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq and press reviews from the Iraqi media.

HUSSEIN, CO-DEFENDANTS PLEAD NOT GUILTY IN CHAOTIC FIRST DAY OF TRIAL. The Iraqi Special Tribunal convened on 19 October to try former dictator Saddam Hussein and seven other defendants for crimes against humanity related to the killing of 146 Iraqis and the arrest and deportation of 1,500 more following a failed assassination attempt against Hussein in the town of Al-Dujayl in 1982. By day's end, the court decided to adjourn until 28 November in order to accommodate defense attorneys who claimed they needed more time to prepare their defense.

Judge Ra'id al-Juhi told reporters at a 19 October press briefing that prosecutors also needed time to prepare witnesses for the trial, raising speculation that some witnesses may be unwilling to appear in court in front of Hussein and the other defendants. Al-Juhi said that Iraqi law allows for the judges to interview witnesses in their homes in order to accommodate such issues. Judge Rizgar Muhammad Amin later told Reuters that 30-40 witnesses failed to show up. "They were too scared to be public witnesses," he said.

To observers, the delay can only aid the prosecution and the tribunal judges, who appeared at times flustered as Hussein and other defendants disrupted the courtroom proceedings. Lead Judge Amin was seen on camera smiling nervously and rocking his chair as Hussein challenged the court.

From the moment the proceedings got under way, Hussein was belligerent, refusing to identify himself to Amin. Hussein contended that under the constitution drafted during his tenure, he, as president of Iraq, was immune from prosecution. "You asked for my identification but this is a formality of the court. Therefore, I don't acknowledge either the entity that authorized you nor the aggression because everything that is based on falsehood is false," Hussein said.

Former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan followed suit, refusing to identify himself to the court. The other defendants did identify themselves, but not one described himself as having any link to the Ba'ath Party.

As the proceedings continued, Hussein and the other defendants interjected to challenge remarks by either Amin or the prosecutor. Defense attorney Khalid al-Dulaymi also objected, claiming that references by the prosecutor to the Iran-Iraq war, which was under way at the time of the massacre, were veiled attempts to cloud the proceedings with unrelated issues.

Amin struggled to bring order to the proceedings, and for television viewers, the chaos was compounded by audio/visual technical problems, leaving the impression that those responsible for organizing the proceedings were ill-prepared. The circus-like atmosphere may add to the concerns some international observers have with the court's legitimacy and ability to give Hussein a fair trial.

Such impressions will have a lasting effect on Sunni Arabs who support the former regime. Hussein supporters have already contended that the deposed leadership won't get a fair trial in Iraq. But ultimately, a poorly run trial is a disservice to all Iraqis, who have waited for this trial for so long.

Hussein and the other defendants pleaded not guilty to charges that included torture, premeditated murder, imprisonment and deprivation of physical movement, and forced deportation. The other seven men on trial are: Awad Hamad Bandar Sa'dun, chief judge of the Revolutionary Court in 1982; Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, then intelligence chief and Hussein's half-brother; former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan; Abdallah Kazim al-Ruwayid; Ali Dayah Ali; Muhammad Azzawi al-Ali; and Mizhar Abdallah al-Ruwayid. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-DUJAYL SURVIVOR SAYS 'WE WANT THE DESERVED PUNISHMENT FOR THE GUILTY'. Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviewed lawyer Adnan al-Dujayli, a native of Al-Dujayl, where a massacre occurred in the early 1980s for which former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other officials from his regime are currently standing trial. The interview was in Baghdad by RFI correspondent Imad Jasim and broadcast on 22 August 2005.

Al-Dujayli: The number of people who undertook the act and were arrested [for the assassination attempt against Saddam Hussein when he was visiting Al-Dujayl] were, as far as I have been informed, about seven.

RFI: And how many people were executed?

Al-Dujayli: There were between 143 and 153 people executed.

RFI: Was there any investigation of these people before they were executed?

Al-Dujayli: There was absolutely no fair investigation of the men arrested in Al-Dujayl. They were not put before any fair trial. The majority of the men arrested neither had any political links nor did they take part in the act [of the assassination attempt]. They were innocent. The only thing that could [link] a person was that he was a brother of someone.

RFI: Was this the reason they were executed?

Al-Dujayli: They were executed for this reason.

RFI: Even women?

Al-Dujayli: Women were dying in prisons. Old men were dying in prisons. Children were dying in prisons. Unfortunately, there were families here who were, so to say, exterminated. I can tell you now that for example the family of Abd Jawad al-Zubaydi was finished with. They all were killed, only a girl survived.

RFI: Were all of its members taken to prison and killed?

