Iraqi Top General Complains About Confinement Conditions

Gen. Amir Saadi was a top official in Iraq under Saddam. He was the chief liaison between the Iraqi government and U.N. weapons inspectors. He surrendered to the U.S. in April, 2003, and says he has been illegally kept in solitary confinement:

Saadi was classified as a prisoner of war by U.S. authorities a month after his surrender. The Geneva Conventions say prisoners of war "may not be held in close confinement except where necessary to safeguard their health." They also may not be "threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind," if they refuse to answer questions, according to the conventions. Detlev F. Vagts, a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in international law governing wartime, said in a telephone interview, "Clearly we [U.S. forces] and Iraqi forces will have the right to confine people causing trouble or suspected of insurgency," but he added: "That would not cover al-Saadi."

Saadi has written to his wife, through the Red Cross. She made the letters available to the Washington Post. Here's what he had to say:

"It is cruel to detain innocent people in solitary confinement indefinitely, but it is far worse to be cut off from family and loved ones when they are only 15 minutes drive away and phone connections not accessible," Saadi, 66, wrote in a message delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross to his wife, Helma, on Feb. 16. She made excerpts from that message and others available to The Washington Post.

"My daily high is the exercise in fresh air, one hour in the morning, another in the afternoon," he wrote in another message that month. "These two hours are frequently curtailed" and "the twice weekly showers are sometimes missed."

Will Saadi be released come June 30? Maybe not. The U.S. isn't happy with the answers he has given during his several interrogations:

David Albright, president of the D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security, has been in touch with Iraqi scientists and said he believes that Saadi's detention is tied to the continuing, and so far fruitless, U.S. search for weapons. "For them to release Saadi would be acknowledgment that Iraq did not have weapons after 1991," Albright said in an interview.

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