Iraq: Reports of violence and acts of revenge by the general population against the officials and their families of Saddam Hussein's regime following Hussein's fall
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||15 January 2004|
|Citation / Document Symbol||IRQ42228.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iraq: Reports of violence and acts of revenge by the general population against the officials and their families of Saddam Hussein's regime following Hussein's fall, 15 January 2004, IRQ42228.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/403dd1fb4.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Atlanta-based Cox News Service describes revenge killings as "the fastest growing crime in Baghdad and in other major Iraqi cities" (28 Dec. 2003). Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, there have been many media, government and human rights group reports on the violence and revenge killings taking place against former officials of his regime (ibid.; WorldNetDaily.com 20 May 2003; Middle East Times 22 May 2003; Hawlati 28 May 2003; BBC 20 June 2003; AI 20 June 2003; Denmark Aug. 2003, 20-21; ICG 25 Aug. 2003, 6; AFP 13 Oct. 2003; Time 22 Nov. 2003; BBC 9 Dec. 2003; ibid. 20 Dec. 2003; AP 20 Dec. 2003a; ibid. 20 Dec. 2003b; The Independent 28 Dec. 2003; Chicago Tribune 4 Jan. 2004). The killings have reportedly occurred in the Baghdad Shiite slum neighbourhood called Sadr City (Cox News Service 28 Dec. 2003; WorldNetDaily.com 20 May 2003; Middle East Times 22 May 2003; AI 20 June 2003), in other Baghdad areas (Middle East Times 22 May 2003; Hawlati 28 May 2003; Time 22 Nov. 2003; Cox News Service 28 Dec. 2003; The Independent 28 Dec. 2003), in the Shiite city of Najaf (Cox News Service 28 Dec. 2003; WorldNetDaily.com 20 May 2003; AFP 13 Oct. 2003; BBC 20 Dec. 2003; AP 20 Dec. 2003a; ibid. 20 Dec. 2003b; The Independent 28 Dec. 2003; Chicago Tribune 4 Jan. 2004), in Karbala, located in Shiite-dominated central Iraq (WorldNetDaily.com 20 May 2003), in southern Basra (ibid. 20 May 2003; Time 22 Nov. 2003; BBC 9 Dec. 2003; The Independent 28 Dec. 2003) and in the northern city of Mosul (ibid.). As the Cox News Service has noted, the killings "appear to be taking place most frequently in the districts where Saddam's agents hit the hardest, specifically Shiite-dominated towns and neighborhoods" (28 Dec. 2003).
Reports on the extent of the revenge killings vary. In May 2003, the Middle East Times cited an emergency room receptionist at the Al-Qadisiyah hospital in Baghdad as saying that "'[t]here have been 60 or 70 cases [of the death and critical wounding of former Ba'ath party members] in the last three or four weeks, too many to count'" (22 May 2003). Between June and December 2003, there were 40 revenge killings in Najaf, while Sadr City saw 30 such killings during the month of November 2003 (Cox News Service 28 Dec. 2003). The Independent indicated that in Basra, as at December 2003, there were 50 former Ba'ath party members who had been killed (28 Dec. 2003), and according to Time magazine, 25 to 30 murders in Basra had taken place between mid-October and mid-November 2003 (22 Nov. 2003). A representative of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association told the Danish Immigration Service in July 2003 that more than 100 people had been killed, "fewer than some had expected" (Denmark Aug. 2003, 20). In addition to the killings, the Research Directorate found a report indicating that, in June 2003, houses belonging to former regime officials were attacked and destroyed on an "almost ... nightly basis" in the town of Kut, south-east of Baghdad, although the identity of the attackers was unknown (BBC 20 June 2003).
In the August 2003 report of its joint fact finding mission with Britain on conditions in Iraq, the Danish Immigration Service, citing a Middle Eastern official, indicated that former regime officials at risk of being attacked belong to the former regime's intelligence services, the security services and the Fedayeen Saddam, and also that even among these groups, "Iraqis are only targeting those who killed or committed crimes against them (or confiscated their property)" (Denmark Aug. 2003, 20).
Nevertheless, the BBC indicated that "the killings are targeting anyone from the previous regime, and not only senior figures connected with ousted leader Saddam Hussein" (9 Dec. 2003). Corroborating information was provided in a Time magazine article, which added that "some of those who have been slain by vigilantes were low-level bureaucrats" (22 Nov. 2003). The killings are taking place despite the fact that, during Saddam Hussein's regime, anyone seeking admission into university had to join the Ba'ath party (IWPR 18 Sept. 2003) as did anyone seeking any type of professional advancement (ibid.; Middle East Times 22 Nov. 2003). According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), many of the "hundreds of thousands of middle-to low-ranking party members with little connection with or involvement in the former regime's crimes" joined the Ba'ath party for "practical reasons: for survival" (18 Sept. 2003).
Reports about those responsible for the violence and killings include a Time magazine article about a five-man group of Shiite Iraqis who have dedicated themselves to executing former officials who tortured or murdered individuals under the regime (Time 22 Nov. 2003). The group obtained information on who to execute from documents that were looted from buildings that housed the Mukhabarat, Iraq's "ruthless" intelligence service (ibid.).
Al-Zaman, a London-based independent Iraqi daily newspaper, reported in June 2003 that a group called the Retribution Committee (lajnat al-Qisas) had put posters around Baghdad "saying that the Retribution Committee has given itself the authority to search for former Iraqi officials, detain them, and exact 'the toughest revenge against them' for crimes they committed against the Iraqis" (10 June 2003). However, the Research Directorate could not find any reports of acts of violence or killings against former officials by the committee.
