Sunday, March 04, 2007

Perspective: New Martial Law Powers Threaten Basic Rights

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's new security plan for Baghdad grants military commanders sweeping powers to arrest people and restrict their basic freedoms of speech and association, Human Rights Watch said today.

On February 13, al-Maliki issued martial law powers giving military commanders authority to conduct warrantless arrests, monitor private communications, and restrict civil society groups in Baghdad. General Qanbar Hashim, commander of Baghdad operations, announced the decree as part of the Iraqi government's latest plan to curb the escalating civil war in the country.

The decree grants General Qanbar far-reaching powers to conduct searches and seizures without warrants; to arrest, detain and interrogate people; to monitor, search and confiscate "all mail parcels, letters, cables, and wire and wireless communication devices"; and to restrict all public gatherings, including "centers, clubs, organizations, unions, companies, institutions, and offices."

"The security situation in Baghdad is dire, but giving the military free rein to violate the basic rights of Iraqis is not the answer," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "International law strictly limits the restrictions a government can place on fundamental rights during a public emergency. Iraq's new martial law provisions open the door to easy abuse."

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet