Iraq Finishes Own Investigation of Deaths in Haditha

The Iraqi government has finished its own investigation in the deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha. Jamie Tarabay speaks with Wijdan Michel, Iraq's new human-rights minister.

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The Iraqi government has recently completed an investigation into accusations that American Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians last year in the town of Haditha. The Iraqis are expected to hand over its report to the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, who's also reviewing the U.S. military's own probe into the incident.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay met Iraqi's new human rights minister, who spoke about the report.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Wijdan Mikaeil is sitting in an overstuffed leather couch in the echoing lobby of the Rashid Hotel. During Saddam's time, it housed visiting foreign journalists. Now it is home to employees of the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi government.

Mikaeil moved in here with her family after being tapped for the human rights job nearly a month ago. Much of her time has been occupied in preparing the report on Haditha.

Ms. WIJDAN MIKAEIL (Iraqi Human Rights Minister): I called the Deputy Prime Minister, Salam al-Zubaie, who is responsible for the security, and I asked him to send a copy of the report and the DVD to the embassy, to the American embassy. Maybe they will see and have use for it.

TARABAY: She doesn't expect the Iraqi government's contribution to have much weight as far as the military inquiry is concerned. She already asked U.S. President George W. Bush, when he visited Iraq last week, if someone from the Iraqi government could sit in as an observer on investigating committees into abuses U.S. military are charged with against Iraqis, detainees in particular.

Ms. MIKAEIL: He said that they were sure that the military or the coalition, they knew how to make justice, and he trusts them and we know that if there was anyone who make a fault will be punished on it, and so on.

TARABAY: She won't say if she thinks anyone would be punished for the Haditha killings. Right now the head of the U.S. ground forces in Iraq is reviewing an American military investigative report on the Haditha allegations. There's already been reports of a number of missteps, failure to stick to procedure in filing reports and allegations of a cover-up. For Wijdan Mikaeil, there's at least one irrefutable fact.

Ms. MIKAEIL: Nine of them were children under 15 years old. One was two years old, one was one years old, one four years old.

TARABAY: She says it's not up to the Iraqi government or her ministry to decide someone's guilt. But she wants to make sure the U.S. military reads her report.

Ms. MIKAEIL: It's their duty to investigate about that and say this guilty or not guilty. And we will ask after that what happened in their investigation, because we must continue to see what happened to our report, because we make a report and we need to know if they read it and what their answer for it.

TARABAY: But while she won't pass judgment, Mikaeil warns the Iraqi people won't be satisfied with a simple apology from the U.S. military for the deaths in Haditha.

Ms. MIKAEIL: I think that the Iraqi people will not accept that there is nothing happened. And what happened, it was Iraqi mistake. And because there was nine children killed and with no reason, they haven't a gun with them. They can't speak. They can't do anything. They are just kids. So I think it will not be acceptable that they will say sorry, something ordinary when there is a war. I don't think that will be accepted.

TARABAY: Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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