Members of different faith communities will gather in Friends House in central London on Saturday to discuss The Iraq War and Occupation: Ethics and Values with leading lawyer Phil Shiner, who has helped uncover atrocities committed by coalition forces, and Mazin Younis of the Iraqi League, who has first-hand experience.
Mr Shiner, senior partner of Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers and the Law Society's current 'solicitor of the year', has been acting on behalf of the Iraqi survivors of the notorious May 2004 incident at the British army base at Abu Naji, northern Iraq, in which a series of extra judicial killings took place. It was the subject of a recent BBC Panorama documentary.
Mazin Younis is President of the Iraqi League, a national unity movement of Iraqis living in Britain. In October 2004 he brought young Iraqi orphan Aysha Saleem back to Britain after a US attack in Fallujah. All the members of her family were killed in the attack. A 75 year old neighbour was killed as well. Her grandmother died sheltering her.
The Rev David Moore, a Methodist minister, will assist the meeting's conversation about the theological issues involved, and Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, will chair and facilitate.
At the meeting, which starts at 10.30am at Friends House, Euston Road, London, on 15 March, there will be representatives from different Christian churches, the Quakers and from the Muslim community, among others.
One key objective is to look at a strategy for UK faith communities to bring abuses in Iraq to the public’s attention and to hold those responsible to account.
Mr Shiner, who is also a Christian, drew the attention of the churches to Abu Naji in a Christmas article in the Church Times.
On On 14 May 2004 a battle raged at the British checkpoint, on Route 6 (Main Basra to Baghdad Road) close to Majar between the British and Mehdi Armies. 24 hours later Iraqi doctors were asked to recover the bodies of 20 Iraqis survivors from the British Army base at Abu Naji. In June 2004 the Guardian published a story quoting local doctors as saying the bodies recovered from Abu Naji had been horribly mutilated.
On Friday 22 February 2008, the two solicitors representing the survivors made public for the first time the shocking evidence of five of the nine Iraqis who made it through the night at Abu Naji on the 14/15 May. The survivors allege they witnessed the torture and executions of many of their countrymen.
For background information see: http://www.publicinterestlawyers.co.uk/general/news.php
See also: The horror of Abu Naji - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6907
Statement on the background to the Iraq War and Occupation: Ethics and Values meeting:
"On 15 March 2003 Tony Blair personally certified that there had been a “material breach” of the ceasefire resolution of the Security Council (Resolution 687) that was so serious as to destroy the basis of that ceasefire from the first Gulf War. With that certification the Attorney-General was able to put a 337 word statement to the Houses of Parliament on 17 March that assured Parliament and the public that an invasion would be lawful. It is now accepted the invasion was unlawful.
"The UK Government wrongly assumed that the Security Council would authorise the use of force in 2003. Thus, it assumed the Security Council would occupy the field and it did not plan for the Occupation. This failure to plan combined with the setting of minimum legal standards only helped to contribute to a UK detention policy that led to scores of cases of Iraqi civilians being executed, killed, tortured, abused and humiliated in UK military facilities. New cases are still emerging. Further, UK forces used as a Standard Operating Procedure techniques that were banned in 1972: hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation and noise.
"Thus, an illegal war that led itself to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, led also to horrific human rights violations at the hands of UK soldiers. All this was done in our name and we are all responsible, at least, to ensure that these events can never be repeated. Thus, there are issues we must face as the British public and as members of different faith communities. For example, if the state at the highest level sanctions violence can we be surprised if our society becomes more violent in response?"