Shawki Omar Ahmed was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. In 1980, he moved to the US in order to study electrical engineering. He then acquired American citizenship and married an American citizen with whom he has six children. He undertook several jobs in order to maintain his family, mainly apartment maintenance and HVAC contracts. In 1995, the family moved to Jordan so that their children would learn Arabic and grow up in an Islamic environment. He would then travel back and forth, making a living in the US for his family in Jordan. After the American invasion in Iraq, he entered into the country in order to seek construction contracts.
Shawki Omar was arrested in a night raid during Ramadhan 2004 (around October) at his home (in the presence of his wife and 10 years old son). It is reported that that American forces landed a helicopter on the roof and broke the front door. He was taken out of the house, bloody and possibly naked. His Iraqi wife was arrested with him, blindfolded and taken out. She was in night clothes and was not allowed to get dressed. She said that they were separated (not that they were taken to different places) and taken to an unknown location. Shawki Omar remained there for about two weeks during which he was interrogated and tortured.
After two weeks in custody, Omar’s wife was released. Her captors let her off wearing a man’s dish dash in the middle of a street (she did not know where she was). Then, she went to a house and asked to use the phone. She called her grandfather to come and pick her up. She was a couple of months pregnant at that time. It is only then that Omar’s family was informed of his arrest (by his wife). During her interrogations, she was repeatedly punched in the stomach. As a result her daughter suffers mental disabilities.
Shawki Omar Ahmed was then taken to “camp Cropper”. Pictures were later obtained by his family (though a court in the US). He was photographed naked and had visibly been subjected to violence. He said much of the abuse was concentrated around the genital area. He reports he was repeatedly thrown in a pool of water near the point of death, and then taken out. He was also subjected to electricity torture. As a result of his treatment, he had several large lacerations to his head, where he had to have many sutures. He had a huge gash in the calf of one of his legs that went down to the bone, where the flesh was torn away. This had to heal by second intention, and took over a year to fill in. He believes that his eating problems, and the food allergies that he now has are the result of his torture (especially electricity).
Moved to different facilities
From camp Cropper, he went to Abu Ghraib and remained there for some time. Then he was sent to Camp Bucca for several months before being sent back to Abu Ghraib. (Note: It is not known where he was “processed” as the Red Cross was not familiar with prison number starting with 2. His prison number was 200165).
Habeas Corpus in the US
A habeas corpus was filed on his behalf by his “closest friend” (his wife and son) in the US. The case went up to the Supreme Court which ruled American courts had no jurisdiction over his case on 12 June 2008.
“Munaf and Omar are alleged to have committed hostile and warlike acts within the sovereign territory of Iraq during ongoing hostilities there. Pending their criminal prosecution for those offenses, Munaf and Omar are being held in Iraq by American forces operating pursuant to a U. N. Mandate and at the request of the Iraqi Government. Petitioners concede that Iraq has a sovereign right to prosecute them for alleged violations of its law. Yet they went to federal court seeking an order that would allow them to defeat precisely that sovereign authority. Habeas corpus does not require the United States to shelter such fugitives from the criminal justice system of the sovereign with authority to prosecute them.”
Transferred to Iraqi custody
Shawki Omar Ahmad was among the very last detainees to be handed over to the Iraqis on 15 July 2011(despite the US court decision).
Sentenced on immigration charges in Iraq
Shawki Omar Ahmed was accused of having entered the country illegally, a charge which he denies since he had gone to the American embassy in Syria to register there and explained his travel plan. His passport was stamped exiting Syria but due to inexistent control at the Iraqi borders, it was not stamped entering Iraq. Nevertheless, once in Iraq, he followed all the legal formalities necessary to enter the country (AIDS test…). The American embassy denied he had ever registered there and all the paper work he had supporting his defence were confiscated during his arrest.
His case was initially put in dockets on 15 June 2010. However, he managed to call his family to inform them it would actually be heard on 24 June (he had not been allowed to contact his lawyer to inform him of this change). Alerted by the family, the lawyer went to the court and was ensured the trial was still to be held on 15 July.
On 10 July, his family received another call from him, only to be told that he was tried on 24 June and sentenced to 15 years. His lawyer was not present and Shawki Omar Ahmed did not have any paper work to defend himself.
