An Al-Jazeera cameraman detained and tortured at Abu Ghraib recalls beatings, threats and photos of torture victims used as screen savers on military PCs.
Like many other prisoners of Abu Ghraib, al Baz was never charged with a crime and did not have the opportunity to defend himself before any court. As soon as he was arrested, he found himself plunged into a secretive network of American detention facilities with little connection to the outside world, a zone where human and civil rights were completely ignored. As a civilian in occupied Iraq, he should have been protected by the Geneva Conventions, but instead, al Baz became the victim of a war crime perpetrated by U.S. soldiers. Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: “Willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment … Unlawful confinement of a protected person … willfully depriving protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial.”
Al Baz was not an ordinary Iraqi as far as the soldiers were concerned. He works for Al-Jazeera, the Arab media network with few fans in the administration. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently excoriated Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Fallujah, saying, “I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.” These comments reflect the bitter feelings the administration has toward producers of negative news about the occupation. But this bitterness is not confined to words — the U.S. military hit Al-Jazeera buildings in both Baghdad and Kabul, Afghanistan, strikes that the network believes were intentional, though the military denies it. As Baghdad fell to American forces on April 8 last year, a bomb struck the office of the network and killed Tariq Ayoub, an Al-Jazeera cameraman. Many journalists who have covered the war for the past year believe there is a clear pattern of intimidation toward the network by the coalition. Al Baz himself believes he was singled out because of his employer. “They knew me, they had stopped me before,” he said of the soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, who arrested him.