Evidence from Jameela Abbas, Iraq.
57 years old. Former chief of the corporation of unions in Kirkuk. Now based in Damascus, Syria.
She was held at airport detention centre and then Abu Ghraib.
This is a partial transcript of her testimony to the Tribunal.
Jan 13 2004 in the early hours US military broke into her house with force in Kirkuk. The Americans rounded up the whole family including her 22 year old daughter, her son, 17, her nephew 25 and female guest of 23 and herself. She was accused of providing monetary assistance to the resistance and they wanted the money. They searched the house and found only 150 dinars family expenses. They tied her hands behind her with wires very tightly. They dragged her by her hair into the garden in the rain. She was in her nightclothes. It was winter. They destroyed everything in the house – all the belongings including all electrical appliances. They searched the family car found a car battery charger and accused her of using it to make bombs, then sprayed the car with bullets rendering it useless. Her head was covered with a hood. She felt she could not breathe, that she would suffocate. She was pushed into a Hummer vehicle where she was ‘kicked like an animal’ by the US soldiers. After twenty minutes in the vehicle she was shoved onto the road. Then dragged along the paved road onto a cement floor. She was shoeless and in her nightclothes. She was in a hood all this time. When the hood was removed she was in a cement room with a window in the roof. She was asked her name and date of birth by a US soldier and she requested to have her hands untied as she was in pain. This was refused and she was kept with her hands tied standing in a corner of the room. She realised she was in Kirkuk military airport at that time. The hood was returned to her head and she was dragged to another room. The hood was removed and an American in civilian clothes was there along with an Arab man, a translator. She was sat in a chair. She requested her hands again be untied. Then she was told that if she continued to ask for this she would be slapped and thrown on the floor. The American then asked personal questions and about her relationship to the Ba’ath party. She was accused again of being a part of the resistance and of funding the resistance.
She told them that she was not. That nothing was found in her home. The Arab man then slapped her hard across the face. He said ‘this is just the beginning if you do not cooperate. You will face worse things than anyone has ever heard about.’ She was very concerned for her daughter and her young female guest. She was refused water and the use of the toilet. Three days later on the 16th the hood was put again on her head and she was dragged into the open air from her cell. It was very windy and hood flew off and she saw the rest of her family. She became emotional because she felt all that they were enduring was because of her. Her family tried to comfort her. The Iraqi interpreter was there. She said ‘look on me as if I am your mother. Care about this young female here and please contact her family. Then two helicopters came with American soldiers. Her son and nephew went with her in one the girls in another. The helicopters windows were open it was cold winter. She asked for the doors to be closed. The soldiers refused citing the potential attack of residence in which case if shots were fired it would be her who would be killed and not them. She says ‘they were afraid of the resistance.’ They were taken far away. She saw US soldiers who expressed surprise to see her shoeless and in only her nightclothes. She met her daughter and the female guest at the same place. The three were placed in a cell together and their hands untied. She had not been fed for two days nor had she been allowed to use the toilet at all. Her hands were tied again and she was asked more questions. She was taken to a wooden cell 2x2m with no facilities. She was tied again and she was taken for a full body search by a female soldier. This was at Baghdad airport facility. She had not been fed. She was not allowed to sit she was dizzy and asked again and again who were comrades in the resistance and accused of being in the resistance. Then one of the interrogators took her to see something she had never seen before. Details were spared for the witness here so she did not have to relive them.
She was taken to a room hung with two pictures of Saddam Hussein. They grabbed her hair dragged her by the hair and threw her from one wall to the other continuously, many times. She lost consciousness many times. When she regained consciousness she was aware of blaring music. Inside the room was a radio. She was dragged to another cell and dropped. She was exhausted. An American soldier came but she could not stand for long so she leaned or tried to sit. Each time she did so she was hit with a stick. A bag containing food she did not recognise and water was thrown at her. In the night she heard music, dancing and shouting. Then her cell was opened and a large dog was brought in which barked at her and frightened her. After a while the cell door was closed but whilst opened she realised the same thing was being done in all the other cell inmates too.
The second day in that prison: Hood on head, questioning. She was told again ‘confess!’ if not they said they would throw her son in prison and rape her daughter. She begged with them saying she did nothing with the resistance that she would swear on the Quran on the Bible.
‘The Americans said I am the Devil himself’ she was a black American. Icy water was poured on her and she was forced to crawl from one side of the wall to the other again and again. Then they hit here with a plastic tube with wood inside. When she fell to the floor they kicked her. She began bleeding, shoulders, arms and legs. This continued for many hours. She was taken to the cell told to stand straight and beaten if she leaned. Her bleeding wounds were not tended. The translator came and asked for her to be allowed to rest but was told by the Americans that this was her punishment.
Back in the cell her hands were tied she was dragged by the Afro-American soldier and sobbed ‘Allah take me.’ Somehow her hands became free and she lashed out at the soldier and she was smashed against the wall in anger by the female soldier. She was then left without interrogation for two days.
On the third day she was taken again and hooded. When it was removed she saw her daughter. Her hair had been cut short. She was told to confess. Her daughter was a university student – she felt she should not go through this. She became ready to confess to anything just to end the suffering of her daughter.
She adds; I was feeling guilty that I was the reason my daughter was there. But her daughter said strongly ‘Iraq is for us all not just for you.’ So she decided not to sign anything the Americans asked her to. She was hooded and then a shot was fired and she was told; ‘We have killed your daughter.’ They told the daughter that she had been killed.
At this point she ‘lost her mind’ and began to shout. IN this condition she was taken back. Later in the day she was taken to the hamam and she saw her daughter to her great relief.
