Sunday, November 07, 2004

Iraq and the state of the evidence

Human Rights Watch has released a detailed report, Iraq: State of the Evidence, commenting on the materials to be used in the upcoming trials of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials accused of crimes against humanity. According to the report, much of the evidence was destroyed with the U.S. invasion because we did not take proper safeguards to secure the material.

In the chaos that ensued with the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, U.S.-led coalition forces, Iraqi opposition groups, and individuals seized hundreds of thousands of Iraqi state documents from government buildings, Ba`th Party headquarters, offices of the former intelligence and security apparatuses, military garrisons and other premises across Baghdad. Sensitive documents were later found in public buildings such as schools, as well as in private homes, apparently having been removed by officials of the former government, ostensibly for safe keeping, and then abandoned as military defeat became imminent. Similar scenes were witnessed in other cities and towns across the country. Former Iraqi government officials shredded, burned, or otherwise destroyed many documents during the preceding weeks, while countless others were destroyed as a result of the wartime aerial bombing campaign. The widespread looting and wanton destruction of government property by Iraqis in the days and weeks after the war led to further destruction of documents that had survived the war itself...

Despite the potential value of Iraqi state documents in yielding information that could assist in bringing to justice perpetrators of serious past crimes, U.S. and coalition authorities apparently put no effective plan in place to secure them in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Hussein government. While U.S.-led coalition forces claimed to have since seized very large numbers of documents, many others were pilfered, looted, or otherwise destroyed needlessly, resulting in the loss of potentially vital information. Some of this destruction took place in the context of the widespread general looting in Baghdad and elsewhere. In many cases, the looting was carried out within sight of coalition military forces, which had apparently received no instructions about securing government documents or protecting the premises in which they were found. Additionally, other documents that survived or were not subjected to looting in a number of locations lay strewn about for days and sometimes weeks without being taken into coalition custody.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

web counter
free web counters