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Iraq Report: December 11, 2003


11 December 2003, Volume 6, Number 51
INSIDE IRAQ
IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL ESTABLISHES WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL... The Iraqi Governing Council announced on 10 December the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to prosecute members of the deposed Hussein regime that participated in crimes against the Iraqi people, international media reported. "This court will try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed from 17 July 1968 [the beginning of Saddam Hussein's rule] till 1 May 2003," Radio Free Iraq quoted Governing Council President for the month of December Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim as saying.

Governing Council member Muhsin Abd al-Hamid said in a statement prior to the approval that the public tribunal would be based on Iraqi law and presided over by Iraqi judges, Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television reported on 7 December. "The court formed by the [Governing Council] a few months ago, which it called the Court of Justice and Fairness, is a civilian rather than a martial or extraordinary court. It is comprised of senior Iraqi judges who will be aided by investigators, public prosecutors, and defense attorneys," he said. International experts will assist Iraqi judges as advisers to the tribunal.

Baghdad Judge and Governing Council member Dara Nur al-Din told nytimes.com that the draft law, written with the help of the United States, provides for a five-judge panel to review cases based both on international and Iraqi criminal law, the website reported on 8 December. The court will refer to a 1958 Iraqi law, which made it a capital crime to destabilize or threaten Iraq, as a basis for prosecuting former regime officials, he said. Former members of the deposed Hussein regime from the coalition's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis would likely be tried first. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...NAMES NEW MEMBER. AP reported on 9 December that the Governing Council has chosen an Iraqi Shi'ite professor to replace Aqilah al-Hashimi, who was gunned down outside her home in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2003).

Salama al-Khafaji, a professor of dentistry at Baghdad University, was picked by the Shi'ite members of the Governing Council to replace al-Hashimi, according to Adil Abd al-Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Al-Khafaji is reportedly not affiliated with any political party and, according to alsabaah.com, she was one of four candidates for the position. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOVERNING COUNCIL TO EXPEL MUJAHEDIN KHALQ FROM IRAQ. The Iraqi Governing Council is planning to expel the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) from Iraq by the end of the month and to confiscate the group's assets, Reuters reported on 9 December. The confiscated assets and weapons will reportedly be used to compensate victims of the deposed Hussein regime, which allowed the MKO to launch attacks against Iran from Iraq.

The United States is reportedly holding nearly 4,000 MKO fighters in eastern Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 September 2003). It began disarming MKO rebels in May (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 May 2003). The group is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. "This was a unanimous decision to expel the terrorist organization from Iraqi territory by the end of this year and close its premises and stop its followers from any activity before then," the Governing Council said in a statement.

Iranian presidential adviser Mohammad Shariati praised the 9 December announcement, telling Al-Jazeera the same day: "The Islamic Republic of Iran had announced an amnesty for the ordinary members of the MKO. The officials of this organization must be tried for their crimes and the terrorist operations they perpetrated in Iran and elsewhere which they admitted."

Shariati denied that the Governing Council decision was linked in any way to a U.S. demand that Iran turn over Al-Qaeda militants in its custody. "We do not consider this to be a deal�As for Al-Qaeda and its members, who are detained here, you know that we have turned over many of these to neighboring countries. We are now interrogating them. Turning them over to the United States is not being discussed now. After the interrogation, we will make a decision about who should be handed over to neighboring countries and who should be tried in Iran." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BABIL GOVERNOR REMOVED FROM OFFICE. The Governing Council voted to unseat the governor of Babil Province this week amid accusations of nepotism, corruption, and ties with the former regime, international media reported. Iskandar Jawad Witwit was removed following a decision by the Governing Council's High Committee on de-Ba'athification, ft.com reported on 10 December.

Witwit is a former lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi Air Force, and former member of the Ba'ath Party. "I am one of the people who resisted the former regime, and that's why I was chosen," Witwit told AP this week. "I worked hard day and night for security to prevail here." Many Iraqis reportedly said that the governor had indeed brought security to the province, and hundreds demonstrated in his support on 6 December, Al-Arabiyah television reported.

His supporters also say that the move may be part of a planned campaign by Governing Council members to change the composition of local leadership in Iraq ahead of elections for a transitional assembly next May, in which provincial and municipal leaders would cast a vote for assembly members.

Iraqi National Congress (INC) spokesman Entifadh Qanbar denied that Witwit's removal was politically motivated, ft.com reported. Meanwhile, Adil Abd al-Mahdi, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said that the Governing Council intends to make many such changes in local leadership in the coming year. "We will revise and modify and re-elect those municipalities that we feel there are some bad people," he said.

Witwit told AP that 34 of his relatives were killed by the Hussein regime and he himself had been jailed twice. His membership in the Ba'ath Party was out of necessity, not out of any allegiance to Saddam Hussein, he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER IRAQI OFFICER TALKS ABOUT DISPUTED '45-MINUTE' CLAIM. A purported former Iraqi military officer told London's "Sunday Telegraph" that he provided the United States and United Kingdom with information on Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs for more than seven years, the newspaper reported on 7 December.

The officer, identified only as Lieutenant Colonel al-Dabbagh, said British Prime Minister Tony's Blair's much-publicized claim in a dossier released last year that Iraq could launch biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes was "200 percent accurate," adding: "And forget 45 minutes. We could have fired them within half an hour." Al-Dabbagh said he was the person responsible for supplying the Blair administration with the intelligence information on the weapons. His brother-in-law, General A.J.M. Muhie, who smuggled the intelligence information out of Iraq, backed al-Dabbagh's claims.

Iraqi Governing Council member Iyad Allawi confirmed that al-Dabbagh supplied his London-based opposition group, the Iraqi National Accord (INA), now an Iraqi political party, with information on Iraq's WMD programs. He added that Muhie assisted coalition forces by providing crucial information regarding the location of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's main bunker, bombed during the early hours of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER REGIME MEMBERS KILLED BY UNKNOWN ASSAILANTS. Unknown assailants have killed two men with ties to the deposed Hussein regime in recent days, according to international media. The former director of security for Baghdad, Major General Khalaf al-Alusi, was reportedly killed when four gunmen opened fire on him at his home in Baghdad on 6 December, Al-Arabiyah television reported the same day.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi television reported on 7 December that former Major General Abd al-Humud Muhawish was found dead on a roadside in Al-Ramadi. Abu Dhabi television cited eyewitnesses as saying signs of torture were visible on his body. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BAGHDAD DAILY PUBLISHES DRAFT DECLARATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. The Baghdad daily "Al-Manar" on 4 December published a draft declaration on human rights written by the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry. The draft declaration recognizes the equality of all citizens before the law and guarantees the right to life, bans medical and drug testing on humans as well as the cloning of humans, and prohibits physical and psychological torture.

It also states that Iraq guarantees the right to education for all citizens; calls for civil, political, economic, and social rights for women; and declares that the state should ensure a decent standard of living for citizens, including food, housing, clothing, health care, and social insurance against unemployment, old age, disability, and provide for widows and orphans. The Human Rights Ministry plans to hold a national conference in January to discuss the draft before Iraq issues a declaration on human rights. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BOMB DETONATED INSIDE SUNNI MOSQUE... A bomb was apparently detonated inside a Sunni mosque in Baghdad on 9 December, Reuters reported. U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Frank German told reporters that the explosion occurred shortly after dawn, and appears to have come from inside the Ahbab Al-Mustafa mosque in central Baghdad.

"When we arrived the flames had been extinguished, and we set up a security zone and began the investigations," German said. "As far as we can tell there was an internal explosion inside the mosque." One witness told Reuters he heard more than one explosion, and local residents claimed several people had died, but Reuters cited Iraqi police as saying three persons were killed in the blast. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS CAR BOMB TARGETS U.S. BARRACKS NEAR MOSUL. A military base used by the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was the target of a car bomb on 9 December, international media reported. According to AP, a car approached the gate of the base, which is located in the town of Tal Afar, some 48 kilometers west of Mosul. Guards opened fire on the vehicle and it blew up, spokesman Major Trey Cate said. "The vehicle did not stop, so soldiers fired on it. It then detonated," Reuters quoted Cate as saying. Some 41 soldiers were injured in the incident, mostly by flying glass and debris. None of the injuries are life threatening. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES PREVENT SUICIDE ATTACK IN BAGHDAD. U.S. forces on 9 December identified a suspicious man outside a military base in Husayniyah, some 24 kilometers north of Baghdad, seconds before he detonated a bomb strapped to his body, AP reported.

The man approached the gates of the base and apparently refused to stop, prompting military police to open fire on him. He then detonated the bomb, Major Josslyn Aberle said. The U.S. military also reported that militants hit an OH-58D Kiowa observation helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade on 9 December, prompting a hard landing. The two crew members were not harmed in the incident. It was the fifth U.S. helicopter downed in Iraq in nearly six weeks, AP reported on 10 December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
U.K.-SPONSORED CONFERENCE ON IRAQ OPENS IN JORDAN. A U.K.-sponsored conference on Iraqi reconstruction and the business environment in Iraq was held in Amman on 9-11 December, according to the British Department of International Development (http://www.dfid.gov.uk). The three-day conference is aimed at Jordanian and British companies seeking to do business in Iraq. U.K. Trade and Investment, the Confederation of British Industry, and the British Consultants and Contractors Bureau are conference sponsors. Senior British and Iraqi officials, as well as Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) representatives are expected to attend, dpa reported on 9 December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BAHRAIN TO ASSIST IRAQ IN U.S. Bahrain and Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding on 8 December that said Bahrain will take care of Iraqi interests in Washington, Bahrain News Agency reported on the same day. Bahrain agreed in November to allow the Iraqi mission to work out of its embassy in the U.S. capital until repair work on the Iraqi Embassy, closed since 1991, is completed (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 27 November 2003). Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Bahraini Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa signed the memorandum in Manama. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI REFUGEES LEAVE SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN. Iraqi refugees continue to leave in small groups from Iran and Saudi Arabia, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on 9 December. On 8 December 210 people left the Ashrafi camp in Iran's Khuzestan Province for Al-Basrah. The refugees were given land-mine-awareness training and repatriation packages containing mattresses, blankets, cooking utensils, and tents in some cases.

According to the UNHCR, the 8 December convoy was the second such convoy to transport refugees from Iran. Despite UNHCR warnings about the security environment in Iraq, the agency says many Iraqis have risked their lives to cross minefields along the Iran-Iraq border in order to return home, prompting the agency to facilitate the safe return of those who wish to do so at this time. The Iranian head of provincial Bureau for Alien and Foreign Immigrants Affairs, Mohammad Hassan Paravar, said that 50,000 Iraqis have returned to Iraq without the help of UNHCR since the fall of the Hussein regime, IRNA reported on 8 December. Paravar added that about 40,000 Iraqis remain in provincial refugee camps and townships.

Another convoy transported 420 Iraqi refugees from Saudi Arabia's Rafha camp to Al-Basrah on 9 December. UNHCR said that over 4,300 Iraqis have returned home from Rafha since July. Around 1,100 refugees remain in the camp, which was established in 1991 and initially sheltered 33,000 Iraqis. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ TO IMPORT MEDICINE FROM IRAN. The head of Iraq's Pharmaceutical Association, Ahmad Ali Ibrahim, said on 6 December that the association has reached an agreement with its Iranian counterpart to import medicine from Iran, IRNA reported the same day. Ibrahim said that the agreement seeks to prevent the smuggling of medicine into Iraq, which is often illegally sold with expired consumption dates. IRNA reported that Iraqi pharmaceutical companies were damaged during Operation Iraqi Freedom and remain unable to produce many medicines. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS WANT IRAQ SURVEY GROUP REPORT ON WMD. Members of the United Nations Security Council criticized the United States on 8 December for refusing to provide copies of a report by U.S. weapons inspectors, Reuters reported the same day. The report by the Iraq Survey Group (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003) details the three-month findings of U.S. weapons inspectors in Iraq.

UN inspectors withdrew from Iraq in March prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and have not been allowed by the United States to resume full-scale inspections in the country. UN inspectors were instead replaced by the U.S.-established Iraq Survey Group. Around a dozen countries meeting in an 8 December closed-door Security Council session to review a recent quarterly report by the UN Monitoring Verification and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) said the expertise of UN inspectors was being wasted after nearly 12 years of inspections in Iraq, Reuters reported.

U.S. representative Josiah Rosenblatt reportedly responded to UN member states' requests for the report by saying that the United States was willing to share classified information "at an appropriate time," diplomats quoted him as saying, according to Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ARAB WOMEN TRAIL IN WORKFORCE, PARLIAMENTARY SEATS. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia's Committee on Women held a conference in Beirut on 4 December to discuss findings that reveal the Arab states have the world's lowest proportion of women in the workforce and parliament, the UN News Center reported on 5 December.

UN Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women Angela King said in a message sent to the committee meeting that the committee is committed to playing a key role in improving the cause of Arab women. "Arab women continue to be affected by the spread of poverty perpetuated by increased economic difficulties, political instability, and deteriorating social conditions," King said in the message. Only 5.7 percent of parliamentary seats in the Arab world are held by women, compared to the global average of 15.2 percent, King said. She added that Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have yet to sign or ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Arab delegates from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Oman, Qatar, Syria, the Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen attended the two-day conference. Iraqi Governing Council members Raja Habib Khaza'i and Songul Chabuk called for a greater role for women in the rebuilding of Iraq in a 3 December nytimes.com editorial (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 December 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANNAN SAYS UN NOT RETURNING TO IRAQ ANYTIME SOON. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the UN Security Council that he does not foresee the return of UN personnel to Iraq anytime in the near future due to security concerns there, washingtonpost.com reported on 10 December.

"Under the circumstances, it is difficult to envisage the United Nations operating with a large number of international staff inside Iraq in the near future, unless there is an unexpected and significant improvement in the overall security situation," the report noted. "I cannot afford to compromise the security of our international staff," Annan wrote, adding, "In taking the difficult decisions that lie ahead, I shall be asking myself questions such as whether the substance of the role allocated to the United Nations is proportionate to the risks we are being asked to take."

The secretary-general said that nonetheless he has taken steps to assemble a core UN staff for Iraq "so that the United Nations can be in a position to move swiftly back to the country if the people seek the organization's assistance, and circumstances on the ground permit," the website reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
U.S. PROHIBITS COUNTRIES OPPOSED TO IRAQ WAR FROM BIDDING ON CONTRACTS. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's office has released a 5 December document detailing "findings" on countries eligible to bid on $18.6 billion in reconstruction contracts in Iraq, which prohibits those nations opposed to the U.S.-led war from bidding on multimillion-dollar reconstruction contracts.

The document notes that 63 countries will be eligible to bid on contracts awarded by the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and by the U.S. Department of Defense using funds from the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) in the sectors of electricity, public works and water, military courts and borders, building, housing and health, transportation, communications, and oil infrastructure.

Eligibility to bid on contracts is limited, however, to Operation Iraqi Freedom allies. All countries are eligible to bid on subcontracts, Wolfowitz said, while still calling for international cooperation in rebuilding Iraq. "It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, coalition partners, and force contribution nations. Thus, it is clearly in the public interest to limit prime contracts to companies from these countries," Wolfowitz added. Under the plan, Canada, France, Germany, and Russia are barred from bidding on prime reconstruction contracts.

Leaders from the excluded states lashed out at the U.S. decision on 10 December. "We believe the interests of a political settlement of the situation in Iraq, and the rebuilding of Iraq, are best served by uniting the efforts of the international community and not splitting it," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters in Berlin, Reuters reported. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's spokesman Bela Anda called the decision "unacceptable," adding that it did not correspond with an agreement between Schroeder and President George W. Bush to "look to the future -- not the past," dpa reported. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsou said his country was studying the legality of the decision, adding that France had no comment on 10 December.

Meanwhile, the White House defended the decision. "The United States and coalition countries as well as others that are contributing forces to the efforts there -- and the Iraqi people themselves -- are the ones that have been helping and sacrificing to build a free and prosperous nation for the Iraqi people. And I think it's totally appropriate for those U.S. taxpayer dollars to go to the entities I just mentioned," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on 10 December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. APPOINTS JAMES BAKER AS DEBT ENVOY. U.S. President George W. Bush appointed former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as his personal envoy to help Iraq resolve billions of dollars in debt incurred by the deposed Hussein regime, according to a 5 December announcement on the State Department website (http://www.state.gov).

Bush said in a statement that the appointment was made in response to a request by the Iraqi Governing Council for help in lowering Iraq's estimated $125 billion in debt. "Secretary Baker will report directly to me and will lead an effort to work with the world's governments at the highest levels, with international organizations, and with the Iraqis in seeking the restructuring and reduction of Iraq's official debt," Bush said. "The issue of Iraq debt must be resolved in a manner that is fair and that does not unjustly burden a struggling nation at its moment of hope and promise," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GALLUP SURVEYS BAGHDAD RESIDENTS ON REGIME'S KILLING. A poll conducted by the Gallup organization in late August and early September has found that 6.6 percent of Baghdad residents said a member of their household had been executed by the deposed Hussein regime, according to a 9 December announcement on the organization's website (http://www.gallup.com).

"Assuming one execution per victimized household, the reported execution incidence of 6.6 percent projects to roughly 61,000 executions over the course of Hussein's 24-year rule," in Baghdad alone, Gallup said. The number, if accurate, would equate to nearly 1 percent of Baghdad's current population, and is double the number of bodies found in mass graves in Bosnia, according to Gallup.

The website quotes the director of the CPA's Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, Sandra Hodgkinson, as saying the CPA estimates some 300,000 Iraqis were killed by the Hussein regime. Some Iraqis put the figure at around 500,000 deaths. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR IRAQ STRATEGY REVIEW. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said on 9 December that the security situation in Iraq is inhibiting the ability of Russian companies to do business there, ITAR-TASS reported. "Russia insists that the whole strategy of the postwar rebuilding of this country be reviewed," Fedotov said, suggesting that an international postwar conference be held to work on the issue. "It is important that the formula for a settlement is given sufficient legitimacy inside Iraq and has broad international recognition," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JAPAN APPROVES TROOP DISPATCH TO IRAQ. The Japanese cabinet on 9 December approved a controversial plan to dispatch noncombat troops to Iraq, international media reported. The troops reportedly will be stationed in the southeastern Iraqi province of Al-Muthanna, and will provide medical and water supply services, and work to rebuild schools, and other public institutions, as well as transport materials needed for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts.

According to the Japanese news service Jiji Press, Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been granted a one-year mandate in Iraq until 15 December 2004, with some 600 ground forces participating in the deployment. Air and naval forces will also participate. The Japanese Foreign Ministry on 10 December released an outline of the country's basic plan for the troop deployment. The troops are expected to leave for Iraq in early 2004.

Speaking to reporters at a 9 December press conference in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said: "Our resolve as a nation is being put to the test. And the spirit of the Japanese people is being tested. We cannot say we will not provide humanitarian aid because it's dangerous there. We cannot just simply provide money. We must do our utmost to assist many of the diplomats, private citizens, and our soldiers to do their job." The Japanese public remains divided over the issue of troops, particularly following the killing of two Japanese diplomats on 29 November (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 December 2003).

In a survey last weekend by Japanese public broadcaster NHK, only 17 percent of voters supported a Japanese military deployment to Iraq soon, while 53 percent said they would support a dispatch after peace and order were restored in Iraq, and 28 percent said they opposed a deployment under any circumstances, Reuters reported on 9 December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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