The families of Jordanian prisoners in Iraq have appealed to the government in hopes of securing the release of their loved ones, some of whom have been held without trial since around April 2003.
In an emotional letter sent on 21 May to Prime Minister Maruf Bakht, the families of 25 men currently detained in Iraq said they feared their relatives’ lives could be at risk due to Iraq’s deteriorating security situation. “Please help us release our sons,” family members pleaded. “They’ve done nothing wrong – their only crime is that they are Jordanians.”
Government officials and human rights groups say they lack comprehensive data on the precise numbers of Jordanian nationals currently in Iraqi prisons. According to some parliamentarians who have followed the issue, however, there are at least 50, many of whom had gone to Iraq following the 2003 US-led invasion to look for stranded relatives or offer humanitarian assistance. Others had been registered students at Iraqi universities.
Um Mahmoud, for example, has not seen her son Abdullah, a student at the University of Baghdad, for three years. “As soon as the war broke out, we stopped hearing from him,” she said. “We thought he was dead.”
Six months ago, however, Um Mahmoud received a letter from her son via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in which he assured his family that he was in a good health. “They told me he was fine,” she said. “But we don’t know what happened afterwards, and we haven’t heard from him since.”
According to Abdul Karim Shreideh of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR), the whereabouts of most Jordanian prisoners in Iraq remains unknown. “We don’t know the location of most prisoners,” he said. “They’re lost between the American-run prisons and the Iraqi prisons. Some are also being held by Iraqi militias.”
The AOHR, in cooperation with local rights groups, is currently collecting information in hopes of pinpointing the location of each prisoner. “The problem is, we don’t know who to talk to – the Americans or the Iraqis,” he said.
ICRC spokeswoman Nada Daduni pointed out that some Jordanians were being held by the US military without trial in Abu Greib prison as well as in Boka near Basra and Sozi in the north. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised what it described as “the continuing detentions without charge or trial of thousands of people in Iraq who are classified by the Americans as ‘security internees’”.
HRW went on to accuse the US military of denying detainees the right to challenge the legality of their detentions before a court. “Some of the detainees have been held for over two years without any effective remedy or recourse,” noted the rights watchdog, “while others have been released without explanation, apology or reparation after months in detention.”
In January 2004, 20 Jordanian prisoners were released by US-led forces in Iraq after an almost year-long detention. Upon their release, some of them said they had been mistreated by coalition forces during their imprisonment.
Meanwhile, government sources say they are in contact with the US-led coalition authority in an effort to secure the release of all Jordanian prisoners in the country.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions