Iraqi torture victims still waiting for US compensation, two decades after invasion

Iraqi torture victims still waiting for US compensation, two decades after invasion
About 100,000 Iraqis were detained by the US and its coalition allies between 2003 and 2009 after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 (AFP)
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Updated 25 September 2023
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Iraqi torture victims still waiting for US compensation, two decades after invasion

Iraqi torture victims still waiting for US compensation, two decades after invasion
  • No evidence found that the US government paid any compensation or other redress to victims of detainee abuse in Iraq, nor issued any individual apologies

LONDON: The US government has apparently failed to compensate Iraqis who were tortured or abused two decades after evidence surfaced that US forces mistreated inmates at prisons they ran in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

About 100,000 Iraqis were detained by the US and its coalition allies between 2003 and 2009 after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

HRW and other organzations documented torture and other abuse by US forces in Iraq. Survivors of abuse have given accounts of the treatment they suffered, but have received little recognition from the US government and no compensation.

“Twenty years on, Iraqis who were tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for filing a claim or receiving any kind of redress or recognition from the US government,” said the Washington director at HRW, Sarah Yager.

“US officials have indicated that they prefer to leave torture in the past, but the long-term effects of torture are still a daily reality for many Iraqis and their families,” Yager said. 

Between April and July 2023, HRW interviewed a former detainee at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison called Taleb Al-Majli and three anonymous people with knowledge of his detention, and condition after his release.

He claims to be one of the men in a photograph that was circulated widely showing a group of naked, hooded prisoners on top of one another in a human pyramid, while two US soldiers smiled behind them.

“Two American soldiers, one male and one female, ordered us to strip naked. They piled us prisoners on top of each other. I was one of them,” Al-Majli said.

Al-Majli said that US forces detained him while he was visiting relatives in Anbar province in 2003 during a round-up of old men and boys in the village he was staying in. 

After being held for a few days at Habbaniya military base and at an unknown location in Iraq, US forces moved Al-Majli to Abu Ghraib prison. 

“It was then the torture started. They took away our clothes. They mocked us constantly while we were blindfolded with hoods over our heads. We were completely powerless. I was tortured by police dogs, sound bombs, live fire and water hoses,” he said.

HRW said his story of detention at Abu Ghraib is credible and that Al-Majli presented corroborating evidence, including a prisoner identity card with his full name, inmate number and cell block, which he said US forces issued him at Abu Ghraib after taking his photo, iris scan and fingerprints. 

Al-Majli also showed the organization a letter he obtained in 2013 from the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, a governmental body with the mandate to protect and promote human rights in Iraq, confirming his detention at Abu Ghraib prison, including his date of arrest, and listing the same inmate number as his prisoner identity card.

For two decades, he has sought compensation and an apology for the abuse he was subjected to. He sought help from the Iraqi Bar Association and the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights but they could not assist. He said that he did not know how to contact the US military and raise a claim.

HRW wrote to the US Department of Defense in June 2023 outlining Al-Majli’s case and requesting information on compensation for survivors of torture in Iraq. No response was received. 

“The US secretary of defense and attorney general should investigate allegations of torture and other abuse of people detained by the US abroad during counterinsurgency operations linked to its ‘Global War on Terrorism,’” Yager said. 

“US authorities should initiate appropriate prosecutions against anyone implicated, whatever their rank or position. The US should provide compensation, recognition and official apologies to survivors of abuse and their families,” she said.

The organization has found no evidence that the US government has paid any compensation or other redress to victims of detainee abuse in Iraq, nor has the US issued any individual apologies or made other amends.


Britain’s maritime agency reports possible Red Sea blast

Britain’s maritime agency reports possible Red Sea blast
Updated 11 sec ago
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Britain’s maritime agency reports possible Red Sea blast

Britain’s maritime agency reports possible Red Sea blast

RIYADH: Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) on Sunday said that it has received reports of drone activity and a possible explosion in the Red Sea’s Bab Al-Mandab strait.
UKMTO said the drone activity originated from Yemen, and called on vessels in the vicinity to exercise caution.
Reuters wasn’t immediately able to confirm the reports.
The incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since war broke out between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Oct. 7.
An Israeli-linked cargo ship was seized last month by the Houthi group, an ally of Iran which controls Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The group had previously fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel, and vowed to target more Israeli vessels.
There was no immediate comment from the Houthis on Sunday’s incident.
Last week, a US Navy warship responded to a distress call from an Israeli-managed commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden that had been seized by armed individuals.


Israeli raids claim hundreds of lives in Gaza, unrest in West Bank heightens

Israeli raids claim hundreds of lives in Gaza, unrest in West Bank heightens
Updated 2 min 50 sec ago
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Israeli raids claim hundreds of lives in Gaza, unrest in West Bank heightens

Israeli raids claim hundreds of lives in Gaza, unrest in West Bank heightens
  • The Gaza media office reported at least 700 people were killed by Israeli bombing overnight
  • Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in the West Bank killing one man

Israeli air raids on Rafah, Khan Younis and Nuseirat refugee camp killed hundreds of Palestinians, reports from the Gaza Strip on Sunday said, while Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in occupied West Bank.

