Christian removed at gunpoint by US military in Iraq
U.S. military personnel removed a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq at gunpoint from the Iraqi Assistance Center (IAC) after she objected to an inappropriate search of a female colleague.
Le Anne Clausen was part of a delegation of international and Iraqi peace workers seking a permit from the IAC to hold a `Human Rights Solidarity Week' festival on March 16-19.
After her colleague, who is an Iranian-born US citizen, passed through several outdoor checkpoints and personal/bag searches, Clausen could hear U.S. soldiers joking about their colleague being born in Iran. Inside the final checkpoint, Clausen and an Italian colleague put their bags on an x-ray machine and passed through a metal detector. However, security personnel immediately pulled Iranian-American colleague out of line and brought her to a special searching area.
After finding nothing in her bag, a male officer swabbed the colleague's hands and put the swabs into a device for detecting explosive material. He then swabbed the pockets of her loose outer jacket, and ordered her to lift up her shirt so he could put his hands inside her pants pockets and inspect them also. The colleague looked uncomfortable and politely questioned his order. The officer gestured for her to comply.
"Wait a minute, you can't search her there, you need to have a female officer do that," said Clausen. The officer told her not to interrupt. Clausen replied, "You are violating international human rights law, you cannot touch her there. You need to get a female officer." Although there were two U.S.-trained Iraqi security women present who conducted personal
searches of Clausen and her Italian colleague, the officer refused to allow them to perform the search.
At that point, the officer called his captain, who told Clausen to step back from the area where her colleague was being searched, and instructed the officer to continue. Clausen reiterated that they were violating human rights law and they needed to bring in a female officer. The captain told her to either continue on into the building or leave the grounds.
Clausen responded, "I refuse to leave while my friend is being abused. I will not let a male officer search her like this. It is sexually inappropriate and illegal."
The captain replied, "Then you're out of here!" and ordered soldiers to escort Clausen from the building. While Clausen tried to tell CPTer Stewart Vriesinga what was happening, the captain yelled, "I said you were leaving! Now!" and told the soldiers not to let her speak to anyone else.
Soldiers Clausen spoke with on the way out of the building expressed dismay at the officer's behavior. "Why didn't he use the wand we have for that kind of search?" said one. Another observed, "Anyone can put a swab in a pocket and then hand it to the machine. The machine will pick up the residue either way." A third advised Clausen to raise a complaint with the commanding officers for that unit.