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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 stated: "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. Eric http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,431143,00.html JEREMY HARDY 'THE WRITING'S ON THE WALL' 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/Politics http://www.ericherring.com/ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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