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If anyone in the U.K.(or elsewhere) can shed any light on some of the politics underlying the controversy surrounding Indict, I would be interested to hear from you.
Best, Ben Rempel
Closing in on Iraqi torturers
by Ewen MacAskill
April 6, 2000
An organisation set up to hunt down the Iraqi leadership for alleged human rights abuses claimed yesterday it was poised to indict the first member of the regime.
The British-based organisation Indict, which was awarded $2m in funding by US Congress, said it had accumulated enough evidence to make a case stick against an Iraqi accused of torture.
Fearful of the Iraqi intelligence service, Indict operates from a secret location in London and carefully guards the identity of its staff.
The Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who is president of the organisation and has long campaigned on behalf of the Iraqi Kurds and other victims of the regime, said yesterday: "We are excited at the quality of evidence we are getting which we hope will enable us to indict."
To prevent a recurrence of an episode last August in which a senior member of the Iraqi government, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, fled from Vienna 24 hours before legal action was initiated, secrecy is paramount and even Ms Clwyd does not know the identity of the Iraqi being targeted or in which country the indictment will take place. But she said the indictment would be "soon, within the next few weeks or months".
Staff at Indict's office were more secretive, uneasy that Ms Clwyd had gone too far.
Indict, which was set up in 1996, aims to mount an operation similar to that which led to the arrest of General Augusto Pinochet in Britain but hopes to secure a successful prosecution.
On a wider front, Indict is lobbying, alongside the US, for the UN security council to set up a war crimes tribunal for Iraq similar to the ones for Rwanda and the Balkans.
Ms Clwyd said: "We want to send a signal to the Iraqi government that there are no safe hiding places anywhere in the world for those charged with the horrendous crimes of Saddam Hussein and those round him." She said she found it extraordinary, given the scale of the accusations against them, that members of the regime could travel freely round the world.
Although the US state department agreed to provide $2m two years ago, the first tranche of that money - $600,385 - only came through last July. Since that time, Indict's eight-strong team has gathered evidence from around the world and made clandestine trips to Iraq.
Indict insisted it had not been ready for Mr al-Douri as it had only received the funding from the US the previous month and had not accumulated the evidence necessary to make a convincing case.
The top 12 on Indict's wanted list are: President Saddam Hussein; two former heads of the intelligence service, Barzan al-Tikriti and Sab'awi Ibrahim al-Hassan; Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay; Ali Hassan al-Majid, the former Iraqi commander in Iraqi Kurdistan and first governor of Iraqi-occupied Kuwait; Mohammed al-Zubaydi, who took part in the coup that brought Saddam to power; Aziz Salih al-Noman, Saddam's former special adviser; Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister; Mr al-Douri, the former interior minister; Watban al-Tikriti, a former interior minister; and Ta Ha Yassin Ramadan, the vice-president.
The accusations range from actions against the Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s to those against the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s. The organisation said indictment was possible under various international laws, such as the genocide, Geneva and torture conventions.
Indict, whose board includes the former US ambassador Peter Galbraith and the former British ambassador Sir John Morgan as well as leaders of the Iraqi opposition, has had a short but turbulent history.
It has had a torrid time in the last year trying to establish credibility: questions have been raised about why the US should fund an organisation headed by a leftwing Labour backbencher and there have been rows over money. Legal action is being taken by Ms Clwyd over articles in Punch and Private Eye.
US state department officials visited the office yesterday to check on progress.
Ms Clwyd said of the internal rows: "Of course, in any multicultural organisation there are going to be different norms of behaviour and it is sometimes difficult to balance people's expectations and desire to indict."
But she said the arrival last year of the money from the US and the employment of Tony Cunningham, a former Labour Euro MP, as chief of staff - the only member of staff prepared to be named publicly - had helped create a tightly run organisation.
In addition to the $600,385 from the US, Indict has received $600,000 from an anonymous backer, whom Ms Clwyd is prepared to disclose privately but not publicly.
Indict claimed the necessary majority for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal existed on the UN security council but the danger was of one of the permanent members exercising its veto. As part of its lobbying campaign, a conference has been organised in Paris next Friday.