(AINA) -- In a stepped up campaign of damage control aimed at countering the growing international criticism of the abduction and torture of Youkhana Khaie (AINA, 7-30-2001), an Assyrian from the Chaldean community of northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) released a statement to the public on August 27, 2001. Three days earlier, KDP strongman Mr. Masoud Barzani officially and personally responded to an Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) inquiry into the matter by Secretary General of the AUA John Nimrod (AINA, 8-19-2001). According to Amnesty International (AI), their official inquiry was also finally answered during the same period. The publicity generated by Mr. Nimrod's inquiry and numerous Assyrian media outlets has energized an emotional and angry Assyrian grassroots outcry as well as growing international recrimination of the KDP.
The July 19th "personal communication" by former Illinois State Senator John Nimrod of the AUA received the much delayed response from Mr. Barzani on August 24, 2001. According to the Behdanani strongman, "Our response to your concern has taken some times (sic) because we wanted to establish all of the facts of the case." In reality, though, Amnesty International had already inquired into Youkhana's abduction and torture as early as June 1. According to Amnesty International, KDP silence lasted nearly three months until a growing outcry from numerous Assyrian websites and organizations proved to be too intense for the KDP to continue to ignore.
As previously reported regarding the official charges against Youkhana, Mr. Barzani stated that Youkhana had been "willingly helping and assisting PKK terrorists." Mr. Barzani further added that "The PKK is an illegal and unlawful group in Iraqi Kurdistan." Citing article 168 of the Iraqi Criminal Law, the Behdanani tribal leader stated that a "PKK armed defector testified to the authorities the collaboration and assistance given to them by Mr. Yokhana (sic) Khaie including military related equipment."
Most notable in the letter was Mr. Barzani's acknowledgment of Youkhana's torture while in KDP custody. On account of international observers as well as several family members eventually succeeding in visiting Youkhana, the KDP strongman was in no position to deny the scars already inflicted upon Youkhana. Mr. Barzani did, however, attempt to minimize the impact of his acknowledgment by stating "The other accusations of him being severely tortured are exaggerated." The letter did not in any way attempt to apologize for the savage beatings or make any pledge to investigate the perpetrators of Youkhana's torture. The deliberate sidestepping of the torture issue underscores the KDP leadership's acceptance of torture as an interrogation policy instrument as has been widely reported by international human rights organizations such as AI in the past.
For his part, Senator John Nimrod of the AUA was heartened by the long overdue setting of the trial date for September 2, 2001 and the statement by Mr. Barzani that "on your appeal, we would advise the authorities to consider his case on humanitarian grounds." The Khaie family's hopes were also buoyed because it had become clear that no real proof existed regarding the charges leveled at Youkhana. Moreover, Mr. Barzani's pledge to recommend consideration on humanitarian grounds was seized upon by Senator Nimrod as a clear indication that Youkhana would be released on September 2 perhaps as a face saving way out for the KDP. However, on September 2, the Khaie family's hopes were dashed as the trial was postponed because the presiding judge had been inexplicably sent on leave to Syria. No new date has been given and no parole has been granted to Youkhana who continues to languish under abusive conditions and the constant threat of violence. Still more, the diplomatic courtesy of an explanation has not been provided to Senator John Nimrod as well.
The KDP chieftain's letter also included an invitation to the AUA to "send an observer to attend his trial and we have called upon an independent inquiry by Amnesty International or any other human rights organization to establish the full truth of Mr. Yokhana Yalda Khaie's arrest and his condition during detention." In reality, the seeming openness of the KDP to invite AI turns out to be a disingenuous ploy to deflect growing criticism of KDP torture and human rights abuses since, according to AI itself, the KDP is very well aware that AI is unable to reach the KDP occupied portion of northern Iraq.
Due to their previous investigations in the region, AI has been banned from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran- leaving no remaining border to cross into the KDP occupied area in northern Iraq. In fact, following their 1995 human rights report on northern Iraq, AI was also banned by Mr. Barzani's KDP. In time, the political fallout from a self-described democratic organization banning a reputable human rights organization coupled with the realization that AI could never ever really reach northern Iraq anyway, led the KDP to cleverly reverse course and begin cynically inviting AI.
The KDP media campaign to stem growing international condemnation is likely to backfire and fuel still greater anger at the KDP. First, Mr. Barzani's open acknowledgment of Youkhana's torture is likely to further enrage Assyrians since it was not accompanied by any sort of apology or pledge to bring Youkhana's torturers to justice. Second, to Assyrians and the international community, the allegations of Youkhana being a PKK collaborator merely continues the KDP's tired and discredited excuse reminiscent of the reasons given for the midnight raids and beatings of Assyrians in the Nahla region of northern Iraq (AINA, 11-30-1999, 10-16-1999)). The disingenuous invitation for AI to investigate represents another unsuccessful disinformation ploy designed to give the appearance of KDP judicial openness and transparency when in fact the KDP is fully aware that AI can in no way physically reach northern Iraq. Still more, the flippant cancellation of Youkhana's trial date without explanation or rescheduling demonstrates little concern for due process in a highly sensitive and charged case. All in all, the reaffirmation and tacit legitimization of the KDP's policy of torture and the abuse of due process sends an unequivocal message to Assyrians and the international community at large that the KDP rejects even the most basic tenets of civilized international governance.