Al-Dujayli: All of them. Father, mother, children -- all of them. There was another family, known as the "Storytellers," or the family of Ya'qub Majid al-Ya'qub. Everyone in this family was exterminated apart from two women, who survived. Seven boys and [their] father were all killed. Well, there are families of whom not a single person survived. Regarding my family, my stepbrother, called Mahrus, took part in the act [of the assassination attempt]. After he participated in the act, Al-Dujayl was massacred. The Republican Guards forces, police with dogs, aircraft, and army stormed Al-Dujayl and disgraced it.... Altogether seven of my brothers were executed by Saddam Hussein.... The [other] arrested members of my family were: my mother, [another of] my father's wives, my three sisters, my brother's wife, my two brothers, and my nephew. When the arrests happened, my sister-in-law was pregnant. She was the wife of my brother Ali, who was one of the ones executed. During interrogations by the intelligence officers she gave birth to a son. Due to the absence of care in the jail, he died. My brother Ali has four daughters left [who are alive now] but the others did not have any offspring. After they had been jailed by the intelligence service for approximately a year, they were expelled to...a village on the Iraqi-Saudi border. Four years after the [incident], the [arrested Al-Dujayl residents] were acquitted. All of them returned to the town [of Al-Dujayl], all [survivors] from among the 120 Al-Dujayl families. After the incident that happened on 8 July 1982, as far as I can remember, a whole month of arrests followed when the town was occupied by the [security and intelligence forces]. As for six of my brothers, some of them were [at the time] in the army on the front [in the Iraq-Iran War] and others were working. They did not know anything about the [assassination attempt] and had no relation to it. They did not have any political orientation. They had no liaison to any political or religious parties. After the men and families were arrested, a destruction of gardens and uprooting of trees began. Beginning in October 1982, bulldozers arrived and destroyed everything between the highway, the town, and Al-Ishaqi [irrigation] plant -- an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 donums [i.e. 17,500-20,000 hectares of agricultural land]. There were well-cultivated vineyards and orchards of palms, pomegranates, and oranges. Whole families and cities lived off of this. This was nurturing the cities. Baghdad and all cities of Iraq were supplied with fruits from here.� When the door of a house was knocked on, children were sat down in a room. People were scared and then they opened the door. They would say: "I will [go]," hoping the family could stay. It would rarely happen that someone would not open the door. The [security and intelligence forces] would break the door, and storm and search the house. There were families killed even here [on the spot]. In one family close to my place, they raided [a home filled with] women and slaughtered them.

RFI: Did this operation continue during the whole period of the former regime?

Al-Dujayli: [Yes,] for the whole period of the former regime. After 1986, the affairs calmed down a little but all people kept waiting for their children to be acquitted. My mother, for instance, was wondering until her death who [from among the arrested relatives] would come back.

RFI: And one of her sons [i.e. Adnan al-Dujayli's full brother] was killed.

Al-Dujayli: [Yes,] one of her sons....

RFI: The corpses were not returned to you?

Al-Dujayli: No, none of the seven corpses has ever been returned. But after the fall [of the regime of Saddam Hussein] we received death certificates. We got the decree on their execution, the decree on the execution of 143 young men of Al-Dujayl. Based on this decree, we requested the death certificates.... Saddam is a human being so he cannot have stayed [in power] forever. One day, he had to be finished with his deeds. Saddam Hussein was terrorizing and oppressing people.... The supreme and almighty Lord is the one who has taken revenge on Saddam and drawn to him this destiny that he had not been expecting. Thank God Saddam Hussein is finished. God willing, the Iraqi people will [see] that he receives a just punishment. We do not want to do him wrong. On the contrary, Saddam Hussein is one of the Iraqis and he did wrong to the Iraqi people. So if justice and law are applied on him, he will be punished by us more than we were being punished by him.

RFI: How do you feel when you see him handcuffed now, after he killed so many of your relatives?

Al-Dujayli: By God, I will not take the anger out on anyone. But this is justice. This is justice that must be followed on this issue and in this form.... We do not want to do him wrong. We want the deserved punishment for the guilty, and fair treatment for those who will be found innocent, even if it were Saddam Hussein or his aides.... The Iraqi judiciary is pure, transparent, and competent. (Translated by Petr Kubalek)

For more RFI interviews on Al-Dujayl, see:

SUNNI ARABS APPEAR TO LOSE BID TO VOTE DOWN CONSTITUTION. Preliminary results from the 15 October referendum on the Iraqi draft constitution point to a loss by Sunni Arabs who sought to vote down the draft. While the final tally has not been announced, local electoral officials have told journalists that it appears the draft got a "yes" vote in two Sunni Arab-populated governorates: Diyala and Ninawah. It appears that a "no" vote won out only in the Sunni Arab-populated governorates of Salah Al-Din and Al-Anbar. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) stipulates that the draft will fail only if three or more governorates reject it.

