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27 October 2015

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Iraq on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The report was presented by Mohammad Sabir Ismail, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who reminded that Iraq had been a theatre of large-scale military operations in the past three decades, which had led to the militarization of the society and had directly influenced the exercise of human rights.   In addition to the long list of human rights violations committed by the pre-2003 regime, there were also terrorist acts being committed against the Iraqi people in the post-2003 period.  The attacks on civilian populations perpetrated by ISIL were unprecedented in their cruelty and some of them amounted to genocide.  Women particularly bore the brunt of those crimes, and places of worship, archaeological sites and cultural heritage had been destroyed. 

In the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts regretted the armed conflict which plagued the country, noting that justice and accountability had to be secured for all Iraqis.  They welcomed the adoption of the 2005 Constitution as notable progress in the area of human rights.  However, the Committee was interested in the actual application and enforcement of human rights, notably in the following areas: the constitutional framework within which the Covenant was implemented, refugees and internally displaced persons, non-discrimination and equality of men and women, violence against women and domestic violence, counter-terrorism measures and respect for Covenant guarantees, right to life and prohibition of torture and the death penalty, elimination of forced labour, right to a fair trial and independence of the judiciary, freedom of conscience and religious belief, freedom of expression, and the rights of minorities.   

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Ismail thanked Committee Experts for their effort, interest, questions and observations. 

In his concluding remarks, Fabián Omar Salvioli, Chairman of the Committee, recognized Iraq’s current plight and the very difficult situation in the country which posed tremendous challenges for the implementation of the Covenant.  He, nevertheless, called on the Government of Iraq to pay due attention to the concerns expressed by the Committee.

The delegation of Iraq included representatives from the Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 27 October, at 3 p.m. to consider the second periodic report of Benin (CCPR/C/BEN/2).


The fifth periodic report of Iraq (CCPR/C/IRQ/5) is available here.

Presentation of the Report

MOHAMMAD SABIR ISMAIL, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the latest achievements and challenges of Iraq, said the country remained committed to the international human rights conventions it had acceded to.  The fifth periodic report had been drawn up by an inter-departmental committee.  Efforts had been made to draw up a national human rights plan.  Iraq had been a theatre of large-scale military operations in the past three decades, which led to the militarization of the society and directly influenced the exercise of human rights.  Throughout the 1990s, Iraq had been subjected to economic sanctions.  Those events had had a direct negative impact on life in the Iraqi society and the performance of the Government in vital sectors.  Iraqis had paid a high price due to the conflicts.  The list of human rights violations committed during the dictatorship was long.  Mass graves had been found in all parts of the country.  There had been ethnic cleansing and chemical weapons had been used, particularly in Kurdistan. 

After the fall of dictatorship in 2003, national laws had been amended to ensure the protection of human rights in line with the Covenant.  The Constitution had clearly drawn up the characteristics of the political life in the country in line with democratic principles.  The federal state of Iraq was made up of the capital and regions.  Kurdistan was recognized as a federal region.  Human rights, however, could not only be protected by the Constitution.  Iraq considered that the rights enshrined in the Covenant were fundamental.  In spite of ISIL’s threats to the federal system, the Government continued to establish laws to protect those fundamental rights and freedoms.  Those included laws on human trafficking, social protection, the rights of persons with disabilities, the new labour code, and the National Plan to protect women survivors of war and internally displaced persons.  Laws had also been adopted on the media, the right to equality, family protection, and the work of civil society organizations.  Shelters for battered women would be opened as well.

A High Commission for Human Rights had been set up in line with the Paris Principles.  The Government had also been active in raising awareness through human rights education, and in spreading the spirit of equality.  The Iraqi Constitution gave due attention to all rights enshrined in the Covenant.   A number of basic standards were provided, particularly the principle of equality and non-discrimination, the equality of opportunity, the right to life, the right to privacy, the right to acquire nationality, independence of judiciary and the right to a free trial, the right to vote and the right to stand as a candidate and be elected, the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly, and the right to freedom of worship.  No limitation on those rights could be imposed, unless it was in accordance with the law.  Quotas of 25 per cent had been introduced for female participation in political life.  Iraqi women married to foreigners could now grant nationality to their children.  However, women’s rights continued to be conditioned by certain factors relating to social customs and due to the political transition since 2003.  Iraq was party to the international conventions on torture, enforced disappearances, anti-discrimination, women’s rights, and terrorism. 

