The wife of a British man held without charge in Iraq for a year is calling on the UK government to step up its efforts to secure the release of her husband.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old dual Iraqi-UK citizen who has lived in the UK since 2002, was arrested by security officials in a relative’s house in the city of Mosul on 7 December 2009.
Ahmed, who had travelled to Iraq to try to secure the release of his detained son ‘Omar, was first held in total secrecy for nearly four months before being able to phone his wife in London. He has told his wife of how he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags.
Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for Ramze Shihab Ahmed to be released unless he is charged with a recognisable criminal offence and fairly tried, as well as insisting that the alleged torture is fully investigated.
Supporters of the organisation have sent some 6,000 messages to the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, asking him to put pressure on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that Ramze Shihab Ahmed is treated in line with international human rights standards and the Iraqi constitution.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed’s wife, Rabiha al-Qassab, a 63-year-old former teaching assistant, has told Amnesty International:
“I can hardly believe that a whole year has gone by with my husband in jail like this. It’s disgraceful what they’re doing to him. He doesn’t even know what he’s accused of.”
“An Iraqi judge recently visited my husband and assured him that the ‘confession’ that the interrogators tortured out of him will be disregarded and that they’ll re-investigate the case.”
“This is better news but I want to see the Iraqis say either we’re charging him or - much more likely - we’re going to release him.”
“The UK ought to be saying this as well. I appreciate the fact that William Hague has raised the case with the Iraqi authorities, but I’d really like to see more being done now that a year has passed.”
“Why couldn’t Mr Hague insist that he must be either released or properly charged by Christmas?”
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“This shocking case has dragged on for far too long and we need to see the Iraqi authorities resolving it without further delay.”
“This man and his family have suffered enough. The torture allegations must be investigated and Ramze should be properly charged or released. The sooner, the better.”
After his arrest last December Ramze Shihab Ahmed was held in a secret prison at the old Muthanna airport in Baghdad, before being relocated to Baghdad’s al-Rusafa Prison where he is still held. He has been interrogated about alleged links to al-Qa’ida and reportedly forced to make a false confession following torture and while blindfolded.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed’s initial treatment appears to amount to enforced disappearance, and Amnesty International believes that the Iraqi authorities should treat it as such and thoroughly investigate it.
Last month Iraq ratified the United Nations’ convention banning ‘disappearances’ (the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
In September, Amnesty International published a report showing that an estimated 30,000 detainees were held without trial in Iraq, many of whom had recently been transferred from US custody. There are fears that many, like Ramze Shihab Ahmed, have suffered torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Thousands of these detainees continue to be detained despite judicial orders issued for their release and a 2008 Iraqi Amnesty Law which provides for the release of uncharged detainees after between six and 12 months.