Ramze Shihab Ahmed: lost in Iraqs chaotic justice system

Here’s a question for you. What were you doing on 7 December 2009?  Come on, I’ll have to hurry you. (Have a think about it and let me know later). OK, silly question, but I’m asking because exactly one year ago the UK-Iraqi dual-national Ramze Shihab Ahmed was arrested in a relative’s house by the Iraqi security forces in Mosul, northern Iraq.  Now you might have thought that whatever they wanted him for would be pretty clear by now, a full year later. Well, you’d be wrong.  As I explained in a post in September, things don’t work this way in Iraq. First they basically “disappeared” him for nearly four months, holding him in a secret prison. According to what Ramze’s told his wife, this is when they tortured him (as Iraqi interrogators routinely do to hundreds – possibly thousands – of detainees) and made him sign a false confession. Then, in late March they took him to another prison in Baghdad and … well, nothing. He’s still there. No charges. No investigation into his alleged torture. No news on when he’s either going to be put on trial (for something) or when he’s going to be released. By most people’s standards this would add up to some kind of year-long nightmare. By Iraq’s perverted standards what’s happened to Ramze is almost normal. WikiLeaks’ expose of Iraq’s recent record of torture and detention fits with Amnesty’s research: it’s a twilight world of unaccountable security officials, of rogue units in the Interior Ministry and elsewhere running their own secret places of detention, of US and other international forces not caring too much what happens to people they hand over.  For all of the bleakness of the overall situation (and it is very bleak), Amnesty’s campaign to get something done about Ramze’s situation is gaining ground. Around 6,000 people have contacted the Foreign Secretary William Hague asking him to raise the case with the Iraqis (please add your voice here). We understand he’s done that. Meanwhile Alistair Burt’s letter to Amnesty suggests real engagement from the UK government.

Yet the key thing is still that the Iraqis either charge him with a recognisable criminal offence or release him without further delay. Things might be moving – a little. Ramze’s wife Rabiha told me a few days ago that an investigating judge has been to see her husband and promised that the original confession stuff will be dropped and a fresh investigation instigated. OK, a start. (Rabiha also tells me that last week they took him again to see the judge who, through some mix-up, wasn’t there; only a different judge who knew nothing about the case was available and they made …. precisely zero progress. So it goes in Iraq’s chaotic justice system).

Rabiha and Ramze, both retired people in their sixties, are going through an ordeal most of us – thankfully – will never endure. They just want to get back to their quiet north London lives (they live in wonderful Willesden – big shout out). Let’s hope Rabiha’s appeal for something to be done about her husband’s case by Christmas gets heard. That would be a decent present for this couple.

 

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