Gaza

The Gaza media office reported at least 700 people were killed by Israeli bombing overnight. 

The Hamas-led interior ministry on Sunday said that Seven Palestinians were killed and several injured in an Israeli raid on a house east of Rafah city in southern Gaza. 

The Palestinian News Agency quoted local sources as saying warplanes bombed two homes in the Nuseirat refugee camp, killing at least 13 people. 

While Palestinian health officials reported that Israeli planes destroyed several houses in Al-Karara town near Khan Younis that killed several others. 

The southern part of Gaza, including Khan Younis, is where hundreds of thousands of people displaced from the north of the enclave had sought refuge. 

On Sunday morning, the Israeli military’ posted a statement on X ordering Palestinians the Gaza Strip to immediately evacuate half a dozen areas in and around Khan Younis. 

The military’s Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee instructed them to move to what he described as “well-known IDP (internally displaced person) shelters” west of the city, including south toward Rafah, and included a map highlighting the areas. 

With renewed fighting stretching into a third day, residents feared the air and artillery bombardment was just the prelude to an Israeli ground operation in the southern strip that would pen them into a shrinking area and possibly try to push them across into Egypt. 

‘Safe zones’  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel was coordinating with the US and international organizations to define “safe areas” for Gaza civilians. 

But UN officials and people in Gaza say it is difficult to heed Israeli evacuation orders in real time because of patchy Internet access and no regular supply of electricity amid Israel’s military offensive. 

West bank  

Israeli settlers who attacked two Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank late on Saturday, killed one man and torching a car, Palestinian authorities said. 
The Palestinian ambulance service said a 38-year-old man in the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, in the northern West Bank, was shot in the chest and died as residents confronted settlers and Israeli soldiers. 
The Israeli military said soldiers arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal means and live fire to break up the confrontation between residents and settlers. It said Palestinians shot fireworks in response and an Israeli and four Palestinians were injured. The incident was being examined and had been handed over to police, it said. 
In another incident, Wajih Al-Qat, head of the local council of the village of Madama near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, said a group of about 15 settlers burned the car and broke the windows of a house with stones. 

A member of the Israeli border police runs during a raid at the Balata camp for Palestinian refugees, east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on November 23, 2023. (AFP)

 


US vice president calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza

US vice president calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza
Updated 03 December 2023
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US vice president calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza

US vice president calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza
  • Kamala Harris says Israel has a right to defend itself but must respect international, humanitarian law
  • King Abdullah stresses the need for the US to play a leading role in pushing for peace in Palestine

GAZA/CAIRO: US Vice President Kamala Harris said too many innocent Palestinians had been killed in Gaza as Israeli war planes and artillery bombarded the enclave on Saturday following the collapse of a truce with Hamas militants.
Speaking in Dubai, Harris said Israel had a right to defend itself, but international and humanitarian law must be respected and “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”
“Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering, and the images and videos coming from Gaza, are devastating,” Harris told reporters.
On the sidelines of COP28, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the US Vice President met in Dubai, reported the Jordan News Agency.
King Abdullah stressed the need for the US to play a leading role in pushing for a political horizon for the Palestinian issue to reach peace on the basis of the two-state solution, during his meeting with Harris.
The King called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and protecting civilians, warning of the repercussions of the continued war on international peace and security, including further violence and conflict that could plunge the entire region into a catastrophe.
The two sides reaffirmed their rejection of any attempts of forced displacement of the Palestinians internally or outside Gaza, or attempts to re-occupy any parts of the Strip, reported Petra.
King Abdullah also stressed the importance of maintaining the uninterrupted delivery of sufficient aid, including food, water, fuel, and electricity, without any impediments, warning against the targeting of hospitals and hindering the delivery of medical supplies.
Meanwhile, Harris thanked King Abdullah for his continued leadership in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for Jordan’s leadership in providing vital humanitarian assistance to Gaza, including its three airdrops of medical supplies to the field hospital that it has established in Gaza.
She discussed the importance of the recent pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, and the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to supporting efforts to reach a new deal. She also discussed the US ideas for post-conflict planning in Gaza, including efforts on reconstruction, security, and governance.
The US vice president emphasized that these efforts can only succeed if they are pursued in the context of a clear political horizon for the Palestinian people, toward a state of their own led by a revitalized Palestinian Authority and backed by significant support from the international community and the countries of the region.
In a news conference in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later on Saturday that Israel was continuing to work in coordination with the US and international organizations to define “safe areas” for Gaza civilians.
“This is important because we have no desire to harm the population,” Netanyahu said. “We have a very strong desire to hurt Hamas.”
Harris also sketched out a US vision for post-conflict Gaza, saying the international community must support recovery and Palestinian security forces must be strengthened.
“We want to see a unified Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian voices and aspirations must be at the center of this work,” she said, adding that Hamas must no longer run Gaza.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority governs parts of the occupied West Bank. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ mainstream Fatah party and has ruled the enclave ever since.