Due to terrorism in Iraq, the full implementation of human rights policies had faced many challenges.  Terrorist acts being committed against the Iraqi people were unprecedented in their cruelty and some of them amounted to genocide.  Women particularly bore the brunt of those crimes.  Places of worship, archaeological sites and cultural heritage had been destroyed.  Iraqi laws prohibited any acts of religious hatred and incitement to violence.  Protection was provided to all those who wanted to set up religious charity foundations.  The right to life, freedom and personal security was also enshrined in Iraqi laws.  Iraq had achieved progress in the Human Rights Index since 2003.  However, Al-Qaeda and ISIL had hampered that progress, causing the displacement of more than 3 million people in the region.   Civilians should not be endangered in the fight against terrorism.  The Government had met the basic needs of the displaced people, despite the challenges posed by ISIL.  It had allocated assistance to the displaced in the areas liberated from ISIL.  However, the main cause of the humanitarian crisis should be addressed first, namely terrorism.  Iraq remained a refugee hosting country in the Middle East.  Mr.  Ismail expressed hope that the Committee would take into consideration the challenges that Iraq faced in the implementation of its human rights policies.
Questions by the Experts

An Expert regretted that the delegation had only sent one expert from the capital, despite the difficult circumstances under which the Iraqi Government operated.  The fifth periodic report was the first one received since the change of regime in 2003.  The previous report was submitted 18 years ago.  The Expert was concerned about the armed conflict which plagued the country.  Justice and accountability had to be secured for all Iraqis.  One notable progress made in the area of human rights was the adoption of the Constitution on 2005.  However, the Committee was interested in the actual application and enforcement of human rights.  The Expert welcomed Iraq’s ratification of some major international human rights treaties. 

He asked about the status of the Covenant in the Iraqi legal order.  The State party had not given any example of the Covenant being invoked before a court.  The written replies also did not refer to any measures taken by judges and lawyers.  Did the State party intend to ratify the First Optional Protocol of the Covenant? 

As for the High Commission for Human Rights, the Expert welcomed its establishment.  However, the Commission continued to face difficulties in carrying out its work, notably it did not exhibit independence in its work.  Despite the replies given by the State party, it was not clear whether it had enough financial and human resources to continue its mandate.  Could the delegation provide examples of the work carried out by the Commission in the consideration of complaints?  It also seemed that political interference prevented the election of the Commission President.  Was the State party carrying out awareness raising about the role of the Commission?

In its written replies the State party said that none of the provisions for preventing polygamy had been made.  When would the discriminatory provisions be amended?  The representation of women in political and public life was far from satisfactory.  Out of 23 ministries, only two women held ministerial portfolios.  Only 86 judges were women, which amounted to less than 6 per cent.   What measures was the Government taking to address the problem?

There was no information on early and forced marriages.  It was not clear what measures were being taken to address that problem.  It was reported that ISIL systematically separated young women and girls from their families and forced them to marry their fighters.

As for the protection of ethnic and religious minority rights, the draft bill had yet to be adopted and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had expressed concern about its status.  Why had its adoption been delayed?  The Expert asked about the participation of persons belonging to ethnic minorities in the public sector and asked the delegation to explain the effect of quotas for minorities?  There was no statistical data on  the composition of the Iraqi population.  A limited census had been held in 2010, but due to the security situation the data could not be compiled.   There were violent attacks on ethnic, religious and linguistic groups.  Some 2,000 acts of homicide had been committed, 2.5 million persons had been displaced, there had been thousands of abductions, and places of worship had been destroyed.  What proportion of those acts had taken place in areas controlled by the Government forces?  What measures had been taken to punish those acts and their perpetrators?

As for the allegation of the genocide committed by ISIL against the Yezidi community, what measures did the State party plan to prevent such acts?  Did Yazidi victims receive support from the Government?  There were also reports of Shia militias abducting and killing Sunnis, which they continued to undertake in coordination with the Government forces.  Could the delegation comment on those allegations?

Regarding the announcement that the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry would be abolished, the Expert inquired about the reasons behind that decision.  The Supreme Criminal Tribunal, which was tasked to investigate the human rights violations committed before 2003, had been abolished.  What measures were being taken to ensure that victims of those violations would receive justice?

Another Expert enquired about internally displaced persons.  The Government had made many good plans to deal with internally displaced persons.  However, their number had increased to more than 3 million since the beginning of ISIL operations.  A United Nations Special Rapporteur had noted that the needs of internally displaced persons were not being met in accordance with international standards.  Also, the statistics were not accurate and these people faced the threat of another displacement.  There was no proper housing, water and health care for internally displaced persons.  Many children were not enrolled in school.  Their security was not guaranteed.  The authorities put in place constraints on their freedom of movement, and they did not take necessary measures to return property to internally displaced persons.  The Government also had an obligation to protect children from engagement in terrorist organizations.  There was ethnic and religious discrimination in dealings with the internally displaced persons.  The law on refugees was very old (1971) and it applied a very strict notion of refugees.  A new draft law had been drawn up but it was still before the Parliament.  In the absence of the law, that gap had to be rapidly filled.  When would the draft bill be adopted?  The precarious security situation in Iraq had led to the refoulement of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.  Refoulement was usually done under the pretext of security reasons.  There were reports that those expelled could not receive legal representation.  Those entering Kurdistan were not recognized as refugees, including children. 

As for declaring a state of emergency, were the rights in the Covenant guaranteed?  Why was there no new law to regulate the state of emergency?  There was a need for a new law that would be in accordance with the Constitution and the Covenant.  Why had the State never declared a state of emergency in the past five years?

The Expert also inquired about the investigation of human rights violations since and prior to 2003.  What were the remedies provided to the victims?  Did the Supreme Criminal Court still exist and what crimes were investigated?  Were institutions of transitional justice still in place?  Had all political prisoners been provided with reparations?   What measures had been taken to prevent and hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations since 2003?  The Expert asked the delegation to respond to reports that Government forces and Government-affiliated forces had perpetrated a wide number of violations in their fight against ISIL, especially against the Sunnis.   

Another Expert asked about the adoption of comprehensive non-discrimination legislation with respect to age, property, birth, sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Committee had received reports on various human rights violations motivated by race and religion.  What specific steps had been taken by the Government to address those acts of discrimination in all spheres of life?  As for the criminalization of homosexual conduct, the Expert noted that she was not aware of any section of the Iraqi Penal Code in fact prohibited homosexual conduct.  Credible reports from civil society were received about widespread discrimination and deep rooted stereotypes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Iraq.  The Expert thus asked about the steps that would be undertaken to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  How many prosecutions of the acts of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had been undertaken and what remedies were offered to victims?  What measures were taken to raise awareness about the rights of these persons? 

Regarding violence against women, what was the status of the draft bill on domestic violence?  Marital rape was pervasive.  What specific penalties would be adopted for the cases of violence against women?  Reports had been received that local non-governmental organizations were prohibited from running shelters for women victims of domestic violence.  As for female genital mutilation, the Expert welcomed efforts to criminalize it and spread awareness about that issue in Kurdistan.  How could those efforts and achievements be spread to the rest of the country?  More than 1,600 reports of domestic violence had been received by the competent authorities.  How many of those had led to prosecutions?  Domestic violence was heavily underreported, and honour related killings of women remained a serious problem. 

As for trafficking in persons and forced labour, they remained a significant problem, especially sexual trafficking.  The conflict with ISIL had vastly increased the risk of sexual trafficking of children and women.  It was reported that Syrian girls in Kurdistan were forced into prostitution and marriage, whereas Iraqi forces allowed sex trafficking in exchange for bribes.   There was concern that the figures on human trafficking provided by the Government were underreported.   Did the Government plan to establish a national database on human trafficking?  What efforts had been made to combat human trafficking in the country, including in Kurdistan and in ISIL controlled territory?  What steps had been made to address the use of forced labour, especially among refugees? 

Assassination attempts against judges pre-dated ISIL, the Expert noted.  There were credible reports of intimidation of judges by State authorities.   What programmes were in place for training of judges and law enforcement forces?  What measures had been taken to ensure that the judiciary was independent from the Government? 

Another Expert inquired about the Counter-Terrorism Act of 2005, which was criticized internationally because of its very vague terms and the fact that it proposed the death penalty for various acts.  A draft bill was currently being studied.  Could the delegation provide further information about the bill and its provisions?  A very high number of detainees had been held on charges of terrorism.  Could the delegation explain the high disproportion between the number of detainees held under the ordinary law and those suspected under the Counter-Terrorism Act?  There were also women and children held under charges of terrorism. 

As for capital punishment, the State party had previously stated that the death penalty was only applied for the most serious crimes.  However, the offences listed did not seem to appear related to the most serious crimes.  They were very vague.   In which cases was the death penalty mandatory?  The data on the number of death penalty sentences needed to be updated.  How was the rapid growth of executions since 2005 explained?  How could the Government explain the de facto abandonment of the  moratorium on the death penalty in Kurdistan?  The State party did not comment on allegations that the death penalty was handed down based on secret informants’ statements and based on confessions made under torture.   

Regarding the use of torture, the Expert noted that there was currently no crime of torture under Iraqi law.  Nevertheless, it seemed that the State party had begun working on a draft bill to prevent the use of torture.  What was the status of the draft bill?  Did the Government provide any support to centres for victims of torture?  Could the delegation explain the reasons behind the weak ratio between the number of complaints of torture and the number of investigations?  The Committee had received numerous reports on torture having been used by police during interrogations.  How were complaints of torture presented to judges?  Were measures being taken to implement the Committee’s recommendation that the burden of proof be placed on the authorities and not on suspects in cases when torture was used in police investigations?  Impunity for acts of torture had been introduced for the security forces and the occupation forces, especially United States’ forces.

As for arbitrary detention, there were allegations that arrested persons were not brought in front of a judge within 24 hours.  In cases of the death penalty, the extension of detention could be renewed perhaps indefinitely.  Could the delegation provide information about the alleged existence of secret detention centres?  What were the measures taken by the State party to shed light on thousands of cases of enforced disappearances

Another Expert inquired about the capacity of detention facilities and the services provided there.  He noted that there were no special detention facilities for juvenile offenders, and that those children arrested under terrorism charges were held in harsh conditions.  There was also the issue of women who faced sexual harassment and abuse in detention centres.  

Could the delegation provide more information on the adopted programme for dissemination of information on human rights and on the Covenant?   In what form did civil society participate in the drafting of the periodic report?  There were reports that critics of the Government could suffer from reprisals.     

There was a clear discrimination in Iraqi law in reference to religious conversion.  Whereas the conversion to Islam was allowed, the conversion from Islam was not permitted.  There was a special law on the Baha’is.  How could the Government reconcile the legal discrimination of the Baha’is and the statement that all Iraqis were equal?  As for the provision that no law could be passed if it was contrary to Islamic values, how were those provisions in line with the Covenant and with the freedom of conscience and religious belief?  Since there were many ideologies of Islam in Iraq, what were the cited Islamic values really based on?  There was an exploitation of religion for political reasons in Iraq.             

Attacks on and detention of journalists were perpetrated both by non-governmental and Governmental parties.  Some peaceful demonstrations, such as the one in Hawijah in April 2013, had been dispersed through the use of excessive force.  Was there any investigation and follow up on that and similar events?  The legal provisions regulating freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were good in theory, but their implementation was lacking. 

Registration of children at birth was high and acceptable.  However, there was still a serious issue of terrorist groups recruiting children in armed conflict.  What was the position of the Government with respect to the high number of children in prisons?     

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation appreciated the understanding of the Committee Experts for the exceptional security circumstances in Iraq.  It was stressed that the rights provided for in the Covenant could not be forsaken for any reason, except in situations when public security was threatened.  Terrorism presented a huge challenge for the Iraqi Government in protecting and fostering human rights.  The belief in human rights in Iraq was based on the efforts of the Iraqi people to overthrow the pre-2003 dictatorship.  Many laws had been amended in line with the current conditions in the country, and in line with international human rights standards.  The Government also monitored the performance in the field and documented abuses by the failed dictatorship.  It promoted human rights education at all levels, and civil society was encouraged to further strengthen human rights and document abuses.  The 2005 Constitution provided the basic principles and guarantees for the fundamental rights.   Due regard was given to the respect of all individuals without discrimination.  However, thousands of civilians had been killed by terrorist groups.  Those were transnational crimes as they were funded from outside the country and affected the whole region.   Iraq was confronting terrorist acts led by ISIL and it was going through a special situation that required the attention of the international community.  The Government aimed to liberate territories controlled by ISIL and other terrorist groups, and to rebuild the country and promote peace and reconciliation.

Al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorist groups had caused large-scale displacement, killings and destruction of property and infrastructure in Iraq.  National legislation had been drawn up to prohibit terrorist activities and incitement to violence.  The Anti-Terrorism Law was enacted in 2005 in conformity with the situation at the time.   Since 2003 Iraqi legislation included a number of texts that aimed to counter terrorism.  In addition, Iraq was party to international and regional treaties on fighting terrorism in general.   The Anti-Terrorism Law raised a number of comments.  A study on the preparation of the law was thus prepared, and it led to the proposal of a new draft law, which was still under review.  Many civil society organizations raised the issue of informers.  Terrorism posed a significant challenge to the implementation of human rights because it created an environment vulnerable to human rights.  Terrorist attacks led to a huge number of abuses that were existential threats to the Iraqi people.  In order to ensure security for citizens, in 2004 the Government had enacted the Law on National Safety. 

The state of emergency had been enacted in case of declaration of war for a renewable period of 30 days and it needed to be voted on every time.  The Government did not declare the state of emergency because it was committed to democratic principles and did not want to militarize the country.  Vast powers given to the military and police could lead to human rights abuses.

According to the Constitution, the State would guarantee compensation to families of victims killed in terrorist attacks.  Special committees were set up in all cities in Iraq to assess the loss of families.  The number of victims due to terrorism was rising.  Iraq was on the frontline of facing terrorism.  Thousands of religious and ethnic minorities had been killed, such as the Yazidis, Christians and Shabak.  ISIL was not an internal terrorist organization, but a transnational one.  It was based on funding and smuggling networks.  They smuggled oil from Iraq and Syria.  The international community realized the danger of such smuggling and had issued a number of decisions to prevent the recruitment of terrorists.  The media which supported ISIL’s victories aided in their recruitment.   They undermined international prosperity and stability, which was why the international community should react and protect the right of life.   ISIL wanted to make the conflict in the Middle East seem like a religious strife, which it was not.   The crimes committed by ISIL amounted to genocide.  Those crimes should also be considered international crimes and the Iraqi people should be offered international protection.  The flagrant crimes committed by ISIL showed that they were not based on any religion.  The allegations that the Iraqi national forces had committed human rights violations were propaganda.

In 2003 the country started a democratic process led by the coalition authorities.  Power was then transferred to an interim government and the Constitution was adopted in 2005.  Iraq adhered to a number of international human rights instruments.  As for the status of the Covenant in the Iraqi legal framework, according to the Law of Treaties No. 111 (1979), international treaties took precedence over national laws.  All judges had to abide by the adopted international instrument.  The national judge always feared an appeal of his decision, thus he scrutinized everything before issuing a sentence.  The High Commission for Human Rights supervised the work of the Government, the army and police, and any violations of human rights, as well as complaints lodged.  It raised awareness about human rights, in cooperation with civil society and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bagdad.  It raised awareness through organizing human rights training courses for lawyers and judges.

Regarding Iraq’s adherence to the First Optional Protocol of the Covenant, an inter-ministerial body considered such adherence.  Iraq today had almost 2.3 million internally displaced persons and at least 300,000 Syrian refugees, as well as a serious problem of financing.  It was not a normal state and it was waging a war against terrorism on behalf of the whole international community.  It was nevertheless working on ratifying a great number of international human rights instruments.    

As for the alleged discrimination of the Penal Code against women, the delegation explained that it dated back to 1969 and it was the best one in the region, next to Egypt’s.  It was not based on Sharia law.  On women’s participation in political and public life, the delegation suggested that the representation of women in Iraq be compared with their representation in the region.  Iraq was rather developed both in the public and public sector.  At least 40 per cent of employees were women.  There were female ministers in successive governments since 2003 and in the current government.   Gender units had been set up by the Ministry for Women’s Affairs in order to raise gender awareness, combat gender-based discrimination, and advance the role of women in the society and employment.  Gender units worked at all levels of society.  Regarding the low number of female judges, the delegation explained that some functions were not prone to women occupying them, especially those in the area of criminal law and terrorist crimes.    

