‘FAR FROM BEING THE PROTECTORS OF HUMAN RIGHTS’ – the role of the British troops in southern Iraq

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EVEN puppet politicians are complaining about the conduct of British troops in southern Iraq.

The Basra newspaper Al-Manarah has interviewed National Assembly Deputy Mansur al-Ka’nan.

Mansur al-Ka’nan said: ‘On 13 August 2005, I was on my way to Baghdad to attend the deliberations on the Iraqi draft constitution. At 1000 (local time) that morning, I was suddenly surprised to see a British patrol that consisted of a large number of personnel and helicopters.

‘The British forces intercepted me in an area north of Al-Qurnah. I showed them my personal documents that prove that I am a member of the National Assembly as well as the permits for the weapons in my vehicle. I also showed them the identity cards of my personal secretary and those of my bodyguards.

‘All the permits were in English. These documents allow me to enter the Green Zone and the Palace of Conferences without any inspection or search. However, I was taken by surprise by the response of the British officer. He said that he does not recognise these identity cards or the National Assembly. He said that he does not even know what the National Assembly is.’

The harassment and humiliation of Al Ka’nan continued for some time before he was allowed to go.

He added: ‘I do not think that I was personally targeted. However, I would like to point out that if this is the way they treat a member of the National Assembly carrying all these documents that prove this fact, how would they treat the ordinary Iraqi citizen?

‘How would they treat the deprived, persecuted and unjustly treated average citizens when they storm their homes? How do they treat the innocent families in their own homes? How do they treat the public on the streets? This is not a correct way of treatment. It is inhumane and uncivilised.

‘Regrettably, we read about them that they are champions of human rights. However, they are far from being the protectors of human rights. They are like fierce animals. In my opinion, there are two reasons that may explain what happened to me.

‘First, I have been clearly and openly criticising human rights violations by the British troops. I continue to express such criticism. I have repeatedly complained to the British Consulate, the British embassy and the British Foreign Office. I have also complained to Amnesty International concerning their violations. All my complaints concerning such violations have been ignored.

‘Let me cite two instances. First, a short while ago, the British troops intercepted a group of youths that were firing in the air to celebrate the anniversary of ending the siege that was imposed against Iraq.

‘This is customary during certain festive occasions in Iraq. As the British troops attacked them, the youths fled after one of them was hit in the hand and sought refuge in a commercial store. They followed him and shot a round that hit him in the second hand and then another round that hit him in one of the legs. After he fell, they shot him in the head. They killed him savagely and in cold-blood. This incident was recorded and documented and sent to them.

‘The second incident that demonstrates the savagery of the British troops took place during the last Id of Ramadan. An Iraqi with his wife and children was driving his car on the Al-Zubayr Bridge. The British troops opened fire at him in front of his wife and children who saw their father wallowing in his blood.

‘They then left him although they knew that they had hit him by mistake. Shouldn’t they have at least carried the wounded man to a hospital? Didn’t this scene arouse their human pity or compassion? Is this incident not sufficient to demonstrate their arrogance and their disregard of the Iraqi people?

‘I recorded these incidents in an official memo that I sent to their commanders. The answer I received from them is that we are aware of this incident. They claimed that what happened took place by mistake and that the family would be compensated.

‘Let me ask this. How would they compensate this family? Would they compensate them with 1,000 or 2,000 dollars? Is this what the Iraqi is worth? If we were to record all their criminal violations of human rights, we would see that they number in the hundreds only in this safe province. . .

‘Yes, for them, the Iraqi human being is the cheapest human being. He is even cheaper than their pet dogs. This attack was part of a spate of similar and repeated attacks. As for the compensation to which they committed themselves, they set the amount. When they sent it they said this is the compensation and it is up to you to accept it or reject it.

‘This means that they insist on committing such attacks and paying such arbitrary compensation.

‘As for the second reason that is behind their attack on me, I believe it is due to my repeated criticisms. I talked about this in the National Assembly and before the British command and all the British officials.

‘They formed the security organs in Basra on the wrong basis of party and political proportions. They ended up with security organs that are not qualified and that have no loyalty to the homeland. Their allegiance is to their parties and they carry out the orders of the British forces.

‘I have repeatedly asked for the dissolution and reorganisation of the security organs. The law compels them to do so. It is also their duty to safeguard the lives of the people and to support the reconstruction process. However, they are turning a blind eye to the murderers and looking after only their own security.

‘The biggest crime they committed was allowing external quarters to tamper with the security and resources of Iraq. They openly and blatantly allowed the smugglers to smuggle the oil derivatives. These are deliberate acts on their part and they encourage them. I recall an incident that took place in Al-Zubayr when the British troops forced open the post office and allowed the people to loot the equipment and official papers there.

‘I personally sent a unit, closed the doors and posted guards from the public. However, they returned and broke down the doors. They also broke down the doors of the banks.

‘Let me pose this question. Where are the dollars that were given by the donor countries? Where are the financial statements, the funds and the fake reconstruction projects? The British army is rewarding contractors without any accountability or checks. Does this not mean collusion in the administrative corruption with corrupt Iraqi contractors?

‘The British government has sent medieval people to Iraq who harbour grudges against us as a nation. What is most painful is the silence of our media outlets regarding these issues. The case of the British journalist (as published. In fact it was a US journalist, Steven Vincent, who was kidnapped and killed in Basra on 3 August 2005 after accusing the British authorities of allowing Shi’ite extremists to infiltrate the police – editor) shows that some politicians are involved in the killings. However, the Britons were silent about this.

‘I am confident that the British forces know who killed this journalist. They tried to justify his murder by saying that he married an Iraqi woman and so on.

‘Even the British newspapers tried to find excuses for this murder. I believe that the British forces have an interest in all these assassinations that are committed in the province. These interests are clear, obvious and known to everyone.’

He was asked: ‘Do you believe that the occupiers have handed over sovereignty to the Iraqis?

Al-Ka’nan replied: ‘I do not think that the Iraqis were given even part of that sovereignty. The attack on me attests to this fact since I represent national sovereignty. Therefore, I wonder about the secret behind their presence at the inspection checkpoint. I wonder why they have not withdrawn. . .

‘It is high time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as we exercise our role as an honourable, peaceful and legitimate resistance against their aggressions and violations. We call on the champions of law and freedom and the advocates of freedom of expression in the world to champion this issue because it is a national Iraqi issue. .

‘However, it seems that the British media is ignoring the crimes that the British troops are committing in this province every day. This is indeed odd and shows that they either control the media or are ignoring the media.’