Cable 757: Iraqi Police Tied to Human Rights Abuses in Karbala

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This is a 2008 US embassy report describing the disciplinary action taken against 134 Iraqi Police personnel accused of involvement in human rights abuses in the city of Karbala in central Iraq.
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  P 071535Z DEC 08FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDADTO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0739C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD003833SUBJECT: KARBALA SECURITY FORCES IN HUMAN RIGHTSSPOTLIGHT REF: A. BAGHDAD 2861B. BAGHDAD 3549C. BAGHDAD 3431D. BAGHDAD 3806Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor John Foxfor reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).¶1. (C) Summary: Karbala's Iraqi Police (IP)commander has suspended from duty 134 personnel,including six senior officers, for alleged human-rights abuses. The local head of former PrimeMinister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Islah (Reform) Partyhas also claimed that police beat and verballyabused 12 party members who were arrested forillegally posting campaign handbills in downtownKarbala. An IP spokesman denied the charges andclaimed the arrests were not politically motivated.End Summary.  --------------- Words to Deeds--------------- ¶2. (C) In a speech on December 3 marking the 60thanniversary of the Universal Declaration of HumanRights, Karbala Governor Aqeel Mahmoud al-Khazali(Da'wa) announced that 134 police, includingsix senior officers, had been suspended from dutypending investigations into alleged human-rightsabuses. (Note: Five Jaysh al-Mahdi members wereacquitted on terrorism charges in October after itwas determined that their confessions were acquiredthrough torture; see ref A. End Note.) Accordingto a senior police contact, the suspensions wereordered by the Karbala IP commander, BG AliMohammad Jassim, acting at the urging of provincialIraqi Army (IA) commander BG Ali Musawi al-Ghireri.During a meeting with Senior Advisor Gray onNovember 3, Musawi -- who was imprisoned andtortured under Saddam Hussein -- stressed hiscommitment to safeguarding human rights (ref B).¶3. (C) When contacted by the PRT, Karbala IPspokesman Captain Ala'a Abbas declined to elaborateon the charges faced by the suspended personnel.However, the senior police contact said all wereimplicated in abuses of detainees under MG Ra'adShaker Jawdat al-Hasnawi, the former (2007-08)Karbala ISF (both IP and IA) commander. Ra'ad'siron-fisted crackdown on the Shi'a militias thatran rampant here pacified the province but promptedcomplaints that contributed to his ouster inOctober (ref C). Ra'ad, who led a rival Da'wafaction that challenged party-stalwart Aqeel's  primacy here, is rumored to have been courted byformer Prime Minister Jaafari to join Islah. ---------------Deeds to Words--------------- ¶4. (C) Also on December 3, the local Islah Partychairman, Dr. Ahmad Jamal, alleged that police beatand verbally abused 12 party members who werearrested on the evening of December 1 while postingcampaign handbills in downtown Karbala (ref D). Heclaimed the men were held for six hours withoutcharge. Implying that their detention waspolitically driven, Jamal said they were releasedonly after Jaafari complained to Aqeel. The seniorpolice contact reports that Islah has threatened tofile suit against the IP for human-rightsviolations.¶5. (C) In response to Islah's claims, CaptainAbbas said the 12 were arrested for campaignactivities before the official start of thecampaign on December 15. Moreover, he added, themen also violated the law by posting handbills ongovernment facilities such as schools and clinics.According to Abbas, security considerations, notpolitics, underlay the arrests; he claimed thehandbills called on citizens to commit violence.He continued that the 12 were released after beingheld for 30 minutes. He emphatically denied theyhad been abused. The senior police contact toldthe PRT that some officers had shouted imprecationsat the men -- including insults aimed at Jaafari  and his Sadrist allies -- but that none had beenassaulted physically. --------Comment-------- ¶6. (C) We are heartened that Musawi, via Jassim,is following through on his commitment to respecthuman rights. Their efforts will engender greatercitizen trust in the security forces and help tostrengthen respect for the rule of law in Karbala.However, politics likely did have a role in thearrest of the 12 Islah Party members, especially ifthe reports of Jaafari recruiting Ra'ad arecorrect. In any case, the handbills posted onDecember 1 do not incite violence (we haveforwarded a photo of these to POL in Baghdad).Separating fact from fiction with regard to theprovincial ISF -- which are widely regarded asloyal to Da'wa, if not necessarily to Aqeel -- willbe key in assessing progress toward safeguardinghuman rights here. End comment.CROCKER (Edited and reformatted by Andres for ease of reading.)
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