Iraqi group finds files detailing informants' reports, arrests

Friday, April 25, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The file drawers fill room after room, papers spilling out. Inside, recorded with chilling bureaucratic detail, are the informants' reports, court records, confessions and execution orders for thousands of Iraqi dissidents.

The government files, shown Thursday to The Associated Press, could be the basis for Iraqis to begin to come to terms with their past -- or could be the catalyst for a new wave of bloodletting.

"Saddam Hussein kept these files because he thought he would rule forever," said a dissident who was imprisoned, Ibrahim al-Idrissi. "He is a terrorist, the No. 1 terrorist in the world."

The files have been collected over the past two weeks by the Committee of Free Prisoners, a group of Iraqis who had been arrested for dissident activities but were freed. The files chronicle the cases of thousands of prisoners who never made it out.

The files were maintained by the General Security Directorate, Iraq's equivalent of the FBI.

Al-Idrissi refused to say exactly how they were obtained, but his colleague Satar Jabar Mohsen said some were discovered in a room inside the al-Mansour Shopping Center; others were taken from private businesses and homes.

The covers of the files, many held together by yellowing tape, list names, professions, birth dates, birthplaces and charges. Inside are documents related to their cases.

One lists the name of Abed Gheilan Chelab, born 1949 in the southern city of Nasiriyah and charged with being a member of an outlawed Iraqi Shiite Muslim group, the al-Dawa Party, backed by Iran.

The file begins with an order from the General Security Directorate to security offices around Iraq to keep an eye on Chelab. Then comes the report of an investigation, and a record of his arrest.

Then comes a confession from Chelab -- affirming he was a member of al-Dawa -- and an order signed by the Directorate of Nasiriya Security for his execution.

Finally, there is a document from the same directorate, confirming that Abed Gheilan Chelab was put to death at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1984, at a Basra military camp. The method, it said, was a gunshot.

Amid the files there are also photographs, including before-and-after snapshots of torture victims.

One man is shown in a long beard in what appeared to be a booking photo. Another picture in the file shows the same man, his left arm cut off just below the shoulder, his ribs exposed where the skin over his chest had been seared off.

Mohsen said the man had been tortured with electric shocks and mutilated.

Members of the Committee of Free Prisoners said they were not permitting the public to see the files yet, for fear that they would inspire revenge against informants. Guards with Kalashnikov rifles watch the building where the files are now housed.

Many folders include reports by members of Saddam's Baath Party informing on friends or neighbors -- including one by a man, accused of being a member of the Communist Party, who days earlier had told his Baath Party office that a relative of his was talking to the communists.

Committee members said the files eventually should be made public so Iraqis can come to terms with their past.

"We are trying to save the information on a computer so we can publish it to the public," Mohsen said. "Many Iraqis are concerned about the fate of their loved ones."

Those fates are spelled out in cold detail. One folder lists 1,923 names, all of whom it said confessed to membership in al-Dawa.

Attached is a judge's order that they be handled under Article 156 -- the Iraqi law providing for the death penalty.

Another folder contains an order to banks and state offices, directing that all assets and property of the 74 people listed be turned over to the government. It says they had been executed -- no reason given.

Many of the folders contain the kind of banal information that indicates just how much detail many Iraqis felt compelled to provide to the government.

One report by a Baath Party member begins: "I would like to inform the party ..." It goes on to recount that he visited his brother-in-law, who went out to buy cement. He went to look for him after a while and found him in the house of the man who sells cement.

"They asked why I came," he wrote. "I said, 'I'm looking for my brother-in-law."'

The files fill room after room in the riverside house that once belonged to one of Saddam's bodyguards in central Baghdad. Committee members who have taken over the house said there are more files in the basement.

They haven't really begun examining the files yet, something that could take a commission years to do.

And Mohsen indicated there was even more.

"We have computer CDs too, but we haven't looked at them yet," he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Niko Price is correspondent at large for The Associated Press.

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