on the world: a view on human rights
Caught up between the excitement of the London Olympics and the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Iraq war, the mainstream media has largely failed to note that on 20 June, a London pensioner was handed a 15-year prison sentence in Iraq for “funding terrorist groups” in a trial that lasted all of 15 minutes.
Having been acquitted in each of his previous eight trials since last year, Ramze Shihab Ahmed, 70, a pensioner of Iraqi origin from north London, was sentenced to 15 years for “funding terrorist groups” following a 15-minute trial on 20 June 2012. Part of the evidence against him was obtained through torture, of Mr Ahmed and others, and his lawyer was unable to challenge the prosecution’s arguments.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed travelled to Iraq in late 2009 to find his imprisoned son and was himself arrested in December that year. He then “disappeared” in detention and his family did not know where he was being held until March 2010 when he called his wife briefly and told her he was being held at Muthanna Airport, a secret detention facility near Baghdad. Shortly after this, in April 2010, he was transferred to Al-Rusafa Prison. Human Rights Watch published a report later that month on allegations of abuse they collected from prisoners who had been held at Muthanna: “Detainees in a secret Baghdad detention facility were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized.” One of them was Ramze Shihab Ahmed:
“Detainee D, a formal general in the Iraqi army and now a British citizen, who is in a wheelchair, was arrested on December 7, after he returned to Mosul from London to find his son, who had been detained. His jailers refused him medicine for his diabetes and high blood pressure. “I was beaten up severely, especially on my head,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They broke one of my teeth during the beatings. … Ten people tortured me; four from the investigation commission and six soldiers. …. They applied electricity to my penis and sodomized me with a stick. I was forced to sign a confession that they wouldn’t let me read.”
The confession obtained in this way has been partly used in his trial and conviction.
His case has been supported by Amnesty International since 2010 which has obtained and examined the court documents and described the proceedings as “grossly unfair”. Kate Allen, Amnesty UK director, said ““This is deeply disturbing news. Ramze seems to have been convicted partly on the basis of a confession that was allegedly beaten out of him.
“The sentence comes on the back of what has already been a living nightmare for Ramze – of secret detention, alleged torture and then a prolonged trial that was itself grossly unfair.
“We need to see this dubious verdict set aside and Ramze either given a proper appeal or for him to be released and allowed to return home”.
More than 6000 people have written to the Foreign Office through Amnesty’s campaign over the past two years, demanding Mr Ahmed be lawfully charged or released and an investigation into the allegations of torture. The Foreign Office has also been supportive of the case; it has raised it on numerous occasions with Iraqi officials, most recently last month, when William Hague met Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on his visit to London.
Amnesty International believes that his detention is politically motivated, particularly following the arrest of a number of Iraqi Sunnis, including officials and the trials of former army officers; Ramze Shihab Ahmed is Sunni and ex-army. Following his continued detention after his eighth acquittal in May this year, Kate Allen said, “This is looking more and more like a politically-motivated effort to persecute Ramze, a Sunni and a former military man […] Unless the prosecution can demonstrate a legitimate reason to detain Ramze, they should put an end to his ordeal and release him.”
Ramze Shihab Ahmed’s lawyers are appealing his conviction, seeking that the evidence obtained through torture be disqualified. The appeal process can take up to one year. Amnesty UK is continuing to support Mr Ahmed and his family and has started a petition on its website: www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze for which it is seeking at least 3,000 signatures, to be delivered to the Iraqi Embassy in London later this summer. Please add your name to the petition. Please also write to the Foreign Secretary William Hague (address and e-mail address below) and your own MP (find them at www.theyworkforyou.com) raising similar points, that the UK must press for a fair appeal for Mr Ahmed, press for his release to this country and an investigation into his allegations of torture.
You can write to William Hague at:
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street,
London, SW1A 2AH
You can also e-mail the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR) at firstname.lastname@example.org and
email@example.com asking for a fair appeal hearing for Ramze Shihab Ahmed. The Committee chair is Dr Salim Abdulla Al-Jabouri.
Arbitrary and unlawful arrests are not uncommon in Iraq, nor are secret prisons and the use of torture within the prison system. Overcrowding and detention of children is also common. Amnesty International believes that as of 2010, over 30,000 prisoners were being held without trial in Iraqi jails.
Please read pages 34-36 of this Amnesty International report for more information about Ramze Shihab Ahmed’s case: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_20724.pdf
The abuse of prisoners following the handover of power back to the local authorities has been a concern in Iraq and remains one in Afghanistan.
News source: Amnesty International UK. Many thanks to Amnesty International UK for its assistance. The author does not in any way represent Amnesty International UK.