Son of Babylon – Sunday 13th May 2012

Hi everyone. I just thought I’d share with you that I’ll be a member of a post film discussion panel in Balham, London next Sunday 13th May. The File Hub, a independent film group based in Balham, are showing the film Son of Babylon at 6pm. Tickets cost £10. It would be great to see some friendly faces in the audience for what will be a powerful and emotional evening.

Sons of Babylon trailer:       

The Film Hub box Office:    

9 May 2012 at 9:03 pm 1 comment

Iraq Newsletter: Autumn 2011

Hi everyone. Here is the second of my quarterly newsletters produced in my role as AIUK Iraq Country Coordinator. Just click on the image on the right.

In this edition you’ll find articles on the:

  • The Baha Mousa Inquiry into war crimes by UK forces.
  • Death penalty in Iraq.
  • US force withdrawal from Iraq.

Take Action…

If you do nothing else with the newsletter, please take action on the case of Walid Yunis Ahmed.


But that’s not all. There is also the first in a regular Q & A column about campaigning on Iraq. I also want to bring you news in brief from and about Iraq complete with links to additional detail. Iraq is not a country that gets much news coverage in the mainstream media so I hope this goes someway to addressing the balance.

19 September 2011 at 1:42 pm

Urgent Action: Imminent executions in Iraq

Today we have received notice that 15 men including Ibrahim Najm ‘Abboud (m), Firas Hassan Fleih al-Juburi (m), Fadhel Ibrahim al-Juburi (m), Haydar Mut’eb ‘Abdel-Qader (m), Hikmat Fadhel Ibrahim (m), Sayyid Hamadi Ahmed (m) and Sofian Jassem Mohammad (m) are at risk of being executed. The following Urgent Action has been issued. If in the UK, please write to the Iraq Embassy in London (see the address below). If outside the UK please write to the Iraqi Embassy in your own country.

Case Detail

Fifteen men, alleged to be members of armed groups, were sentenced to death on 16 June, only days after “confessions” by several of them were broadcast on Iraqi television. They may not have received a fair trial and are at imminent risk of execution.

The 15 men, including Ibrahim Najm ‘Abboud, Firas Hassan Fleih al-Juburi, Fadhel Ibrahim al-Juburi, Haydar Mut’eb ‘Abdel-Qader, Hikmat Fadhel Ibrahim, Sayyid Hamadi Ahmed and Sofian Jassem Mohammad were sentenced to death on 16 June by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq after “confessions” by several of them were shown on the Iraqi TV channel al-‘Iraqiya in late May and early June 2011. The 15, said to be members of armed groups in Iraq, were found guilty of murdering dozens of people, including women and children, and the rape of women and girls, including the bride, at a wedding party in a village near al-Taji, north of Baghdad, in June 2006.

Amnesty International is concerned the 15 men may not have received a fair trial according to international standards for fair trial. The televised “confessions” by some of the men may have been obtained through duress.

The men were reportedly detained for several weeks incommunicado, that is without access to their legal representatives or relatives. This increases the risk of detainees being tortured or otherwise ill-treated, including the risk of being coerced into making confessions. In addition, at least some – possibly all – of the families were not informed about the start of the trial, which also raises serious concerns. This prevented them from consulting with the defendants on the appointment of legal representatives of their own choosing, a right guaranteed under international standards for fair trial. Given the grave nature of the charges it is of particular concern that the defendants may not have had adequate legal representation. The trial is said to have lasted only a few days.

Several Iraqi government officials publicly called for the public execution of the 15 men even before the trial had been completed, which jeopardised their right to a fair trial and violates the presumption of innocence, a fundamental principle in criminal law. On 14 June 2011 the Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council is reported to have said during a press conference that those detained in connection with the al-Taji wedding massacre “will be executed as soon as their death sentences are ratified by the Presidency.”

If the death sentences are upheld by the Court of Cassation, they will be submitted to the President for ratification.


Over the years many defendants have been sentenced to death in Iraq on the basis of “confessions” which they made as a result of torture in pre-trial detention, when they were held incommunicado and had no access to lawyers of their choosing. Some have been executed on the basis of such “confessions”.

The death penalty has been used very extensively in Iraq. Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death since the death penalty was reinstated by the Iraqi government in 2004, following a one-year suspension by the then Head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), Paul Bremer. The government gives very little information, including statistics, about executions. At least 1,000 people are said to be on death row. Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty in all cases because it is a violation of two fundamental human rights, as laid down in Articles 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a) the right to life, and b) the right not to be tortured or subject to any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. The organization considers the death penalty to be the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned human rights abuses by armed groups in Iraq, some of which are war crimes and crimes against humanity, including kidnapping, torture and killing of civilians, and continues to call for those responsible to be brought to justice.

* Expressing concern that the 15 people may not have received a fair trial according to international standards for fair trial;
* Calling on the authorities to ensure that concerns about violations of international standards of fair trial will be addressed and prevented in the future proceedings of this case;
* Calling on the authorities to declare an immediate moratorium on executions.


Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Defence and Interior
His Excellency Nuri Kamil al-Maliki, Prime Minister
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Human Rights
His Excellency Mohammad Shayaa al-Sudani
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Justice
Hassan al-Shammari
Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency Mr Abdulmuhaimen Al-Oraibi
Embassy of the Republic of Iraq
9 Holland Villas’ Road
London, W14 8BP
Fax: 020 7584 6787 / 0207 371 1652


22 June 2011 at 8:38 pm

Iraq Newsletter – Summer 2011

As my role of Iraq Country Coordinator for the Amnesty International UK Section takes shape, I have started producing a regular newsletter. In this first edition I focus on:

  • A brief introduction to who I am.
  • Good news on the case of Ramze Shihab Ahmed.
  • Even better news of some peaceful Iraqi protestors from a human rights NGO.
  • A summary of the relevant parts of the 2011 Amnesty International Report.
  • What we can do for each other.

The newsletter can be accessed in PDF format by clicking on the image in this post. Please feel free to distribute it as widely as you can. Oh and please do get in touch if you’d like to help. Thank you.

12 June 2011 at 8:45 pm

AGM Prequel

Queen's University Belfast.
Queens University Belfast

Two of the things I love about the Amnesty UK AGMs are the dynamic atmosphere and eclectic mix of members. I rarely go home without being deeply moved by the commitment and energy of our membership. Yet the fact that we all come from very different backgrounds makes this all the more incredible. A former Chair of my local group once said, “We have different skills, interests, political and religious beliefs, ethnicity and social status yet we turn up at each meeting in the common belief that human rights are worth fighting for.” Such sentiments are a powerful argument for any NGO.

As we gather at Queens University, Belfast let us not forget our stakeholders. By all means let’s discuss the detail of policy but with one eye firmly set on the human rights trouble spots. Belfast a few years ago was not dissimilar to Libya or Egypt today. There were calls for reform, civil unrest, terrorism, torture and extra judicial executions. Now Belfast is a lively cosmopolitan city and a shining example of what can be achieved if we and our politicians want to change.

No doubt there will be occasions this weekend where I will disagree with the sentiments of my fellow members, but I’ll buy them a drink in the bar afterwards. That is the real strength of Amnesty International. No matter what we say, agree or disagree with, we always remember that we are not fighting for ourselves but for the many, many people who rely on us to get along together for their human rights.

6 May 2011 at 10:25 am

When is an assassination right?

2011 05 01 - 2075 - Washington DC - Osama Cele...

Image via Flickr

The news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed following a US special forces operation in Pakistan is a huge news story. The US has made it their number one priority to track down and capture Bin Laden since 9/11. His legacy is a trail of destruction that has affected many people, many of them from his own faith. His reign of terror defined a generation of terrorists. So we should be glad he has gone. Right?

I’m not sure it is as simple as that. As historian David Starkey said, “dancing on the graves of one’s enemy” is never a good idea. The scenes from the United States are deeply unhelpful, shocking and will do nothing to help international relations. However there is another aspect of the killing that disturbs me even more. President Obama seems to have ordered an operation that was tantamount to an assassination. There are those who see nothing wrong with this, including many of our own politicians. The trouble is shooting an unarmed man, whether or not he was resisting arrest, seems heavy handed.

I know I lot will be made of the fact that this was the world’s most wanted man and that he would not have gone quietly. The problem I have is that a lot has been made of “justice being done”. Real justice involves an arrest, trial and conviction. With a human rights perspective everything possible should have been done to capture him alive. Maybe that did happen. The facts are creeping out at the moment so we shouldn’t pre-judge the US Navy Seals. However the tacit acceptance that the fact he was killed IS justice is just plain wrong.

4 May 2011 at 9:22 am

European Arrest Warrents: A miscarriage of justice?

There is no doubting the sincerity of those who see a need to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). It can be useful as it requires a state within the European Union to arrest and transfer to the issuing state an individual on whose behalf the warrant has been issued. On the face of it, this can be useful if a criminal has committed a crime in one country before absconding abroad. The problem is, that it is increasingly being used to settle old scores.

Take the case of Ian Bailey, an Irish man accused of the murder of a French lady in Ireland in 1997. He was never charged with any offence by the Gardia yet he seems likely to sent to French to face trial. OK you may say, if there is evidence that he committed the crime, so be it. The problem is that there is no credible evidence.

The most disturbing aspect of this case is the apparent amateurish detective methods used by the Gardia. Despite the fact that the murder victim is alleged to have clutched hair in her hand, there is no evidence of this. Further more there is no finger print, blood or DNA evidence. Without such evidence it would seem hard to convict anyone. Suggestions that Ian Bailey was “fingered” by corrupt Gardia officers maybe wide of the mark, but the whole manner of the inquiry rankles. The main prosecution witness has made eight contradictory statements, only identifying Ian Bailey in the fourth. Then she withdraw all her statements saying she had been coached and pressured by the Gardia to make them.

So far no charge has been made against the prosecution witnesses for perjury or the Gardia for false imprisonment, wrongful arrest or perverting the course of justice. Similarly the EAW is being used in a way many never thought possible.

29 April 2011 at 12:16 pm 1 comment

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What is Amnesty International?

Amnesty International is a global movement of 2.8 million located in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Our vision is for everyone to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion and is funded by its membership and public donations.


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