07 August 2006
Iraqi thieves stripped naked at gunpoint- Iraq
US Forces Make Iraqis Strip and Walk Naked in Public
SHAME OF U.S. TROOPS' IRAQI STREET JUSTICE:
Apr 28 2003
Suspects stripped and paraded at gunpoint
From Chris Hughes In Baghdad
STRIPPED at gunpoint and publicly branded as thieves a gang of suspected Iraqi looters are humiliated by US troopers' street justice.
After being hauled before a kangaroo court, the men had the words Ali Baba Haram - Arabic for "dirty thief, he stole" - scrawled on their chests with a marker pen.
They were then paraded in front of a jeering Baghdad crowd before fleeing to safety.
The "appalling" affront to dignity outraged human rights organisations who say it broke the Geneva Convention which protects prisoners against "insults or public curiosity".
It fuelled Iraqi resentment at the US "occupation" of their country, provoked dozens of demonstrations and flew in the face of guidelines aimed at winning over the locals.
But the trooper allegedly responsible was defiant. First Lieutenant Eric Canaday of Delta Squadron's 10th Engineer Corps said: "I don't think this kind of action is excessive.
"We've done it once before to another man we found looting and it worked perfectly."
Raw justice was handed down when the US soldiers arrested four men in Baghdad's Zawra Amusement Park on suspicion of looting.
After questioning and searching the suspects - and with the prison system in chaos - the troopers were at a loss to know where to take them.
So they made their own brutal law. Lieutenant Canaday allegedly asked a group of watching Iraqis how the men should be punished.
Troops said they were told the best way would be to brand them as thieves and strip them.
The fearful suspects were shoved at gunpoint into a tent where they were stripped.
With the help of a Muslim soldier in the unit they were then daubed with insults and forced into the street to brave a crowd screaming "Ali Baba!" One of the men, Zian Djumma, 20, said later: "It was horrendous.
"Now I want to find a hand grenade and throw it at the soldiers. I hate them for this."
He said he and his friends had entered the park, used by Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard for weapons storage, to search for one of their young brothers.
Troops said the men were carrying a bag with spare parts for weapons.
Coming on top of an explosion at a US arms dump in the city which killed up to 40 Iraqis and seriously injured 60, the degrading scenes brought an explosion of fury.
Demonstrating outside the city's Palestine Hotel Adil Al-Harni, 41, said last night: "This is a disgusting way to treat people without trying them. How do we know these men were thieves?
"Even if they were, this is no way to treat them. If this is US democracy, they can keep it.
"It's just another way of keeping people in their place. I believe it will cause big trouble."
Amnesty International said: "It was an appalling way to treat prisoners. Such degrading treatment is a clear violation of US responsibilities.
"The US authorities must investigate this incident and publicly release the findings."
The Red Cross added: "The Americans have a responsibility to give good treatment to all prisoners, whoever they are."
US Central Command has pledged a probe.
At the heart of the row is a cultural split over looting. The Americans see it as a breakdown of order. Locals say they are only taking a share of what Saddam stole from them.
Baghdad markets now sell goods at four prices - for locals, for foreigners, for those who want to pay less for looted goods and for ultra-religious Muslims who condemn looting and will not buy stolen goods.
Ask a stallholder how much he wants for a pair of trousers, and he will reply: "Looted, sir, or unlooted?" Army trousers, robbed from government stores cost just $2. Unlooted cost $10.
But no one in Baghdad can guarantee they have not benefited from looting since no one is sure where goods come from.
When a religious leader re-opened a mosque in Baghdad's lawless Saddam City, he told a 400-strong crowd: "You can come in if you are unarmed and can swear on the Koran that you are not looters, former looters or have not benefited from looting."
Refusing to lie, the devout Muslims returned home.
The "Ali Baba" row is the latest in a string of embarrassing incidents for the US military in which troops have flouted guidelines on how to win Iraqis' "hearts and minds".
US troops have raised the Stars and Stripes at captured sites on several occasions, most notoriously on a statue of Saddam during the last push into Baghdad.
But allied forces were specifically ordered against such displays as it was believed the population would feel humiliated by the sight of a foreign flag flying in their homeland.
Posted by Constantine at 7.8.06