Corruption and cowardice: Seeking retribution for Mosul's fall

Corruption and cowardice: Seeking retribution for Mosul's fall
Exclusive: Following an official report that named suspects complicit in the fall of Mosul, one witness has been found dead, other suspects have left the country and justice remains elusive.
6 min read
Maliki was widely blamed for failing to prevent IS from taking over Mosul [Getty]
An Iraqi army captain from Baghdad who testified in the inquiry about the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State group has been murdered, leaked documents seen by The New Arab suggest.

The captain, an official in the military's communications sector, told officials of the communications in the last few hours before the fall of Mosul between the army leadership and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

A further nine defendants accused of complicity in the fall of Nineveh's provincial capital have fled to Iran and Lebanon with the help of Iraqi officials, The New Arab can reveal.

Following the lightning takeover of swathes of Iraq in June 2014, the country's top politicians drew up a report alleging systemic corruption and nepotism in the military and the governing executive - naming Maliki and dozens of other top officials that should consequently face trial.

The Islamic State group took control of Mosul
in a lightning offensive in June 2014
But since the report's publication last August, no judicial proceedings have taken place - yet at least one whistle-blower has been killed, and other suspects have fled the country.

"The investigation includes 26 pieces of evidence that implicate Maliki both directly and indirectly," said Iraqi analyst Amir Allawi.

"Iraqi law does not allow for any delay exceeding more than 20 days regarding the investigation of crimes linked to terrorism."

Mosul defended by 'ghost soldiers'

The parliamentary panel's report, the most drastic step yet taken by Baghdad to provide accountability for the loss of nearly a third of the country's territory to the Islamist insurgency, alleges that Maliki had an inaccurate picture of the threat to the northern city.

He had appointed corrupt commanders and then failed to hold them accountable, the panel found. Thousands of "ghost soldiers" were on the defence ministry's books, but existed only on paper - despite their pay packets being cashed each month.

While various top commanders and political leaders have long been blamed for IS' lightning takeover of the capital of Nineveh province, the investigative committee's report was the first time they had been officially named.

Yet, seven months later, no suspects have been called to court or questioned by authorities.
Thousands of 'ghost soldiers' were on the defence ministry's books, but existed only on paper - despite their pay packets being cashed each month
There has also since been a media blackout around the collapse of Mosul's defences, which many suspect is due to intimidation of the press by militias and the government alike. Militia leaders last year told The New Arab they would withdraw fighters from the battle against IS if Maliki were prosecuted.

The New Arab's
Baghdad bureau attempted to investigate the buried report by contacting the Iraqi Supreme Court, parliament and various government departments.

A current minister in Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government spoke on condition of anonymity. His information was based on secret meetings with other members of parliament.

Supreme Court 'stalling'

The cabinet minister accused the head of the Supreme Court, Midhat al-Mahmoud, of helping to freeze the investigation. Mahmoud is a friend of Maliki and the Shia militias which are allied to him, he said.

[Click to enlarge]
The report had been signed by 24 members of the committee charged with carrying out the investigation before it was handed to the judiciary for action.

Although the Iraqi Supreme Court openly acknowledged receiving the report, it never called any of the suspects named therein, nor did it comply with Abadi's request to issue travel bans for the accused.

"The supreme court also did not ask any of the witnesses to come forward and corroborate or substantiate the witness statements," said the minister.

"They did not ask the committee to come and hear the taped evidence or video evidence and did not ask them about it, or even review any of the minutes or other written evidence."

According to the minister, nine out of 35 of the named suspects in the report have since left Iraq and are in Iran and Lebanon.

The murdered captain - considered an integral witness in the case - was found dead in his house in East Baghdad.

He was called to testify for the committee more than once as he was the officer responsible for the phone switchboard at the Ghazlani military base, and was privy to calls made between Maliki's office and the deputy interior minister at the time, Adnan al-Asaadi, as well as with other senior Iraqi military personnel on the night before the fall of Mosul.

Our source said that, considering the evidence, Maliki would likely face a life sentence or execution for high treason and undermining the security of the state.

Military personnel named as suspects in the report should also be tried in military courts, said the government minister.

As reported at the time, the names of those held responsible for Mosul's collapse include Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, former acting defence minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi and former army chief General Babakir Zebari.

The report also named Maliki's chief of staff, Lt Gen Farouq al-A'ruji and the deputy Minister of Information at the time Adnan al-Assadi.

Hours after the publication of the report, Prime Minister Abadi requested that all military and security personnel mentioned in the report be referred to military courts. Yet the judiciary has failed to act on any case.

During the past two months, relatives of more than 3,000 civilian victims of the Islamic State group have been prevented by Iraqi security forces from carrying out their weekly protests.

They have been calling for the trial of those responsible by negligence for the massacres of Mosul.

"The Iraqi judiciary is not able to convict these suspects at the present time," said Shakhwan Abdullah, deputy chair of the investigation committee.

"Regional pressures" also played a role in the investigation reaching an impasse, he added.
When you are quiet you become a partner in the crime
"Our work in the many months that passed was spent gathering evidence, listening to witnesses and questioning suspects in the most professional way possible," he said.

"Our members took part because we see this as an important issue and an ethical one more than anything else. We concluded it with the names of those who we feel are guilty."

Shakhwan says that members of the committee were under severe pressure to change the direction of the investigation or to remove the names of some suspects - but they successfully withstood that pressure.

"I heard previously that the head of parliament withdrew the entire investigation, but then I got in touch with the head of security defence committee [Hakim al-Zamili] but he said this wasn't true. Now the investigation is with the Supreme Court - and so it's my right to ask what has happened.

"I think Iraqi courts aren't currently able to do anything to those who are corrupt or guilty for the simple reason that most of the judges were appointed by Maliki - the chief suspect.

"I'm not even sure if there's a real justice system that can dispense justice and see justice for the victims. I also blame the parliament speaker - why don't they follow up with the Supreme Court?"

Considering the devastating consequences the collapse of Mosul's defences had for Iraq, and the ongoing pain of victims' familes, Shakhwan feels that more must be done.

"They can address the Supreme Court directly, ask them why they froze it, because when you are quiet you become a partner in the crime - and the law punishes those who cover up crimes. Or even those who watch on," he said.

"And everyone needs to know that this investigation needs to be acted upon out of justice for the victims."

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab