On 21 April, the Turkish Court again sentenced the four Kurdish ex-Members of Parliament to 15 years imprisonment, at the end of a retrial called for by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) that had ruled the first trial was “inequitable”. The three judges of the Ankara State Security Court (DGM), where the retrial has been taking place since March 2003, decided unanimously to pronounce an identical sentence to the original trial. This verdict, confirming the 1994 sentence, was immediately condemned by the European Commission, which considered that it could hinder Ankara’s aspirations to E.U. membership.
Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, former Members of Parliament for the pro-Kurdish Party for Democracy (DEP — banned in 1994) were sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment at their original trial in 1994 for alleged “support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”. However, the sentencing of the four ex-M.P.s in 1994 was strongly condemned in Europe. The first Kurdish woman elected to parliament, Leyla Zana, now 43 years old, became a touchstone, for the European Union, of Turkey’s will to democratise itself, and in particular as a yardstick of its respect for the Kurdish people’s rights. In 1995, the European Parliament had awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights.
In 2001, the ECHR had criticised the fact that the accused had not be able to bring defence witnesses before the court and that the prosecution had failed to give them notice of fresh charges presented during the first trial. The Turkish Parliament, in the context of the pro-European reforms, has since authorised retrials for people whose original trials had been condemned by the ECHR.
Turkey is hoping, next December for a green light from the European leaders to start negotiating for membership of the E.U. for which it has been a candidate since 1999, and this trial, according to many observers, was intended to be a showcase for its will to democratise itself …
The four “convicts”, incarcerated for the last ten years, are in any case due for release by March 2005. They again boycotted the 14th hearing of their “retrial” by the DGM on 21 April in protest at the inequitable attitude of the judges. The four former M.P.s have, in fact, been boycotting their trial for several months past in protest at the attitude of the State Security Court’s judges.
They principal lawyer, Mr. Yusuf Alatas, attacked this new “inequitable” verdict and stated that the defence would be appealing to the Court of Appeals and, if necessary, to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. “The judges acted with prejudices (…) We have been working fruitlessly for the last 13 months” of the trial, at the rate of one hearing per month, declared Mr. Alatas, who considered that this retrial was no more equitable than the previous one. “I must, unfortunately, say that with regret that the European Court will overrule this new verdict, which will be an unprecedented event” he stated.
In an open letter to the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Iranian Shirin Ebadi, and Danielle Mitterrand, President of France-Libertés and of CILDEKT, Leyla Zana had expressed her pessimism regarding the outcome of this “retrial”. “The earlier verdict may well be confirmed by the time you receive this letter. We know this and we are expecting such a result”, Mrs. Zana had stated in this letter, written in prison and dated 30 March. “Under the pretext of holding a new trial, it is the old trial that is taking place once again” according to Mrs. Zana who considered that “the government only wanted this trial as a show piece, to advance its foreign policy”.
The European Commission “vigorously deplored” this new condemnation, saying that it undermined Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union. “The Commission vigorously deplores today’s verdict” declared the Commission’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Filori. The verdict “creates serious concern in the context of the political criteria (of the E.U.) and casts a shadow on the carrying out of political reforms in Turkey” added Mr. Filori. Mr. Filori refuses to evaluate the impact of Leyla Zana’s sentence on the position Brussels would adopt regarding Turkey. “I do not want to speculate on the final evaluation, but it is a factor, amongst others, that will be taken into account in October” he declared during his daily press conference. Questioned on the possibility of the European Union starting negotiations for membership with country that has political prisoners in detention, Mr. Filori declared: ”The answer is NO”. ”Mrs. Zana was arrested and sentenced for having expressed her opinions in a peaceful manner. She is thus, in our view, a political prisoner” he added.
An Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) also sharply denounced the verdict. “The conclusions of this trial are disgraceful” stated Luigi Vinci, an MEP who had come to Ankara as an observer, before the journalists. He considered that the new trial had also been “shameful” for the E.U. and for the Strasbourg ECHR. Mr. Vinci declared his “solidarity” with the imprisoned former M.P.s in the name of the European Parliament, considering that “today’s verdict is an insult to this country, which does not deserve such a thing”. The MEP further attacked the Turkish State Security Courts, judiciary institutions that, in his opinion, were “a relict of fascism” and demanded their abolition.
The Speaker of the German Parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, on a visit to Ankara, also attacked the verdict. “It will be very difficult for Turkey to overcome the effects of this trial abroad” he declared as quoted by German diplomatic sources.
Pro-Kurdish political circles joined the condemnations. “It was all a piece of political play-acting” remarked Osman Ozcelik, Vice-President of the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP) a legal offshoot of the banned DEP which may itself soon be banned by the courts.
The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), for its part, declared it was “dismayed” by the verdict. The FIDH, which has had observers at many of the retrial’s hearings, attacked the permanent infringements of the principles of independence and impartiality by the court.
The Collective for Human Rights in Turkey, that includes Action Chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT — Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture), l’Assemblée citoyenne des originaires de Turquie, (ACORT — Civic Assembly of those of Turkish origin), Amnesty International (French Branch), France-Libertés, Ligue des droits de l’homme (LDH), Médecins du Monde (MDM), Association Primo Lévi, and the Cimade condemned “with the greatest firmness the decision to convict”. The Collective considered that “the conduct of the trial, from the start, had been distinguished by its flagrant breaches of the right to a fair and equitable trial, in total disregard of the rulings of the European Court for Human Rights”.
The US Army lost more troops in the month of April than in the whole of the “major fighting” phase in Iraq, even as UN General Secretary Kofi Annan warned against an aggravation of the situation following these battles, of which the Sunni town of Fallujah was the principle theatre.
On 25 April, US helicopters and planes fired missiles and automatic weapons for the second day running on several objectives in Fallujah (50 Km South-West of Baghdad) after US Marines had born the brunt of fresh firing from guerrillas in the station of this Sunni bastion, which the Marines had been besieging for three weeks. A cease-fire signed in Fallujah in mid-April, provided for the collection of heavy weapons from the rebels as well as joint patrols by the coalition forces and the local police. Since the beginning of hostilities in Fallujah on 5 April, there have been 280 killed on the Iraqi side, including 24 women and 30 children, according to the Iraqi Minister of Health. The number of injured was as high as 820, including 56 women and 46 children. The Shiite South, till then relatively calm, in turn experienced clashes in initiated by Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia. Some 64 militiamen were killed in clashes that broke out on 26 April at Kufa, about 10 Km from Najaf, according to a communiqué by General Mark Kimmitt, US Army spokesman. Moreover, five suicide bomb attacks were carried out against three police stations in Basra, the country’s Southern metropolis, till then largely spared the violence in the current in rest of Iraq and also against a police training centre in the neighbouring town of Zubeir. The casualty list was 73 dead and about a hundred injured.
Since the beginning of April 2003, 124 US troops have been killed, of which 105 were in battle, according to the Pentagon. But the assessment announced by the Army authorities in Baghdad are of at least 114 for the month of April 2004, not counting the losses in battle during the phase of “real war” in March and April 2003.
Finally, on evening of 28m April, the US television channel CBS broadcast pictures of American soldiers ill-treating Iraqi prisoners. On the same day, General Mark Kimmitt announced in Baghdad that six soldiers are at the moment being charged before courts martial for ill-treating detainees in the Abu-Gharib prison.
Furthermore, on 29 April, Kurdish oil official was seriously wounded by gunfire at Kirkuk, together with one of his assistants, as he was leaving his home in his car. Nariman Fattah Abdallah was hit by several bullets in the body, the back and the leg at 9.10 am (5.10 GMT) when a group of men opened fire on him and his assistant. Mr. Abdallah is head of security for the General Oil Products Company and a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The Director of the Irbil Red Crescent and his wife were also found murdered in the city of Mossul. The bodies of Barzan Omar Ahmad and his wife Sazan Ismail Abdallah, who also worked for the Red Crescent, were found, on 9 April, in a street of Mossul, the important Northern Iraq oil production city.
Mass’ud Barzani, Presdient of the Iraqi Interim Government Council (IGC) for the month of April, declared on 26 April that the United States had only themselves to blame for the political dead end in Fallujah and Najaf, because they had let their troops pass from being an “army of liberation” to becoming “an army of occupation”. “The fact, that must not be forgotten is that Iraq is, today, an occupied country” stated Mass’ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). “Today, Iraq has no sovereignty and no independence”. “The mistake was that they were liberators (who transformed themselves into) an army of occupation” he explained, referring to the US troops who had overthrown the Saddam Hussein regime.
When the former rais fell, “an interim government could have been immediately set up (…). Sovereignty would have been in the hands of Iraqis and Iraqis would have been in the forefront of events”, he continued in the context of an exclusive interview given to Associated Press.
Mass’ud Barzani also considered that the United States were faced with a dilemma: on the one hand, they should not be too soft in the besieged cities and thus give the insurgents “the impression that they (the rebels) had the upper hand” but on the other hand they had to ensure that civilians were not endangered by their use of armed force. The United States had to “make a clear distinction between civilians and the terrorist elements” he warned.
On 10 April, 11 banned Kurdish organisations stated, in a joint communiqué, that two Syrian Kurdish detainees had died under torture and that hundreds of Kurds had been arrested during the previous two days. According to this communiqué, “Hussein Hammo Naaso died on 6 April as a result of savage tortures and Ferhad Mohammad Ali died two days later.” A third Kurdish detainee, Hanif Hanan Mohammad, “is still unconscious after being subjected to repeated beatings”, the communiqué added.
“These tortures were aimed at forcing the detainees to confess to crimes that they had not committed, to cover up those really responsible for the events of 12 March” declared the communiqué, in reference to the bloody disorders that shook Northeast Syria. The 11 Kurdish parties furthermore asserted that “hundreds of Kurds, including women and school boys under 15 years of age, have been arrested in the course of the last two days” during a campaign of arrests and house searches organised by the authorities “of the Kurdish regions of the North of the country as well as in Aleppo (North) and Damascus”.
Moreover, on 8 April, the Syrian Kurdish party Yekiti (Unity) denounced, in a communiqué “the continued arrests” of Syrian Kurds. “The Syrian authorities have not stopped night searches of houses and the campaign of arrests and repression” directed at the Kurdish population, pointed out this communiqué, signed by the Yekiti party leader, Abdel Baqi Yussef. “The regime seems to ignore the fact that the Kurdish cause demands a democratic solution and political dialogue”, added the communiqué.
“On Tuesday (6 April) the security services arrested four schoolboys ages between 12 and 13 in a school at Qamchli”. “Searches and arrests have reached the Kurdish towns of Amouda and Derbassiya” on the Turkish borders, the communiqué, adds.
At the end of March, the General Secretary of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party (banned) Abdel Aziz Daoud had indicated that over 2,000 Syrian Kurds were in detention in Syria, following the clashes between the Kurds and the police or tribal Arab in the Northern regions of Syria. These disturbances caused 40 deaths, according to Kurdish sources (25 according to the official Syrian assessment). The Syrian Kurds, estimated at 1.5 million strong, represent about 9% of the country’s population, and are essentially settled in the North of the country.
The UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, committed himself to getting to the bottom of the charges against his organisation of large-scale corruption in the management of the “Food for Oil” programme in Iraq.
Since 20 April and the revelations of the American ABC network, the United Nations have been confronted with further allegations, particularly implicating three senior international officials. “These are, naturally, serious allegations that we have to take seriously” declared Mr. Annan. “I want to find the truth and I want to get to the bottom” of this affair, added the General Secretary, who soon after officially appointed an independent commission of enquiry.
This group is presided by an American, Paul Volcker, former President of the American Federal Reserve and former assistant Minister of Finance. It also includes a Swiss, Mark Pieth, Professor of Law at the University of Bâle and a South African, Richard Goldstone, former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia. This appointment was immediately endorsed by a resolution, passed unanimously by the Security Council. In this resolution, the Council calls on the Coalition in Iraq and the Iraqi leaders to cooperate with the commission “for a full and fair enquiry”.
