Iraq, 2013: The Horrors Remain the Same -- Rape, Executions and Torture Abound
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Sheikh Khaled Hamoud Al-Jumaili, one of the sheikhs leading the demonstrations, made it clear to Al Jazeera why the protests have been ongoing.
"We demand an end to checkpoints surrounding Fallujah, we demand they allow in the press, we demand they end their unlawful home raids and detentions, we demand an end to federalism and gangsters and secret prisons," he told Al Jazeera inside a tent just prior to recent Friday demonstrations.
Sheikh Jumaili went on to tell Al Jazeera that the millions of people in Anbar province had withdrawn all their demands on the Maliki government, because none of them had met.
"Now we demand a change in the regime and a change in the constitution," he said. "We will not stop these demonstrations. This one [March 8] we have labeled "Last Chance Friday" because it is the governments' last chance to listen to us."
The Sheikh was then asked what would happen if the Maliki government did not listen to the demands of the protestors.
"Maybe armed struggle comes next," he replied.
While there is no way of linking the events, on March 14 Iraq's Ministry of Justice was attacked by at least one car bomb and a suicide bomber, as part of a series of coordinated attacks that rocked Baghdad, killing 24 and injuring at least 50 others.
Meanwhile, protests against the Maliki government's ongoing use of detentions, torture, and executions continue in Sunni areas around Iraq, with no sign of abatement.
"Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale," Amnesty International's Hadj Sahraoui said in the groups recent report. "It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture."
"It is high time that the Iraqi authorities end this appalling cycle of abuse and declare a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty for all crimes," he added.
Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers, a Middle East Researcher working on Iraq, said she has received a wide range of figures from various sources as to the number of actual detainees.
"Iraq's Ministry of Justice claims 30,000 people in Ministry of Justice and Interior Ministry detention facilities, but there are a lot contradictions from the government," Evers told Al Jazeera. "I've had another source put the number at 50,000. The fact that the number varies so widely and that information on where and how people are detained is not widely available points to a larger problem."
A point made to Al Jazeera by many Iraqis is this: perhaps the Maliki government does not need secret prisons anymore, because it instead has "secret prisoners."
What is meant by this is that since the Iraqi security apparatus is not operating by the rule of law by carrying out arbitrary detentions and no due process, it is thus easy enough to detain people and hold them in normal facilities without having any record of them.
In this way it is possible for the government to interrogate ordinary Iraqis using any method it chooses, because the families and friends of the detainees have no idea where the detainee is, or how long they will be kept there.
According to Evers, Human Rights Watch "condemns the methods Iraqi security forces are using that don't adhere totheir own laws or to international standards … the arrests conducted arbitrarily and without warrants, illegal detentions, and use of abuse interrogation methods to extract confessions. In terms of executions, while Human Rights Watch always opposes the death penalty, what is especially concerning in Iraq, is that they are carried out after trials lacking in due process, and for convictions based on forced confessions because the criminal justice system is based on confessions rather than the gathering of evidence."