Saturday, February 12, 2005

detainees in Iraq

Islam Online- News Section
US-held Iraqis Cry For Help, Grill Rights Minister

Miller (L) and Amin during the latter's visit to the detention facility (AFP)

CAMP BUCCA, Iraq, July 18 ( & News Agencies) – Under summer temperatures that can soar up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), over 2,600 Iraqis are still being held, some for as long as 14 months, without trial in the US-run Camp Bucca desert camp on the outskirts of the southern port of Umm Qasr.

"Are we an independent country or not, why don't you rescue us from this hell?" one detainee asked Iraqi interim Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin from behind a high fence, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday, July 18.

"Please sir, please, I have nine children, the Americans just descended on me and arrested me as I was grazing my sheep," said a bearded man wearing a grey dishdash (traditional robe) and tattered plastic slippers.

"I have been here for 10 months and do not know why!"

"Aren't you working in human rights? Isn't this an independent country now? Why are we being left here?" cried another man.

"What's wrong with resisting occupation? If the Iraqis went to America, wouldn't the Americans fight?" a third detainee wondered.

The scorching afternoon sun coupled with hot winds forced some of the detainees to strip down to their shorts and cover their heads with wet towels or baseball caps.

They change into yellow jumpsuits only when they are bused four times a week to another tented area to meet with their loved ones twice a month.

Is Occupation Over?

The detainees, some as young as 15, clutch the metal fence screaming, pleading with and at times hectoring Amin, who Friday, July 16, was the first Iraqi official to visit the camp, initially set up in March 2003 by the US military to hold so-called enemy prisoners of war.

The minister and three members of his staff were accompanied by deputy commander for detainee operations in Iraq, Major General Geoffrey Miller, and other US military officials, who stood back watching Amin's encounter with the prisoners.

"I would have loved to meet you without barriers. We have come to learn more about your conditions and to improve them," says the soft-spoken Amin, a Kurd who spent most of his 40-some years outside Iraq.

He struggled to complete his phrase as he is interrupted by the shouts and jeers of some men.

"Please take us away from here, is the occupation not over?" screams a burly, bare-chested man in shorts with a pink towel wrapped around his head.

"Are we prisoners of war or civilian detainees?"

The minister told them that under UN resolution 1546, the issue of detainees is the joint responsibility of the new interim government and US-led forces.