Mr. Annan, questioned by the press on the impact this affair would have on UNO’s relations or activities in Iraq, declared that he “hoped that the Iraqi people were aware that, even if offences had been committed by certain members of UNO’s staff,
UNO as a whole had made a sincere effort to meet the humanitarian needs” and that “this positive aspect must not be forgotten”.
On 20 April, ABC News revealed that some 270 political leaders of 22 countries and at least 3 UNO public figures, including the head of the “Food for Oil” programme, Benon Sevan, were implicated in the scandal. According to ABC, basing itself on documents from the Iraqi Oil Ministry, Mr. Sevan would have received some $3.5 million of illegal income from Iraqi Oil. In February he denied any involvement.
A US Government audit evaluated the sums embezzled at $10 billion.
The scandal exploded in January when the Iraqi daily, Al-Madaa, claiming to base itself on documents found in the Iraqi Oil Ministry, had published a list of individuals and companies, particularly Russian, French, British, American and from Arab countries, who it said had enjoyed Saddam Hussein’s largesse.
The “Food for Oil” programme had been created at the end of 1996 to lighten the weight of the international sanctions on the Iraqi population by enabling it to receive basic essentials and medicines. It had handled over #40 billion, up to the time when its funds were transferred to the US-British coalition in November 2003.
Dr. Siyamend Othman, founder of the Kurdish Institute’s periodical Studia Kurdica and ex-Vice President of the United Press International (UPI) agency was appointed by the American Administrator, Paul Bremer, Director General of the Iraqi authority for media control (ICMC), an organism comparable to those in Western countries.
Born in Irbil (North), the new Director General, Siyamend Zaid Othman, secured a Paris doctorate in Social Science in 1984. After having cooperated with the Paris Kurdish Institute, he joined Amnesty International where, for six years he was responsible for the Arabian Peninsula. He then opted for the press and became Vice President for Strategic Planning of the UPI press agency. Since 1998 he has been consultant on media and new technologies.
The new independent organisation is “responsible for controlling all forms of electronic communications, including radio, television as well as Internet services and news” according to a Coalition communiqué. “It must defend freedom of the press, work closely with the Association of Iraqi journalists, the international media, and all other institutions to draw up ethical and professional criteria”, added the communiqué, according to which it must also “protect intellectual property and people’s private lives”.
Three of the nine commissioners of this Authority were also chosen. They are Awni Afram Karumi, theatre director and stage manager, Mahdi al-Rahim, former banker and General Secretary of the Baghdad chamber of Commerce and a Professor of Economics Amal Shlash.
In cooperation with the Interim Government Council, members of civil society and media and communications professionals, the four will have to chose six other members of this authority, including its president.
Thus, after the transfer of sovereignty, the Authority must propose to the new sovereign government, a new law on communications, distribution and broadcasting, which will define a code of conduct for the media, draw up professional criteria and allocate radio and television frequencies. Once the law has been passed, it will be responsible for ensuring its application, according to the communiqué.
According to the Coalition, 270 papers have seen the day since the fall of the old regime, but the figure has since fallen to 150, while there are, at the moment, about fifty radio stations.
The commission will start work with an annual budget of six million dollars, with funds coming from international donations, until it is able to finance itself with revenues from granting licences.
On 20 April, the European Court for Human Rights found turkey guilty of not having conducted any effective enquiry into the death of a Kurd, shot down in unexplained circumstances. In 1994, in Istanbul, Savas Buldan and two of his friends were kidnapped by armed men and their bodies found a few hours later some 270 Km away. The three men had been shot down at point blank range. A suspect of these murders was later acquitted for lack of evidence. The petitioner, Nejdet Buldan, brother of one of the tree men, affirmed before the European Court that the three men had been kidnapped by State officials in plain clothes.
The European judges considered that “the evidence available did not allow them to conclude, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the petitioner’s brother had been killed by States agents”. On the other hand, they judged that the Turkish authorities “had not really sought to enquire into the possible implication of State agents in the murder”.
The European Court thus found Turkey guilty of failing to carry out “an effective and adequate enquiry” (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and of an absence of any effective recourse (Article 13). Turkey was also sentenced to paying 6,000 euros in damages to the petitioner and 10,000 euros to Savas Buldan’s children.
Moreover, on 6 April, the ECHR sentenced Turkey to paying 7,500 euros damages to Mehdi Zana, husband of the former M.P. for the pro-Kurdish Party for Democracy (DEP), Leyla Zana, for “violation of the freedom of expression”. Mr. Zana, now 63 years of age and former mayor of the city of Diarbekir, had been sentenced, in May 1994, to 4 years imprisonment by the Ankara State Security Court for “separatist propaganda”, reduced on appeal in 1995 to two years, for remarks made during a press conference held at the European Parliament in October 1992, and before a European Parliamentary sub-Committee on Human Rights in December of the same year.
During his speeches before the European Parliament, Mr. Zana, who had already served a 14-year sentence in the Turkish jails for his political opinions, related his personal struggle for the recognition of rights of the Kurds in Turkey, and had condemned the actions of the Turkish authorities in the Kurdish provinces, particularly with regard to the destruction of Kurdish villages and the violence against the Kurdish population.
The sentence against him was ruled to be an “infringement in his right to freedom of expression” by the ECHR, which also granted Mr. Zana 2,500 euros costs.
The Court, moreover, found Turkey guilty of breach of the right to fair and equitable trial because of the presence of an Army judge on the bench of the State Security Court that had sentenced him.
The same Court also found Turkey guilty, on 6 April, of “inhuman and degrading treatment” of villagers of Kurdish origin during a Turkish Army operation to find members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Petitioned by 32 people, it awarded each of them material damages varying between 170 and 97,010 euros and moral damages of between 1,500 and 68,000 euros.
According to the petitioners, the armed forces, while searching for members of the PKK, had attacked the Kurdish village of Ormaniçi in February 1993. They had set fire to fourteen houses and arrested most of the men. The Court condemned the security forces for the “inhuman treatment” inflicted on the men of the village, who had been forced to lie face down in a mixture of mud and melting snow and be kicked by the troops. It also condemned Turkey for violation of the “right to life” of a little girl of six, who died as a result of wounds received during the assault on the village and of one of the villages who died during his incarceration as a result of pneumonia contracted after having been forced to march barefooted in the snow and mud.
The Greek Cypriots will enter the European Union alone on the 1st of May, after having voted a massive NO to the UN plan. Despite the YES of the Turkish Cypriot party, their refusal puts a seal on the failure of the two referenda organised on 24 April in both North and South of the island, burying hopes of seeing an end to 30 years of partition.
These results mark a defeat for the United Nations, which has not succeeded in imposing its plan of reunification. The plan was finalised by the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, in the absence of any agreement between representatives of the two parties. For its application to be possible, it had to be approved by the electors on both sides of the “Green Line” — the cease-fire line that separates the North and South of the island. But the Greek Cypriots rejected the compromises demanded by the document, which they considered too favourable to the Turkish side.
In the South, where some 480,000 Greek Cypriot electors were asked to vote, the NO carried the day with 78.83% against 24.17% According to the published results. Participation was 88%.
In the North, where some 190,000 Turkish Cypriots were called to the polls, the YES won by 64.91% against 35.01%. Participation was 87%.
Alvaro de Soto, UN envoy, who conducted the negotiations over the last few years, announced that his office on the island would be closed, but did not say when. He read a communiqué from Kofi Annan’s office stating that, while the decision before the electors was difficult, “a historic opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem had been missed”.
Despite the vehement opposition of their leader, Rauf Denktash, many of the inhabitants of the Turkish Cypriot party (which is only recognised by Turkey) supported reunification, seen as a means of escaping their isolation and catching up on their economic lag. After the publication of the first results, the Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister, Mehmet Ali Talat called for a diplomatic offensive to break the international isolation of the North and demanded the resignation of president Denktash. “We want the lifting of the (international) embargo” he explained. “The president has been working against the interests of the Turkish Cypriots for a long time (…) After all this, there is no longer any reason for him to remain in office”.
Rauf Denktassh, for his part, expressed his satisfaction, adding that he would no resign because “the (Turkish Cypriot) State has been preserved”.
The UN plan proposed the creation of a united Republic of Cyprus, a confederation on the Swiss model, consisting of two constituent and largely autonomous states and a central government with limited powers, a new flag and national anthem. It provided for the reduction of the Northern sector’s territory from 37% to 29%, several dozen villages passing under the control of the Greek Cypriots. Foreign military presence would be gradually reduced (there are, at present 40,000 Turkish troops and 6,000 Greek troops there) to reach a total of 6,000 by 2011 and 1,600 by 2018.
The main reason for rejection by the south was: the plan restricted the return to their former homes of the Greek Cypriot refugees who had fled the invasion of the Northern part of the island by Turkish troops in 1974. The Greek Cypriots also denounced the maintenance of tens of thousands of mainland Turks who had colonised the Northern part of the island.
On 26 April, the European Union proposed to grant 259 million euros of economic aid to the Turkish Cypriots to enable them to break their isolation. With the release of these 259 millions, the European Commissioner for the Enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, indicated that the EU should now “cooperate” with the authorities of the North Cyprus Turkish Republic, while insisting that such cooperation did not mean any diplomatic recognition of the NCTR.
• THE KONGRA-GEL ORGANISATION HAS BEEN PLACED ON THE LIST OF TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS BY THE EUROPEAN UNION. The Kurdish KONGRA-GEL organisation, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is protesting at its inclusion on the European Union’s list of terrorist movements. “The E.U.’s decision to place KONGRA-GEL (Kurdistan People’s Congress) on its list of terrorist organisations is a blow to democracy and Human Rights as well as a slander of the Kurdish people” states a communiqué published in Berlin on 6 April. According to it, the E.U. has given way to pressure from Turkey to make it more amenable to the reunification of Cyprus. “The option of a democratic solution to the Kurdish question has been sacrificed to the advantage of little Cyprus. It is infamous that the E.U. thus play Turkey’s game. Once more, an opportunity for a solution has been wasted” the communiqué adds.
The European blacklist of terrorist organisations, of which a revised version was published in the European Community’s official gazette on 3 April, now contains, alongside the PKK the reference “alias KADEK, alias KONGRA-GEL”. The movement is protesting at being put on the same footing as the PKK and asserts that “it is committed to a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question, as anyone can see by reading its programme, accessible on Internet”.
The United States have also decided to put KONGRA-GEL on its list of terrorist organisations. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had welcomed this stand in January 2004. The State Department had considered that KONGRA-GEL, founded in 1999, was just a reincarnation of the PKK and should, in consequence, be placed on this list.
Clashes have increased since this announcement. On 16 April, Kongra-Gel stated that in the previous few days it had killed 10 Turkish soldiers and seven Kurdish auxiliaries, the so-called “village guardians”, during fighting in the mountainous Kurdish region of Sirnak, on the Iraqi borders. “The Turkish attack began on 6 April, in the region of Sirnak, where our forces are well established, and fighting is still continuing” stated Zubeyir Aydar, the representative of the ex-PKK in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniah. “In the course of the fighting, 10 Turkish soldiers, including an officer, and seven Kurdish mercenaries were killed as well as one of our fighters” he added.
On 15 April, a local source in Diyarbekir had stated that five Kurdish fighters of Turkish origin had been killed as well as three soldiers, in a vast operation by security forces in Sirnak. Ten soldiers and “village guardians” (Kurdish militia armed and paid by the Turkish State) had been wounded.
According to officials, the operation, in which 6,000 security forces, backed by helicopters, took part began four days after the authorities learnt that a group of 60 PKK (renamed Kongra-Gel) activists had infiltrated into Turkish territory from Iraqi Kurdistan.
• THE COURT FOR TRYING SADDAM HUSSEIN HAS BEEN SET UP. On 20 April, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress (INC) announced that the Iraqi leaders have set up a court, which will be responsible for trying Saddam Hussein and other leaders of his regime. Salem Shalabi, nephew of Ahmed Shalabi, head of the INC and a member of the Interim Government Council has been appointed to preside the Court, said the Spokesman, Entefadh Qanbar.
Salem Shalabi, a lawyer who has studied in the United States, in turn has designated a group of seven judges and four Public Prosecutors for the trial, whose date has not yet been set.
