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[casi] Jack Straw claim that Iraq has "an independent and properlyconstituted judiciary." !

Dear list

Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary has just released the government's
dossier on human rights violations in Iraq detailing horrible
persecution of many iraqis, including Kurds. Well, when Straw was Home
Secretary, the Home Office refused asylum to Iraqi Kurd who had been
detained and tortured. Utterly beyond belief, the Home Office letter

"He [Straw] is aware that Iraq, and in particular the Iraqi security
forces, would only convict and sentence a person in the courts with the
provision of proper jurisdiction ... you could expect to receive a fair
trial under an independent and properly constituted judiciary."

Words completely fail me.

See the article in today's New Statesman by Mark Thomas on this. See
also the article below by Jeremy Hardy.


31 January 2001

One might be forgiven for imagining that the British governments line on
Iraq is that it is a tyrannical hell-hole where the lives of Kurds and
dissidents are intolerable. Well, that is the foreign office line. Perhaps
then, Foreign Office ministers should handle asylum claims; after all, they
should know more about other countries than does the Home Office. And
perhaps Home Office ministers should decide whether we should inflict bombs
and sanctions on other countries, because by its definition such treatment
would surely be terrorism.

In any event, the two ministries should really get their stories straight,
because one belabours critics of British (American) foreign policy with
emotional pleas on behalf of the oppressed in Iraq, and the other says its a
dandy of a place youd be a fool to leave. But perhaps the fact that it is
the opponents of Saddam who are most vociferous in asking us to stop
destroying their country explains why our government treats Iraqi refugees
as hysterics, fools and liars.

Few refugees are rich or well-connected people, pally with MPs from their
own ethnic group or ministers who enjoy their company and wealth. We are not
likely to hear an MP tell the waiting world, "As an obscure, in fact the
most obscure, member of the Kurdish community in this country, it is quite
natural that I should put in a word at the Home Office for some unknown
refugee with no money."

So you wont have heard of a case thats just come through my fax machine. It

is not unique. The appallingly callous brush-offs and humiliating
interrogations inflicted by the Home Office on refugees are brilliantly
portrayed in Kate Adsheads play, The Bogus Woman, which opens next week at
the Bush Theatre in London. It is a play based on the experiences of many
people, especially detainees, in which one actress, Noma Dumezweni, plays
the all the characters: refugees, jailers, civil servants, everyone.

Any person who thinks that Kay Adshead has over-dramatised reality need only
read the letters of refusal sent every day to asylum applicants. The one I
have just seen was sent to an Iraqi Kurd three weeks ago. Try this: "You
claim that following your arrest and detainment in August 1988, that you
were advised against continuing to be pro-active for the IWCP (Iraqi Workers
Communist Party). You continued to work for the party and were involved in
writing political slogans on walls, although you were aware of the
illegality of this activity. The Secretary of State considers that you have
expressed a fear of prosecution not persecution."

I would never seek to publicly condone writing on walls. Under our own new
Terrorism Act, it might constitute "serious damage to property designed to
influence the government". So our government, like Saddams, does not treat
political graffiti as simple vandalism. In fact, under Jack Straw, perhaps
we should all have a well-founded fear of persecution. But one must always
have a sense of proportion, and it is fair to say that opponents of Saddam
are safer here than in Iraq.

I suppose a government department responsible for the Terrorism Act has to
hold the line that all direct action should be dealt with severely. But I
doubt whether even Jack Straw will preside over torture or summary
execution. The writer of the letter has clearly amused himself with the fact
that "persecution" and "prosecution" are similar words. Saddams regime sees
them as interchangeable concepts.

The official does interesting things with language throughout his letter. He
tells the applicant, "You claim that during your detention you where
tortured" and "You have stated that you refused to attend your conscription
to military service, as you where opposed to the beliefs of the military, in
particular there attitude to Kurdistan." Perhaps this official shows more
compassion were their are more persuasive grounds.

In dismissing the idea that a Kurd might balk at being forced to participate
in the crushing of his people, the spelling champion cites a UN handbook,
saying, "a person is not a refugee if his only reason for desertion or draft
evasion is his dislike of military service or fear of combat." It is
shameful enough that the UN appears to endorse compulsory military service,
but I doubt whether the intended meaning of the handbook is that a man who
risks torture and death for refusing to fight for a tyrant against his
brothers is a lily-livered coward or just not a morning person.

But that is probably the view of the Iraqi government who summarily executed
the applicants brother when he refused military service. Nevertheless, the
view of the Home Secretary is that, "The Iraqi security forces would only
convict and sentence a person in the courts with the provision of proper
jurisdiction" and that the applicant "could expect to receive a fair trial
under an independent and properly constituted judiciary."

How many Iraqs are there?

Dr. Eric Herring
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Office tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Mobile tel. +44-(0)7771-966608
Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133

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