In light of their apparent defeat, it is unclear what position those Sunni Arab groups that stood opposed to the referendum might adopt after the referendum results are certified. Some leaders, such as Salih al-Mutlaq, have already claimed that the preliminary results are fraudulent. But the Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI) has said it received no complaints of impropriety from observer groups or citizens on the day of the referendum.

Sunni Arab groups are now focusing on upcoming national elections in December as their best chance at influencing the political process, and many groups have already begun low-level campaigning in an effort to gain support for those elections.

The ability of such groups to gain parliamentary seats will depend largely on their ability to present coherent platforms and visions to their constituencies. So far, Sunni Arabs have largely failed because they lack a solid political program. Moreover, Sunni Arab parties possess no cohesive vision or platform under which they could unite, as Kurdish and Shi'ite parties did ahead of parliamentary elections in January. A number of Sunni Arab groups have noted the benefits of working together as part of a coalition, but many leaders have said such a coalition would have to wait until after the election. It remains unlikely however, that a Sunni Arab coalition could be formed in just a few short months, given the ideological gaps that exist among Sunni Arab groups.

A Closer Look At The Vote

Adil al-Lami, director-general of the election commission, cautioned media outlets, saying the commission has not released any official figures on the referendum and media reports thus remain speculative, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 16 October. But a number of local electoral officials have commented on the referendum to media outlets, providing some insight into the final vote count.

Farid Ayar, spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, told reporters at a 15 October press briefing after polls closed that turnout across Iraq's 18 governorates was medium (33-66 percent) to high (above 66 percent). The proportion of eligible voters who went to the polls in the volatile Al-Anbar Governorate was not released, while there was low voter turnout (under 33 percent) in the Al-Qadisiyah Governorate in south-central Iraq.

The Sunni-Populated Governorates

"The [final] results have not come out yet but the [preliminary data] are promising," Manaf Hasan, an Independent Election Commission member in the Ninawah Governorate (Mosul), told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 16 October. "So far, we have gathered data from 419,804 out of the total number of voters in Mosul. [The number of] those who have voted 'yes' is 326,774...while [the number of] those who have voted 'no' is 90,065 and 2,965 votes were invalid. In Mosul city, there were 95 polling stations, 52 of which were on the left bank [Kurdish-populated area, east of the Tigris River] and 43 on the right bank [Sunni Arab-populated area, west of the Tigris]."

Mahmud Abdullah, who is a representative of the Kurdistan Islamic Union and a commission member in the Ninawah Governorate, told RFI: "I believe that the positive participation of the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Sunni Al-Waqf Council in the referendum has contributed a lot to a positive outcome of the Iraqi referendum in Mosul.... We are optimistic that the [security] situation in the restive areas of Iraq will become more stabilized after...large numbers [of people] took part in the referendum."

Turnout was also high in Al-Ta'mim Governorate (which includes the capital of Kirkuk and is a mixture of Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans), where Farhad Talabani, head of the Kirkuk branch of the election commission, told RFI on 16 October, "We expect that turnout will be over 60 percent." Reuters reported on 17 October only a 40 percent turnout in the governorate, adding that 60 percent of voters voted "yes" and 40 percent voted "no" in the referendum.

In Salah Al-Din, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 16 October that 71 percent of voters voted "no" in the referendum. Sa'd al-Rawi, spokesman for the Al-Anbar branch of the election commission, said that 90 percent of voters went to the polls in Al-Anbar, 99 percent of whom voted "no," Reuters reported on 17 October. Al-Rawi said just 50 people voted to back the constitution.

In Diyala, Amir Latif al-Yahya, the head of Independent Election Commission's Diyala Governorate branch, told RFI on 16 October: "The turnout has been very high. I personally had been expecting a high turnout but not as high as it came to be, in fact."

Asked about complaints by citizens about the long distances (vehicular traffic was banned on 15 October) between their homes and polling stations, he said: "Within the security plan, we were agreed that buses would be provided for the transport of voters from their places of residence to polling centers. The long distance to some areas and the small number of buses may have deprived some from getting to the [polling] centers. We will do our best to manage this issue in the next elections."

Al-Yahya said that he was also present during the detainee voting at Camp War Horse, located on the grounds of Ba'qubah Airport. "There were 39 inmates from prisons of the Multinational Force, 36 of whom have publicly expressed their 'yes' to the constitution while the other three voted 'no.'"