Since his capture last December, the fallen Iraqi dictator has been held in detention by American troops in a secret location, in or near Baghdad. The Court, which will have budget of 75 million dollars for 2004 and 2005, will be qualified to try any member of the former Baathist regime who may be charged, Mr. Qanbar pointed out.
The judges and Prosecutors will determine what charges are to be upheld against Saddam Hussein and his former associates. Other judges will later be appointed to this court, according to the INC spokesman. The judges and prosecutors will follow courses in International law, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Salem Shalabi was appointed to head the court by a committee consisting of members of the Interim Government Council by virtue of a law adopted by the IGC and approved by the American Administrator, Paul Bremer. The Iraqi National council has one representative on this committee.
Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, some 300,000 corpses have been found, buried in mass graves — presumably victims of political persecutions against Shiites, Kurds and other opposition groups.
• TOTAL WINS A 1.2 BILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT IN IRAN. Iran has awarded the development of phase 11 of the immense natural gas field of Pars South to Total, and a contract of about 1.2 billion dollars should shortly be signed, “unless there are problems”, declared the Iranian Deputy Minister for Oil on 25 April. The French oil company Total “was chosen to develop phase 11 of Pars South, it’s proposals have prevailed” declared Mehdi Mirmoezi, during a conference on gas exports in Teheran, “the final negotiations are taking place and, unless there are problems, the contract will be signed within the next month or two”.
The winning tender should have been designated several months ago. Total, the British BP, the Italian Eni and the Norwegian Statoil were all competing.
Total has been strongly involved, apart from Pars 2 and 3, in the development of the Sirri oil fields, which began production in 1998-99, and in those of Dorood and Balal, already in operation. In February it signed, jointly with its Malasian competitor Petronas and the Iranian National Oil Company (INOC) a contract of $2 billion for building a Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Pars South.
• THE TURKISH HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION DENOUNCES THE INFRINGEMENTS OF FREEDOM OF OPINION IN 2003 — DESPITE THE RECENT REFORMS. On 19 April, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV) published its “2003 Report on Freedom of Opinion in Turkey”, taking into account the recent adoption of legal reforms in the context of harmonisation with the European Union.
According to this report, 774 legal cases regarding written or oral opinions, expressed in books, newspapers or periodicals were recorded last year. Over 70 actions have been initiated for violation of Article 159 of the Turkish penal code “regarding attacks on the State, the Republic, the security forces or the Army”. There were seven sentences and 14 acquittals amongst the 21 cases tried in 2003. Article 312 of the Penal Code, regarding “incitement to racism and to religious or linguistic discrimination” gave rise to 68 cases, with 10 sentences passed and 16 acquittals amongst the 26 cases tried in 2003.
Still according to this report, Article 6 of the Anti-Terrorist Act, punishing “the publication of statements from illegal organisations” served as the basis for 175 legal actions. Of 91 verdicts handed down in 2003, 84 were sentences. As for the notorious Article 8 of the same Anti-Terrorist Act, punishing “propaganda against the unity and indivisibility of the country”, 38 trials took place resulting in 13 condemnations. Article 7 of the same Act regarding “propaganda of an illegal organisation” gave rise to 39 legal actions. The report also stresses that 40 books were brought before the courts in 2003.
The Foundation showed that Article 169 of the Penal Code, repressing “aid and assistance to an illegal organisation” was the most widely used by the Turkish legal system, despite the reforms passed in August 2003, restricting the area of its application. This article has continued to be the most important threat to any person, press or party political organ that expresses itself on the Kurdish question. According to the report, several cases were initiated on the sole basis that a statement contained the words “Mr. Ocalan”. The Public Prosecutor’s Office considering that the combination of these two words constituted the offence of “aid and assistance to an illegal organisation”. The report points out that there were 58 condemnations on this score alone.
The report highlights the situation of the pro-Kurdish daily Yeniden Ozgur Gundem, that was sentenced to fines amounting to 476 billions Turkish lire and so forced to cease publication. Various dailies and periodicals were banned from appearing for a total of 370 days, and the RTUK, the Turkish Higher Audio-visual Council, issued 480 days of broadcasting bans against various radio and TV stations in the course of 2003.