When she was next taken to the black room and there was her nephew before her completely naked. She was in only her underwear. They said we will beat you until you confess. Then they beat and kicked them both. Loud sounds were being played. They were beaten with plastic chairs to the degree that part of the plastic chairs they used became imbedded in her feet. This went on for hours. Then they brought a machine and said this would be used to harm her. She would have her head chopped by this machine. Her nephew who was naked was beaten in his privates. The interpreter later told her daughter had been released. This was a lie. The had released the female guest but not her daughter.
She was taken in a helicopter and she asked for medical assistance for the part of the chair embedded in her foot this was refused. She was taken back to Kirkun and taken to a house chained hand and feet.
Next day after the first real food she took a piece of bread but the interrogator took it off and asked again about the resistance fighters. She was slapped and her hands re-tied and she was put into a pick up truck and taken to a large house converted into a prison. There were friends and colleagues in side who recognised her and threw some food by hurling it into her cell.
After 3 days she was taken back to Bagdad airport prison. She was told her son and nephew had been released but again this was a lie. She was getting a fever from an infection due to the piece of chair embedded in her feet. The next day surgery was performed – without anaesthetic. The plastic was surgically removed from her feet which was very painful.
2 days later she was taken to Abu Ghraib by truck. She was given a wristband and a number which was to be her name – 157574. She no longer had a name. A hood was again placed on her head. She was examined by a doctor who said she had serious injuries the interrogator dismissed this and refused treatment. Back in the cell medicine was given just once and no follow up medicine. The cell was 2x2m. In front of the cell was a bath where men were tortured with cold showers and threatened with dogs. She was barefoot from the day she was taken and without proper clothing. She was told to co operate and then she would be released. It was winter and at around ten pm every night cold water was poured into her cell which made it very cold and damp. This cold irritated her injuries.
Jameela Abbas was in Abu Ghraib for six months and approximately 20 days in Kirkuk and Baghdad airport.
One day, after Abu Ghraib conditions were revealed to the world the press were allowed in. The prisoners shouted and the press was surprised to hear women’s voices as the US military had said no women were held there.
‘There were around 120 members of the press on that visit. Before that time they had visited the head of the prison and told there were no women or children in the prison. At the same time the women were being beaten elsewhere. We called it ‘the scream of Abu Ghraib.’ We were about five women there in fact’.
For alerting the press to their existence in Abu Ghraib the women were denied proper sustenance.
Abu Ghraib had a department for complaints called the CID. She lodged a complaint there about ill treatment and her situation. Unknown to her, her sister had also complained about her detention. Afterwards a US committee visited and she made her statement to them. They acknowledged her as a war victim.
About one month later she was released on the June 22 2004. Jameel Abbas produces an exhibit of her release letter from Abu Ghraib and from the ICRC confirming her detention.
Released without charge.
Jameel Abbas makes it clear that this statement is just a small part of the suffering she endured and witnessed.
Her daughter stayed about 35 days and the female guests. The nephew stayed about six months despite having no relation with any resistance at all. What hurt her most was to see the children in Abu Ghraib. Some twenty five of them aged from 5 to 12. What could they have done she asks? Some of the children stayed for a year and half. She heard some of them killed themselves. What you hear and see from the media is just a drop in the ocean to what went on in Abu Ghraib. My cell was in front of the interrogation cell. I never imagined anything like this in my life – not in horror movies.
‘They actually have no conscience. They are not human they have humanity inside them. She becomes emotional and raises her voice.
All the time in Abu Ghraib I wore the same clothes with no shoes. They were trying to negotiate – get me to confess for food and shoes. I refused because I knew nothing. There was no real interrogation about me as such just questions generally about Iraq and the people. The accusations were made to everyone the same things – you are against the soldiers, you are resistance. There was no intelligence about her she is inferring. This was a general round up of civilians – innocent or not – who cared?
I asked why my name came up to one soldier. She said – we are using you to scare the women of Kirkuk and beyond. Women of influence rounded up and tortured to terrorise others.
I asked the same soldier if she felt what she was doing was wrong – destroying my house, my family. As a single mother whose husband had died I had responsibility for the home and children’
Even on her release she was told by a US General – ‘if you stay in Iraq we will arrest you again.’ Later on she heard there was a second letter of arrest issued for her. So she left for Syria. Her friend who was with her in the prison was re- arrested and spent another two months there.
To this day she cannot return to her country.
To this day Jameela Abbas endures physical suffering as a result of the beatings she received and the conditions she was kept under by the US army. She cannot move her left leg freely which cannot support her. Her left arm is affected and does not work properly – she suffers continual aches in her limbs. She still cannot wear shoes that cover her feet due to the injuries. She must wear only surgical/open shoes. She cannot endure cold or air conditioning. Injuries to her lower back need further treatment which she cannot afford.
Jameela Abbas is just one thousands, tens of thousands, who have suffered as war victims. She has, she says seen so much suffering at the hands of the American forces. Women have suffered in Iraq terribly. Many have been raped.
The female soldiers that tortured her beat her especially in the neck and the back continuously. They used some tools to do this. The same was for all prisoners.
This is her solemn declaration by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declaration Act 1960.
The prosecutor Francis Boyle draws attention to the use of Jameela and her family as ‘human shields’ in the apache helicopter incident. This is illegal under the Geneva Convention. He adds it was a ‘cowardly despicable act.’
He raised the point too that for two months Mrs Abbas was not registered with the ICRC for two months. He states that this was common practise in Iraq not to register civilians with the ICRC
‘The better to allow them to be tortured, murdered or disappeared’ known as ‘keeping them off the books.’
This victim was a victim of torture and a crime against humanity. Francis Boyle asks the judges to take this into account.