* With Reuters 


Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex

Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex
Updated 03 December 2023
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Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex

Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex
  • The Gaza health ministry said at least 193 Palestinians had been killed since the truce ended on Friday, adding to the more than 15,000 Palestinian dead since the start of the war
  • Israel said it had recalled a team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal to free all the women and children it was holding

KHAN YUNIS, Palestinian Territories: At almost exactly the same time Israeli negotiators pulled out of deadlocked truce talks in Qatar on Saturday, Israeli jets sent a prestige Doha-funded housing development in the Gaza Strip up in smoke.
Hamad City is named for the former emir of the Gulf petro-state, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who laid the foundation stone on a visit 11 years ago.
Inaugurated in 2016, it was still among the newest projects in the Gaza Strip, the housing complex in the city of Khan Yunis boasting an impressive mosque, shops and gardens.
The first flats — more than 1,000 of them — were provided to Palestinians whose homes were destroyed in the war between Israel and Hamas two years earlier.
On Saturday it happened again, a day after a Qatar-brokered pause in the current war between Israel and Hamas expired.
First their phones pinged around noon with an “immediate” evacuation order SMS sent by the Israeli army, which says the system is aimed at minimizing civilian casualties.
Around an hour later, five Israeli air strikes rained down on the neighborhood in the space of just two minutes.
Bombs slammed into the pale apartment blocks one by one, reducing them largely to rubble and sending a huge pall of black smoke into the sky, as people fled and cries of ‘help!’ and ‘ambulance!’ rang out.
“At least we got through it,” 26-year-old Nader Abu Warda told AFP, amazed he was still alive.

The Israeli military has divided the Gaza Strip into 2,300 “blocs” and is now sending SMS messages to residents telling them to leave before they launch the strikes which they say will “eliminate Hamas.”
Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, died in the Islamist movement’s October 7 assault on southern Israel and some 240 were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
The Hamas-led Gaza Strip government says Israel’s campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, since it was launched eight weeks ago.
The United Nations humanitarian agency, OCHA, has highlighted that the warning messages do not indicate where the recipients should go.
Ibrahim Al-Jamal, a civil servant in his 40s, said he does not have any “Internet, any electricity or even a radio to receive information” and that he has “never seen this map” setting out the different blocs.
“Many people in Gaza have never heard of it and it wouldn’t matter anyway as the bombings are taking place everywhere,” he said.
Humanitarian bodies say the most vulnerable in Gaza are the estimated 1.7 million displaced people.
Many of them do not have access to phones and have to rely on warning leaflets dropped by planes, not visible from inside an apartment.

According to the Gaza Strip’s Civil Defense emergency and rescue organization, in recent weeks “hundreds of displaced families” had been taking refuge in 3,000 apartments at Hamad City.
Mohammed Foura, 21, already displaced once from Gaza City, told AFP that half an hour before the strike he had been warned by other residents to flee.
They shouted “get out, get out,” he said, as families piled their belongings into cars or carried them away in enormous bundles.
Nader Abu Warda fled Jabalia, near Gaza City, at the start of the war and no longer knows which way to go or what to do.
He, his wife and three children had been staying in a friend’s apartment in the complex.
“They told us ‘Gaza City is a war zone’, now it’s Khan Yunis,” he said. “Yesterday, they were saying ‘evacuate the east of Khan Yunis’. Today, they say ‘evacuate the west’,” he added, visibly exasperated.
“Where are we going now, into the sea? Where are we going to put our children to bed?“

 


UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai
Updated 03 December 2023
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UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai
  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Kamala Harris discuss areas of cooperation
  • Sheikh also meets leaders of Italy, Poland, Albania

LONDON: UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held talks with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai, state news agency WAM reported.

During the meeting, the officials stressed the importance of the conference in fostering cooperation to combat climate change worldwide and highlighted their countries’ collaborations on renewable energy and sustainable development.

The meeting also looked at the wider US-UAE relationship and explored ways to advance ties in various fields. A number of regional and international issues of mutual interest were also discussed, including the latest developments in the Palestinian territories.

“The importance of working toward a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, protecting civilians, providing secure channels to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza without obstruction, preventing their displacement and identifying a clear political horizon based on the two-state solution to achieve regional stability and peace were also highlighted,” the WAM report said.

Sheikh Mohammed also held individual meetings with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

The leaders discussed ways to increase cooperation between their respective nations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Sheikh Mohammed also stressed the need for collective action to achieve practical results with regard to tackling climate change.

The heads of several foreign delegations commended the UAE president’s initiative, launched at COP28, to create a $30 billion fund to tackle the funding gap in global climate action.