His sentence was reduced to seven years in appeal (not including the time already served).
Shawki Ahmad Omar later realised that his name had not been recorded properly after his arrest which might be the reason why no trace of his entry in the country was found. He had raised this issue before without obtaining any check or correction.
Pending case on terrorism charges in Iraq
Shawki Omar Ahmed is also waiting to be tried on terrorism charges. The allegations are unclear and seem to be based on vague allegations he was part of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as well as unconfirmed explosives seized during his arrest. These accusations are entirely based on the statements made by two individuals meant to be his accomplices. They have been released and recanted their “confessions” since they had been given under duress. It seems that the Iraqi authorities are delaying is trial until he completes his first sentence so that, in the likely case he is convicted, the two sentences will add up.
Inhumane conditions in Iraqi custody
Shawki Omar Ahmad has reported that the conditions of detention have been consistently deteriorating since the turn over to the extent that they are now worse than under American authority.
He was held in Sunni section of the prison with the people accused of being linked to Al Qaeda and former members of the Ba’ath party. Conditions are so bad that this section is used to punish inmates from the general population.
Shawki Omar Ahmad has also reported extreme discrepancy of treatment between inmates based on sectarian lines
While some Shiite detainees receive special privileges, Sunnis’ basic needs are not met. He is reporting that there is virtually no sanitation, maintenance or cleaning of the facilities.
Personal hygiene products are rare and of poor quality, often expired when they are available.
The only medicine given in the prison is paracetamol/acetaminophen, unsuitable to treat diarrhea, a rampant problem due to the lack of sanitation.
Due to his torture and conditions of detention, Shawki Omar Ahmad is suffering several serious illnesses which require a special diet and medication. However, the prison authorities have repeatedly prevented packages sent by his family, leaving him without any treatment.
Torture of Sunni prisoners
In January 2013, Shawki Omar Ahmad reported that torture of Sunni prisoners had become common practice. He had been taken for interrogations and beaten severely shortly after a visit from the US embassy (in November 2012). He added that one inmate had his fingers broken, another one had his hands and feet burnt and a last one has his beard burnt off with a lighter.
They were threatened to be transferred to a secret facility to be tortured. 25 men were transferred mid-January to an unknown location (two of the detainees mentioned above were among them).
To protest against his imprisonment, his mistreatment as well as religious discrimination, he started a hunger strike on 5 February 2013 which he has not stopped. One of his requests was to be transferred to Abu Ghraib, a Sunni -run prison. However, he later recanted this demand since the assistant warden of Al Karakh prison (Sayf Al Amara), a Shiite allegedly responsible for much of the abuse against Sunni detainees was transferred to Abu Ghraib. He still demands that his case is reopened since it was based on a mistaken identity.
Meeting with the Human Rights Committee in the Iraqi parliament
At the end of February/beginning of March, Salim al Jouboury sent a team to meet with Shawqi Ahmad Omar. However, the called him a liar and denied any abuse or torture were carried out in the facility. Shawqi Ahmad Omar indicated them that a prisoner had just been taken to be tortured and requested them to immediately check, which they refused.
Shawqi’s family informed Mr Joubouri that he no longer wished to be transferred to Abu Ghraib since the warden is now the Shiite who used to order torture in al Karakh prison (his arrival at Abu Ghaib sparked riots when the warden ordered the guards to open cells and hit prisoners. The guards then shoand a fire started. An inmate called Al Jazeera but I could not find the report). Mr Al Joubouri there was no reason for the transfer not to happen since according to him, nothing happened in Abu Ghraib. He also stated that Shawqi Ahmad Omar was on hunger strike since after 40 days without food, he should be dead.
Shawqi Ahmad Omar remains incarcerated at Al Karakh prison. After over 60 days on hunger strike, he has lost over 25 lbs.
Shawki Omar remained incarcerated in Iraq. After being transfered from Abu Ghraib, he has disappeared, His family has still not received a confirmation of his whereabouts.
UN calls for his release
On 23 April 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an Opinion (No. 5/2014) which concluded that my husband's case revealed “serious procedural violations”, including lack of access to legal assistance, and concluded that the sentence he was given after his unfair trial was “harsh and disproportionate”. The WGAD consequently requested Iraq to immediately release Shawki Omar and ordered to accord him an enforceable right to compensation.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)