Classified Saddam documents found
Karl Malakunas, AFP, 22 April 2003
Tens of thousands of highly classified documents recording executions, arrests and interrogations under Saddam Hussein's regime have been recovered, a new Iraqi human rights group said on Tuesday.
"We have so many files and there are more coming in every day," the founder of the Committee to Free Prisoners, Ibrahim al-Edrisy, told AFP from the group's base at the luxury residence of a former Iraqi senior security official in Baghdad.
Edrisy said committee members and other "volunteers" began recovering the files from buildings and residences that belonged to the feared security branches of Saddam's regime as soon as news broke that the Iraqi dictator had lost power.
He said many documents were burnt and destroyed by officials who were loyal to Saddam or who feared they could leave behind self-incriminating evidence.
"But many have also been saved. We will use this to help all the people who have suffered," Edrisy said.
Inside one room of the building were more than 150 cabinets full of files, most of which were marked "highly classified" in red. The wall of another room was piled high with more files.
Execution orders, death certificates found
One file read by an AFP reporter contained the 1983 execution orders for 65 people accused of being associated to the al-Dawa party, a Shiite group with close links to Iran that Saddam relentlessly tried to eradicate.
A military court that oversaw treason and security hearings, Ath-Thawra, issued the two bulk execution orders on April 27 and July 8 in 1983 for all the accused to be hanged.
Aged between 21 and 35, the group covered a wide spectrum of society, with their professions ranging from unemployed people to schoolteachers, students, soldiers, a shoemaker and an engineer.
Another file marked "highly confidential" recorded the 1989 execution of Abed Ali Jabboh, whose crime was to try to flee the Iraqi army. His file listed the method of execution as "shooting".
A separate folder contained a thick wad of regular death certificates for people who died during the 1990s. All listed the cause of death as "hanging".
Documents vital for relatives, friends
Edrisy said the documents would be vital in helping the many people whose relatives and friends had gone missing during Saddam's brutal 24-year reign.
"Our first goal is to tell as many people as we can what has happened to their missing relatives," Edrisy said as he stood among the documents.
"We need to show if people were prisoners or, if they were killed, where they are buried.
"Then we want to punish those who have done this."
Help needed from foreign organisations
However, Edrisy said his committee, made up of 150 volunteers, needed help from foreign organisations to secure and organise the documents.
"Tell the Red Cross, humanitarian groups and all honest people that we need their help," he said.
Edrisy said a major concern was a lack of security, with his committee receiving threats from people still loyal to Saddam.
Outside the committee's headquarters more than 100 people were searching for news of their relatives, with the names of about 1 000 people confirmed executed on a series of notice boards.
"My father has been missing since 1980," Haider Hamid said.
"He was a religious man and they accused him of being with al-Dawa. My family has been destroyed by this. We just want to know what happened."
The revelations of the recovered documents follow the discovery on Monday of secret graves containing the bodies of nearly 1 000 political prisoners at a cemetery on the western outskirts of Baghdad.