Home > Red Cross urged to investigate Allawi claims

Red Cross urged to investigate Allawi claims

by Open-Publishing - Monday 19 July 2004

Wars and conflicts International Governments UK Tom Allard

By Tom Allard

The former British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, has urged the International Committee for the Red Cross to investigate witness claims that the new Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, shot dead six insurgents last month.

Revelations of the accounts of the killings by chief Herald correspondent Paul McGeough at the weekend and the refusal of US authorities to deny them outright sparked concerns around the world.

The Herald reported that two independent witnesses alleged Dr Allawi executed up to six suspected insurgents at the Al-Amiriyah police station in Baghdad only days before Washington handed control of the country to him and his interim government.

According to the accounts, which were denied by Dr Allawi’s office, there were about a dozen police officers and a contingent of Americans who witnessed the killings.

The alleged killings were said to have been carried out by a bullet to the head of each insurgent, who was handcuffed and blindfolded and lined up against a wall.

"These are dreadful allegations. It is vital that they are cleared up one way or another, and that needs an independent inquiry," Mr Cook, who quit the Blair cabinet over the Iraq war, told the British newspaper the Sunday Herald. "An international body such as the Red Cross would be best able to give authority to the investigation that the situation now demands."

International Red Cross officials in Baghdad told the Herald last week they were still negotiating protocols with the new government to visit Iraqi-run jails. So far their officials had clearance only to visit US-run prisons.

The Red Cross was not available for comment yesterday but the Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, said he had made inquiries.

"Our mission in Baghdad hasn’t heard of it, the British said they hadn’t heard of it and the Americans said they hadn’t heard of it," he told Channel Ten’s Meet the Press.

"[McGeough] reported two alleged witnesses - unnamed witnesses. What I’m saying is that they are the ones who should be taking forward their allegations as such, rather than going to an Australian journalist."

Labor’s Defence spokesman, Kim Beazley, cautioned that the Middle East was a "giant bazaar of rumours". "You’d have thought if there’s an allegation in this country, two anonymous sources would be regarded as rather thin to go to print," he told Channel Nine’s Sunday program. "But this is an incredibly serious allegation. You couldn’t just let it lie."

Mr Beazley said Dr Allawi had "hard elements" in his past - a reference to allegations he was an assassin for Saddam Hussein when he was in the Baath party and involved in unsavoury acts after he defected in the 1970s.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, said: "Paul McGeough is a credible journalist ... I don’t think therefore we can simply brush it to one side."

The Greens leader Bob Brown also hailed McGeough’s credentials and called the claims "credible" and "stunning". "How long can Australian troops remain at Allawi’s service? Allawi’s record is chilling and was well-known to both Prime Minister Howard and President Bush." - A US air strike on a house in Falluja yesterday killed 11 Iraqis, a doctor at the city’s main hospital said.

Sydney Morning Herald