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Iraq in chaos – the legacy of western intervention

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PublicServiceEurope: But the mullahs in neighbouring Iran would not tolerate Allawi as Iraq’s PM and cajoled their cohorts like Muqtada Al Sadr and Amar al-Hakim, to join forces with al Maliki to form a coalition. PublicServiceEurope.com

Western economic aid for Iraq should be firmly tied to good governance and sanctions should be deployed if the human rights abuses, and corruption, continue – says MEP

By Struan Stevenson

The civilised world it seems has been struck dumb. Repeated violations of human rights, arbitrary arrests, secret prisons, torture and a spate of executions in Iraq have failed to raise so much as a murmur from the west. Last week – 21 people, including three women, were executed in a single day in Iraq. Two days later, another five were hanged. There have been 96 executions so far this year. Another 196 people are under sentence of death awaiting execution. The Iraqis say that most if not all have been convicted of terrorist charges. But is seems confessions have, in many cases, been forced under torture.

There are frequent reports about the unfairness of trials, which fail to meet international standards. There is scant information made available about the names of the convicted, what crimes they have been charged with and whether they have been given access to legal representation. But for most ordinary Iraqis – the sight of broken, tortured prisoners hauled before news cameras and paraded on the official Al Iraqiya television channel is becoming something of a daily spectacle.

When the Americans finally pulled out of Iraq at the end of last year, they left behind a dysfunctional government and a shattered economy. Nouri Al Maliki was re-appointed as prime minister following the 2010 elections, despite the fact that he had actually lost the election by two seats to the more secular Ayad Allawi. But the mullahs in neighbouring Iran would not tolerate Allawi as Iraq’s PM and cajoled their cohorts like Muqtada Al Sadr and Amar al-Hakim, to join forces with al Maliki to form a coalition. As a result, the anticipated government of national unity has never been realised and the pledges made to bind together the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have never been implemented. Three key ministries – security, defence and interior – remain unfilled, with all of their powers assumed by the office of Prime Minister al Maliki – who now wields immense authority.

The resulting serial corruption and endemic abuse of human rights has become a fact of life in Iraq. The country is a basket-case. Baghdad is still a war zone. The streets are entombed in heavy concrete. Tanks or armoured cars sit at every corner. Machineguns poke out from behind heaps of sandbags. Concrete bunkers and watch-towers abound. Politicians move around the city in heavily armoured and hugely expensive four wheel-drive cars. A spate of suicide bombings and shootings has fanned the flames of the insurgency, which could once again ignite into a full-scale internal conflict.

So why has the west remained silent? Well, the answer should be obvious. The United States and the United Kingdom are still smarting from their collective guilt at having taken part in what amounted to an illegal war and occupation of Iraq. The resulting insurgency and carnage costs the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. But the Americans were determined to show that they had left behind a functioning democracy; after the huge price they had paid in blood and treasure, nothing else would do. They therefore welcomed al-Maliki’s re-anointment as PM and have turned a blind-eye ever since to every abuse that he has perpetrated.

When five divisions of heavily armed Iraqi troops with tanks and armoured vehicles mowed down hundreds of unarmed Iranian asylum seekers in a brutal assault in Camp Ashraf in Northern Baghdad, on April 8 2011, it marked a new low in the country’s spiral of abuse and decline. Some 35 innocent men and women were killed, more died later of their appalling injuries. Rather than hold al Maliki to account for this vicious massacre, the Americans said nothing.

When survivors of the massacre began moving to a new prison-like facility near Baghdad airport, ironically named Camp Liberty – the US, European Union and United Nations still said nothing when one of the commanders of the massacre – Colonel Sadeq – was appointed by Maliki to run the new facility. Disgracefully, the US State Department even colluded with an attempt to have Colonel Sadeq visit the European Parliament earlier this year. Now, more than 2,400 refugees are trapped in Camp Liberty. They are denied freedom of movement, access to lawyers, visits from friends or family or even from politicians – while mealy-mouthed UN and US officials heap praise on Maliki’s brutal regime.

The west should hang its head in collective shame. They must not stand idly by while repression, torture and executions continue apace inside Iraq. Issuing reproachful press statements from Brussels, Washington and London is not enough. Maliki must be brought to heel. Economic aid for Iraq should be firmly tied to good governance and sanctions should be deployed if the human rights abuses and corruption continue.

Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Party MEP in Scotland. He is also president of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq

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