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Committee Looks For Missing People in Iraq - 2003-06-04


The Committee for Free Prisoners has been collecting Saddam Hussein’s secret security files from locations all over Baghdad. They are searching through approximately twenty million files dating back to 1966, looking for missing people in Iraq. Jeff Swicord in Baghdad has a report.

They come by the hundreds every day to this house in Baghdad by the Tigris River. Searching for loved ones who disappeared under Saddam’s regime. The house is the former residence of one of Saddam’s family members. Recently it was taken over by The Committee for Free Prisoners.

NATURAL SOUND – WOMAN CRYING

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“These people, all of these people, they are very honorable people for this country. They have paid themselves, their blood, to build this country.”

The Committee for Free Prisoners is an organization helping people like Amjad Tabla and his brother Haider Tabla. They left Iraq 23 years ago for Sweden and Germany when their father and six brothers were arrested by Saddam’s security services. The committee has been collecting Saddam’s secret security files from locations all over Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“The work is very big to find out all of these names.”

The committee estimates there are twenty million files dating back to 1966… some of which are trucked in and sorted in the basement down these stairs.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“Even in the science fiction movies, we can’t imagine that we can find such a thing.”

The files come in mangled filing cabinets, cardboard boxes, and open piles. For reasons of privacy we weren’t allowed to look in them or video tape the contents. But they would allow us to read the basic information on the cover.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“By the way this is a Christian man.”

Those who have read them say they paint a grim picture of intimidation, interrogation, torture and execution. If someone is accused it is very likely the entire family down to the smallest child will be accused as well.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“Because he is a relative to one member of the Dawa Party, he has been accused and he has a file with the security forces. And he is working with the police. He is a policeman!”

Volunteers are working eight hours a day sorting through the files.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“They open file by file. And separate those who have been executed and those who have been accused of something by the security police. And this operation takes a lot of time.”

The families of the executed are then notified. In the days of Saddam, to even enquire about the missing could get you killed. Then the records are carted off to a secure location.

The Committee for Free Prisoners confirmed what the Tabla family already expected. Their father was executed in 1982. And the six brothers in 1983, all on the same day. The youngest was only 15.

AMJAD TABLA
“This one. He was fifteen.”

For some, to know is not enough. The anger and pain is almost too much to bear.

NATURAL SOUND – WOMAN

UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER
“We ask for an Iraqi and international trial against Saddam as a war criminal,’ she told me.”

That is, if he is caught alive.

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