HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAQ STILL RAISING SERIOUS CONCERNS, SAYS UNITED NATIONS REPORT
30 May 2012
BAGHDAD / GENEVA (30 May 2012) – “The human rights situation in Iraq remains fragile as the country continues its transition from years of dictatorship, conflict, and violence, to peace and democracy,” states a United Nations report for 2011 on the human rights situation in Iraq.
Periodic reports on the human rights situation in Iraq are prepared and published by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) pursuant to Resolution 1770 on the mandate of UNAMI and other relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
The report recognizes that the Government of Iraq made some progress in implementing measures to protect and promote the human rights of the Iraqi people. However, the impact of these measures on the overall human rights situation remained limited.
“Steps have been taken to improve the human rights record of Iraq, including the establishment of the much needed Independent Human Rights Commission on 9 April 2012, but a lot more needs to be done. Human rights, including social and economic rights, need to be enforced, respected and protected for all Iraqis everywhere in Iraq,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Martin Kobler, commenting on the report.
“This report highlights a number of shortcomings, some of which are of serious concern and need to be urgently addressed by the Iraqi authorities. There is no democracy without respect for human rights,” Mr. Kobler added.
The report indicates that the overall human rights situation in the Kurdistan Region continued to improve, and notes in particular the significant legislative reforms undertaken by the Kurdistan Regional Government. However, there remain concerns about important shortcomings in respect for freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the persistently high number of civilian casualties was deeply troubling and called on all parties to respect international law and to exercise restraint.
“The report highlights serious concerns about the administration of justice and the lack of respect for due process rights in Iraq,” Ms. Pillay said. “Individuals continue to be arrested and detained for prolonged periods without being charged and without access to legal counsel. Prisoner and detainee abuse and torture are also occurring across the country. I urge the Iraqi authorities to prioritise the firm establishment of the rule of law and human rights in Iraq and bring an end to such abuses.”
Ms. Pillay also stressed that the right to freedom of expression was fundamental to the development of a strong civil society and called on the authorities to ensure that journalists and human rights defenders are able to perform their crucial work without fear of harassment and violence.
The information included in the report has been gathered from direct monitoring by UNAMI as well as from a variety of other sources, including Government, UN agencies, civil society, individuals and media reports.
The full report is available in English and Arabic on the OHCHR website at:
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Note to the Media
Key Findings of UNAMI/OHCHR Report on Human Rights in Iraq in 2011
Key findings at the federal level
· Levels of violence in Iraq (outside of the Kurdistan Region) remain high. UNAMI figures show that during 2011 some 2,771 civilians were killed and some 7,961 civilians were wounded.
· The administration of justice and the rule of law remained weak. Iraqi citizens continued to suffer from arbitrary arrest and detention.
· Conditions in some prisons and detention facilities remain of serious concern, with many falling below accepted international standards in terms of overcrowding, lack of hygiene, and lack of prisoner rehabilitation programmes.
· While in some instances trials were conducted professionally, the judicial system continued to be plagued by under-resourcing – and there continued to be an over-reliance on confessions to found convictions, even when there is information or evidence suggesting that such confessions were obtained through coercion. There is on-going deep concern about the implementation of the death penalty in Iraq.
· Violence perpetrated against women and girls, including so called ‘honour crimes’, is of serious concern. The Government of Iraq has made no attempt to repeal sections of the Iraqi Criminal Code which permit honour as a mitigating factor in relation to crimes of violence against women.
· Widespread poverty, high unemployment, economic stagnation, environmental degradation, and lack of basic services continued to affect large sections of the population. Demands for greater opportunities and an improvement in the delivery of essential services fuelled demonstrations in various cities throughout Iraq. While many demonstrations were held peacefully, there are concerns that the Iraqi security forces responded in a heavy-handed, and at times disproportionate, manner in using force against protestors.
· While conditions of internally displaced people (IDPs) saw some improvement with the registration of IDPs, thereby permitting better access to basic services, the Government continued to under-service IDP camps owing to the perception that IDPs are motivated by economic factors, not ongoing armed violence or conflict in the country.
· The Iraqi Government made some progress in tackling some of the above issues. Following the formation of the Government at the end of 2010, the Council of Representatives re-initiated the process for establishing the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) by appointing a Committee of Experts (CoE) to undertake the process of nomination of commissioners. The Committee was appointed in April 2011 and was endorsed by the COR in May 2011. At the end of 2011 the CoE was continuing its work.
· An important development was the decision by the Government of Iraq to implement the 135 recommendations accepted by it during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) done at Geneva in February 2010. Through the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) the Government drafted a National Action Plan on Human Rights (NAP) which addressed the UPR recommendations through a programme of legislative, institutional and policy reforms aimed at addressing gaps in the respect and protection of human rights in Iraq. The National Action Plan was formally adopted by the Government in December 2011.
· Some legislative measures were passed during the reporting period; however some, such as the Journalist Protection Law were of concern as they fell below international legal standards. Also of concern were the plans announced by the Government to introduce legislation on “crimes of the internet”. The Parliament also failed to pass a comprehensive freedom of information law during the reporting period.
· Iraq finally lodged the instrument of ratification of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), but it had not yet acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by year’s end. There was no commitment to ratify the Additional Protocol II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), or a range of additional protocols to the existing human rights treaties to which Iraq is a Party.
· The overall human rights situation in Kurdistan Region continued to improve, although challenges remain, including concerns over the respect for freedom of assembly and freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.
· The Kurdistan Region continued to experience low levels of insurgent violence, although a higher number of casualties was reported compared to 2010, due to cross border shelling and military operations conducted by foreign forces along the border areas with neighbouring countries, particularly during the second half of 2011.
· The situation regarding rule of law and detention continued to improve. Concerns remain, however, at the treatment of those accused of committing acts of terrorism, some of whom continued to be held for extended periods without charge or trial. UNAMI has serious concerns relating to the handling and treatment of demonstrations that took place within the Kurdistan Region during the reporting period.
· There are continuing concerns about the freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region, with some reports of journalists being targeted for prosecution, and at times threats and intimidation on account of their reporting.
· The Kurdistan Regional Government made some significant legislative reforms, including a landmark domestic violence law which does much to address violence against women and children. There were also reports of honour killings of women in various places within the region, although the exact levels and prevalence of the problem were difficult to ascertain.
· The KRG embarked on drafting a regional action plan on human rights, aimed at formulating a programme of legal, institutional and policy reforms to address gaps in the protection of human rights within the Kurdistan Region identified as a priority. However, the establishment of the Kurdistan Region Independent Board on Human Rights remains stalled.
· The report includes 30 recommendations to the Government of Iraq that cover actions required in the following fields: the legislative field including access/adherence to international human rights instruments; security and related issues; detention and rule of law; death penalty; women’s rights; minority rights; freedom of expression and opinion; and freedom of assembly.
· It also includes specific recommendations to the Kurdistan Regional Government on actions required to improve the legislative and institutional human rights-specific frameworks.
For use of the information media; not an official record