Introduction - The Former Regime
Prior to early 2003 political power in Iraq was concentrated in a repressive one-party apparatus dominated by Saddam Hussein. The provisional Constitution of 1968 stipulated that the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (ABSP) governed Iraq through the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which exercised both executive and legislative authority. The Revolution Command Council had the power to override the Provisional Constitution at any time and without judicial review. Parallel to the normal institutions of government the Baath Party enjoyed special status pursuant to the Leading Party Act No. 142 of 1974. The Republic of Iraq was structured so as to concentrate enormous powers in extremely few hands, with all power ultimately situated in the person of the President of the Republic. President Saddam Hussein, who was also Prime Minister, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of the Regional Command of the Baath Party , wields decisive power.
Iraq was a dictatorial, totalitarian State which allowed no political dissent. Freedoms of opinion, expression, association and assembly did not exist in Iraq. Of vital importance to the maintenance of the present political regime in Iraq was the complex, vast and infamous security apparatus which the President controls directly, and through his youngest son Qusai Hussein. The position of power enjoyed by the President was subject to the most extreme abuse which continued to bear especially heavily upon any threat of opposition - real or perceived.
The Government's security apparatus included militias attached to the President, the Ba'ath Party, and the Interior Ministry. They play a central role in maintaining the environment of intimidation and fear on which government power rests. Security forces have committed widespread, serious, and systematic human rights abuses.
The personal protection of Saddam Hussein was ensured by three mutually controlling units, called "protection units." The largest of these units was the Republican Guard led by Saddam Hussein's son Qusai Hussein. The general office of the military intelligence service [the Istikhbarat] was directly responsible to the Office of the President of Iraq. The internal intelligence service was called the Mukhabarat. Both Saddam's younger son Qusai and elder son Uday are active in the management of these entitities.
The elevated and protected status both of the security apparatus and of the Baath Party extends the scope and effects of abuse of power throughout the country. A substantial increase in official corruption (essentially government tolerated, if not encouraged, by the Government) and criminality has only exacerbated the situation, rendering the whole population subject to the arbitrary, widespread and self-centred interests of a privileged class of government officials and Baath Party leaders. Impunity even for serious assaults and extrajudicial killings encouraged the abuse of power.
The regime had a long record of executing perceived opponents allegedly involved in plotting against President Hussein, including high-ranking civilian, military, and tribal leaders, as well as members of his family and clan.
- An attempted coup d'état in March 1995 was organized by Maj.-Gen. (retd) Wafiq al-Samaraii, the head of Iraqi military intelligence during the Gulf War, was followed by widescale executions, arrests and collective punishment.
- After Saddam's daughters and his sons-in-law, Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel [head of Iraq's special weapons program] and Colonel Saddam Kamel al-Majid, defected to Jordan in August 1995, the Government reportedly arrested scores of midlevel military and civilian officials for their association with the defectors.
- The two sons-in-law of President Saddam Hussein, Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel, were brutally murdered on 23 February 1996, just three days after they had returned to Iraq apparently believing the President's promise of pardon for their defection to Jordan in August 1995. Shortly after entering Iraq, the two and over 40 relatives, including women and children, were killed in whatthe official Iraqi press described as the spontaneous administration of tribal justice. Other members of the al-Majid clan were also arrested or disappeared.
- A large number of military officers were arrested at the end of June 1996 on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the regime. Some 400 officers of various ranks were executed, including some senior Republican Guard officers, notably Brigadier General Ata Samaw'al who was said to have been the commander of the Special Communications Unit attached to the Office of the President. These executions were ordered directly by Saddam Hussein and supervised by his eldest son, Uday.
- Iraqi troops executed 96 members of an Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), in the Koshtape suburb of Arbil after capturing them on 31 August 1996. Following the withdrawal of Iraqi military troops from Arbil on 2 September 1996, members of the Iraqi intelligence forces stayed behind in the city where they rounded up suspected Iraqi opposition activists. In retaliation, US forces attacked southern Iraq with cruise missiles and expanded the southern flight-exclusion zone in Iraq from the 32nd to the 33rd parallel.
- Mass arrests and many executions followed the attempted assassination of the President's eldest son, Uday Hussein, on 12 December 1996. Arrests and detentions without judicial orders numbered in the thousands cutting across all military forces and security services, the Baath Party, tribal leaders close to the President, and even extending to within the President's immediate family.
The security apparatus was responsible for maintaining an all-pervasive order of repression and oppression which was sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror, including summary and arbitrary executions; the widespread routine practice of systematic torture; enforced or involuntary disappearances; suppression of freedom of thought, expression and association; and routinely practised arbitrary arrests and detention. Arbitrary arrest and detention remain widespread throughout the country, with people still being taken directly from their homes. Upon arrest, gross mistreatment and cruel torture occured. Tens of thousands of political killings and disappearances remain unresolved from previous years. As socioeconomic conditions have deteriorated, the regime had punished persons accused of economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other charges with torture and cruel and inhuman penalties, including the extensive use of amputation.
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