An Agence France Presse (AFP) report cited residents in Basra as saying that "dozens of political groups" such as the Iraqi National Congress, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Communist Party, Hezbollah, Islamic Dawa Party, Democratic Qassemi Alliance and tribal groupings have been "tracking down ex-Saddam officials, questioning and torturing them in some cases before handing them over to authorities" (11 Nov. 2003). AFP also reported that the Islamic Tharallah (God's Revenge) Organization, which has offices in Basra, Nasiriyah, Missan and Talha, and intends to open others in Baghdad, Diwaniya and Karbala, is "uprooting and cleaning up the remnants of the former regime" (AFP 11 Nov. 2003). Although it denies purging the Ba'ath party through killings, the organization is known to have carried out several assassination attempts against the former regime while Saddam Hussein was in power (ibid.).
Iraqi police efforts to combat the violence and killing against the former regime officials have not been very successful (Cox News Service 28 Dec. 2003). Local police "admit that they have not solved a single crime against ex-Baathists [and] acknowledg[e] that they will themselves become targets if they attempt to do so" (The Independent 28 Dec. 2003).
In spite of the revenge killings of former Ba'ath party officials and American efforts to purge the party, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported in September 2003 that Ba'athists were "still holding down positions in the public sector and business world" (19 Sept. 2003). Members of the interim Governing Council complained "'[t]he eradication of the Baath party had been conducted very superficially'" and that Ba'athists "'have freely resumed their activities without being bothered, after holing up when Baghdad fell'" (19 Sept. 2003). Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq had promised to strip Ba'ath party members of their positions if they were guilty of "abuses of power," but quickly realized that "in order to get the various services up and running in Iraq, he needed competent and experienced personnel, and most of these were Baathists" (AFP 19 Sept. 2003). In September 2003, the Governing Council decided that, in an effort to hasten the removal of Ba'ath party members from positions of authority, all but the lowest-ranking members would be prevented from keeping their jobs (ibid.).
Regarding acts of violence and revenge against the family members of former regime officials, the August 2003 report of the joint British-Danish fact finding mission on conditions in Iraq indicated the following:
A Middle Eastern official source informed the delegation that the families of Ba'ath Party officials or people associated with the former regime would not be targeted in revenge for crimes committed during the Saddam regime. The delegation was told that Muslims do not attack family members and that such reprisals would not occur in Iraq. It was added that families are likely to have escaped or changed address anyway (Denmark Aug. 2003, 21).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Agence France Presse (AFP). 11 November 2003. Omar Hasan. "Hardline Group Denies Involvement in 'Revenge Killings' in Basra."
_____. 13 October 2003. "Former Baathist Killed in Najaf: Witnesses."
_____. 19 September 2003. Nadra Saouli. "Old Baathists Still Riding High in Iraq."
Al-Zaman [London, in Arabic]. 10 June 2003. Fa'iz Jawad. "'Retribution Committee' Calls for Punishing Elements of Former Iraqi Regime." (FBIS-NES-2003-0610 11 June 2003/Dialog)
Amnesty International (AI). 20 June 2003. "Iraq: On Whose Behalf? Human Rights and the Economic Reconstruction Process in Iraq." (MDE 14/128/2003)
Associated Press (AP). 20 December 2003a. Michelle Faul. "Spanish Prime Minister Visits Iraq, Reaffirms Support for U.S."
_____. 20 December 2003b. "Gunmen Shoot Former Saddam Officials. 5-Year-Old Boy Also Killed." (Google Cache)
BBC. 20 December 2003. "Two Die in Iraq Revenge Attacks."
_____. 9 December 2003. Dumeetha Luthra. "Basra Revenge Killings Increase."
_____. 20 June 2003. "Revenge Attacks Target Former Regime."
Chicago Tribune. 4 January 2004. Evan Osnos. "Iraq's Bind: Revenge or Justice in High-Stakes Saddam Trial."
Cox News Service [Atlanta]. 28 December 2003. Margaret Coker. "Revenge Killings Are Soaring in Iraq."
Denmark. August 2003. The Danish Immigration Service. Joint British-Danish Fact Finding Mission to Damascus, Amman and Geneva on Conditions in Iraq, 1-13 July and 23 July 2003.
Hawlati [Al-Sulaymaniyah, in Sorani Kurdish]. 28 May 2003. "Iraqi Kurdish Paper Reports 12 Senior Baathists Killed in Baghdad." (FBIS-NES-2003-0529 30 May 2003/Dialog)
The Independent [London]. Robert Fisk. "Hooded Men Executing Saddam Officials."
Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). 18 September 2003. Iraqi Crisis Report. No. 28. Adnan K. Karim. "Comment: Militants May Exploit Ba'ath Despair."
International Crisis Group (ICG). 25 August 2003. Governing Iraq. Middle East Report, No. 17.
Middle East Times [Nicosia, Cyrus]. 22 May 2003. Marc Carnegie. "Wave of Baghdad Killings as Iraqis Take Revenge on Baath Party."
Time. 22 November 2003. Romesh Ratnesar. "Vengeance Has Its Day."
WorldNetDaily.com. 20 May 2003. "Rebuilding in the Gulf: Iraqis Exact Revenge on Saddam's Regime."
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including:
European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI)
Human Rights Watch
Iraq Crisis Bulltetin
Iraq Today [Baghdad] (no search engine)
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA)