A report by the International Committee for the Red Cross from February largely contradicts the Pentagon’s charge that the recently revealed incidents of prison abuse in Iraq were isolated events. The 24-page Red Cross report said military intelligence officers “confirmed that it was part of the military intelligence process… to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion.” This included “beatings with hard objects including pistols and rifles” and prisoners being “paraded naked outside cells… sometimes hooded or with women’s underwear over their heads.”
The Red Cross also reported that military intelligence officers estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the 43,000 Iraqis detained over the past year were innocent. The Red Cross study also concluded that the U.S. prison practices were prohibited under International Humanitarian Law.
Iraq Lawyers Criticize Judicial System
In addition to the prison conditions, Iraqi attorneys have criticized the entire judicial process the U.S. has set up in Iraq. Malik Dohan, the president of the Iraqi Bar Association told the Washington Post, “The system is not fair at all. Aside from the question of torture, people are being held for long periods of time without having their cases reviewed by a court.”
In Britain, Amnesty International issued a report Monday listing 37 cases where British troops killed Iraqi civilians under disputed circumstances.
On Capitol Hill today, Army major general Antonio Taguba, who investigated the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
President Bush on Monday again praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying, “You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense. And our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.” Bush made the comments at the Pentagon while surrounded by much of his national security team, Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Richard Myers. Meanwhile 275,000 people have now signed an online petition calling on Rumsfeld to resign.
In Iraq, the U.S. has lost control of portions of East Baghdad known as Sadr City where followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have seized control and set up checkpoints to help keep out the U.S. This comes as Sadr is calling on his supporters to increase their resistance to the US occupation. A chief aide of Sadr told Reuters, “We have now entered a second phase of resistance. Our policy now is to extend the state of resistance and to move it to all of Iraq because of the occupiers’ military escalation and crossing of all red lines in the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf.” The US has killed dozens of Shiites over the past few days in East Baghdad, Kut and Kufa. On Monday, the U.S. used tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and two Apache attack helicopters to destroy Sadr’s office in Baghdad. Meanwhile Sadr faces resistance from within the Shiite community. The Los Angeles Times reports another senior Shiite leader, Sadruddin Qubanchi, allied with the powerful Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has called for a mass demonstration Friday in Najaf to expel Sadr’s private army from the holy city.
Spain’s new Minister of Defense, Jose Bono, has revealed that in early April the U.S. ordered Spanish troops to take Sadr “Dead or alive.” At the time Spanish troops were responsible for patrolling the holy city of Najaf. Spain refused the order saying it went beyond their mission as peacekeeping troops. Spanish officials also said the U.S. did not consult them before they arrested a top aide of Sadr’s sparking the Shiite uprising and attacks on Spanish troops. These two events led Spain to quickly pull out of Iraq.
Earlier today a civilian supply convoy came under attack near Rutba. Reuters is reporting that several of the 21 vehicles were destroyed and that several people were missing. Meanwhile Russian is urging it citizens to leave Iraq. This comes a day after a Russian engineer was killed and two others taken captive.
In Gaza City, members of the Palestinian group Hamas have taken credit for blowing up an Israeli tank killing at least six soldiers earlier today. The bombing occurred as Israel launched a large-scale attack on the city. Haaretz reports Israeli forces killed four Palestinians and wounded at least 70, including eight who were in critical condition. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called an emergency meeting of his inner cabinet in response to the killing of the six soldiers.
The United Nations is estimating 1,100 Palestians have been left homeless this month after Israel has carried out one of its most intense periods of home demolitions since the start of the intifada in 2000. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees reports 131 homes have been destroyed during the first 10 days of May. The UN estimates 17,000 Palestinians have lost their homes since September 2000.
In other news from Israel, the trial began Monday for the Israeli soldier who has confessed to killing British peace activist Tom Hurndall last year. Lawyers for the Israeli sergeant asked the court to ignore his client’s confession saying it was given under pressure.
Haaretz is reporting that President Bush will announce as early as today the implementation of stiff new sanctions against Syria. The paper, citing unnamed sources, says Bush will ban all U.S. exports to Syria other than food and medicine; Syrian planes will be barred from flying over or landing in the United States and U.S. oil companies will be prohibited from making new investments ins Syria. Syrian’s Foreign Minister said Monday that there is a “unanimous Arab decision” to condemn the sanctions.
Monsanto announced Monday it is scrapping plans to sell genetically engineered wheat in part because American farmers were concerned the crop could endanger billions of dollars of wheat exports. The Washington Post describes the decision as “the biggest defeat yet for advocates of agricultural biotechnology.”
In campaign news, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has failed to qualify for the November ballot in Texas, the country’s second largest state. Nader is now suing the state challenging its ballot petition requirements.
A coalition of Latino organizations urged the Bush administration and Congress Monday to dramatically increase the number of Latinos working in the federal government, saying that Latinos are underrepresented throughout the bureaucracy. 7 percent of federal workers are Latino, compared to 13 percent of the entire civilian workforce.
The Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American newspaper of Mississippi have sued the U.S. Marshals Service for seizing tapes from their reports of a public speech by Justice Antonin Scalia. The suit seeks a declaration that the marshals actions were unconstitutional and an order forbidding the service from taking tapes from reporters again.
The Justice Department announced Monday that it will reopen a criminal investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till that fueled the civil rights movement. Till was a 14-year-old African American who was pulled from his bed in Mississippi and brutally killed allegedly for whistling to a white store clerk. Two white men implicated by eyewitnesses were acquitted by an all-white jury. New evidence in the case emerged during the production of a new PBS documentary implicating many others.