The Shi'ite-Populated Governorates

In the Shi'ite-populated areas of central and southern Iraq, turnout was strong in some areas but lower than expected in other towns. RFI reported from Al-Najaf on 16 October that unofficial estimates put turnout at around 40 percent, adding that the turnout was much lower than that for January elections.

Local residents interviewed by RFI expressed apathy over political progress and many complained over the poor state of services in the governorate, which they said had deteriorated since January. Other cited the long distances from their homes to polling centers, saying no transportation was provided by the governorate.

Local residents in Al-Najaf told RFI that disputes between the religious leadership and political parties in the governorate played a role in upsetting citizens, who, as a result, opted to stay away from the polls. Others cited the influence of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on the political process. Al-Sadr supporters demonstrated against the constitution in nearby Al-Hillah last week (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 October 2005).

Voter turnout was unexpectedly low in the Shi'ite-populated Al-Qadisiyah governorate, the Independent Election Commission said on 16 October. As in Al-Najaf, local residents interviewed by RFI on 17 October pointed to frustration over deteriorating services and their discontent with the local and central government as their reason for staying away from the polls. An RFI correspondent confirmed firsthand that the state of roads and civil services in general was indeed poor. He said, however, that the security situation in Al-Qadisiyah governorate was very good.

Al-Qadisiyah Governor Idris Khalil Hamza denied that the low turnout was related to voter discontent with the government, saying no direct link should be drawn between the state of services and the constitution -- which he said is intended to benefit all Iraqis. He admitted, however, that he was surprised by the low turnout.

RFI's correspondent quoted sources as saying that voter turnout in Al-Qadisiyah was 40-45 percent. Sa'd al-Abdali, head of the Independent Election Commission's Al-Qadisiyah branch, told RFI that he estimated 50-55 percent of voters came to the polls. That figure seems high, given that Independent Election Commission official Hamdiyah al-Husayni called turnout in Al-Qadisiyah "low" -- meaning less than 33 percent -- in a 15 October press briefing in Baghdad.

According to local election chief al-Abdali, voter lists arrived late and incomplete. Also, an unspecified foreign company in charge of "securing some administrative aspects of the ballot" worked "without proper coordination with the [Independent Election Commission] office in [the Al-Qadisiyah Governorate capital] Al-Diwaniyah," RFI quoted al-Abdali as saying.

In Babil, Qays al-Hasnawi, spokesman for the Babil branch of the election commission, told RFI on 16 October that participation was very high, with 96 percent turnout in the Al-Hashimiyah district of the city. "We can estimate the turnout at 70 percent" overall, he said.

The process was not flawless, however. Al-Hasnawi said that badges to be worn by commission staffers arrived late, and some voters were unable to reach polling centers because of long distances and the absence of transport. "There were also difficulties in checking the register of voters," al-Hasnawi said. "The register of voters was difficult to print.... There were many misprints and errors and some data were incomplete. Many people had to return without casting their votes in the referendum because their names were not included [in the register]. Although they had voted in the previous [general] elections and [recorded] their names in the register of voters, these names did not appear in the newly printed voters register."

The Kurdish Governorates

The Independent Election Commission said that voter turnout was "high" in the Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate and "medium" in the Irbil and Dahuk governorates, while early speculation in the media suggested that the referendum will pass overwhelmingly in the Kurdistan region. Kurdish support for the referendum is unsurprising; Kurdish officials have said the draft constitution affords them more rights than they had under any previous Iraqi regime. Moreover, Kurds typically follow the "party line" and both the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the region's two largest parties, called on Kurds to vote "yes" in the referendum. The television channels and newspapers of both parties also encouraged a "yes" vote.

Some Problems Reported

The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that other transgressions took place on referendum day, RFI reported on 15 October. Hamdiyah al-Husayni told reporters on 15 October that troops stationed in camps and military barracks were denied participation in the referendum. "As a result, security troops and army personnel expressed objections in some areas because they were denied participation in this process," al-Husayni said. "Pressure was brought to bear on some centers.... When the [Independent Election Commission] was informed of this matter, the relevant authorities were contacted. The army and security personnel were told that the [Independent Election Commission] will consider the possible adoption of special arrangements for voting by the security personnel stationed in military camps and barracks in the future."

Al-Husayni added that there were some reported incidents of ballot boxes, papers, or envelopes being stolen, but said those incidents did not affect the voting process because the commission had anticipated such events and provided extra ballots to voting centers. She added that one news channel (not identified) gave $5 bills to people to vote "no" in the referendum. Ten polling station workers were abducted by terrorists in two polling centers in the Al-Jazirah and Al-Khalidiyah neighborhoods of Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo. Published on 17 October.)