Allegations that ISIL forcefully separated girls from their families and forced them to marry combatants were true.  Hundreds of such cases were described by survivors who managed to flee their captivity.  Most of them were minors.  Data about the attacks and abductions of religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities in the areas under ISIL’s control did not exist.  There were organizations that worked on the rehabilitation of victims, but they were very limited due to scarce resources.  As for the allegations that Government-supported Shia militia killed Sunnis in Bagdad, the delegation explained that it did not recognize the term “militia.”  If any violation of any human right which was criminalized by the Penal Code or the Military Code took place, a number of measures were taken in response.   

The Ministry of Human Rights was indeed abolished due to budgetary restraints.  However, there were departments on human rights in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior.  Former employees of the Ministry of Human Rights were delegated to those units.  The Supreme Criminal Tribunal was part of the transitional justice system established in 2003.  Its purpose was to try those accused of human rights violations perpetrated by the regime before 2003.  As for the investigations of pre-2003 crimes, they were continuing.  The delegation underlined that Iraq respected human rights standards in its fight against ISIL.  As for the alleged human rights violations carried out by the Government forces, the delegation stressed that if any such violations took place, they happened without the knowledge of the Government and were punishable under the Penal Code.  There was no confirmation of Government forces targeting Sunnis.

As for the continued carrying out of the death penalty in Iraq, it had existed in Iraqi law for a long time.  The application of the death penalty for terrorism charges should not be surprising.  When security was re-established in the country, its application could be re-considered.   Most capital punishment provisions were stipulated under law in a very limited fashion.  Forced confessions were forbidden under law.  They were annulled and those responsible for carrying out such confessions would be prosecuted.  

Regarding the activities of the Family Protection Committee, there were several pre-2003 laws that sought to prevent domestic violence and violence against children.  The new draft law on domestic violence stipulated that any action or threat against a family member would be prosecuted.  It also referred to the complaint mechanism for communicating cases of violence.  The Department of Domestic Violence would then be notified, and a competent court and judge would issue the arrest warrant and would be in charge of the investigation.  The draft law also envisaged the opening of shelters for victims of domestic violence, and awareness and rehabilitation programmes.  Victims, both nationals and legal residents, should also be covered by social protection.  Social protection was granted to persons with disabilities, unmarried women, orphans, juveniles and persons below the poverty line.  Palestinians residing in Iraq, and foreigners married to Iraqi nationals were treated on par with Iraqi nationals with respect to access to social protection.  The draft law on domestic violence stipulated a minimum prison sentence of three months, and a maximum prison sentence of seven years in case of repetition.  Civil society thought that the prison sentence should be stricter.  In 2015, the Council of Ministers adopted a decision to implement the National Emergency Plan to protect the survivors of domestic violence.        

The Law on Combatting Human Trafficking was enacted in 2012.  An inter-ministerial committee to combat human trafficking was also established and it was tasked to draw up relevant recommendations.  Some of those recommendations included opening of a hotline, using information units in various ministries to conduct awareness raising campaigns, raising awareness through education, and preparing psycho-social rehabilitation for victims.   The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs initiated the building of a shelter center.   It was normal that the number of complaints of human trafficking was higher than the number of investigations because investigations took a long time to complete.   

As for the Committee’s questions about the legal provision that prohibited conversion from Islam, the delegation explained that the current political system in Iraq did not refer to any link between religion and politics.  Iraqi citizens could freely vote for and elect their representatives.  The Universal Periodic Review recommendations of 2014 were circulated to all ministries and civil society in order to implement a national human rights plan, which was finalized in May 2015.  There was a unit for the protection of children within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, as well as a unit on child labour which conducted visits to companies and documented any human rights violations.  Conditions for employment for foreign workers in Iraq were also clarified. 

The adoption of the draft law on the protection of minorities had been delayed due to various consultations with minority representatives.  It stipulated that all Iraqis were equal before the law without any discrimination on the basis of gender, race, creed or social situation.  The representation of minorities was guaranteed in municipalities and governorates through an amendment adopted in 2008, which accorded them eight seats (five for Christians, and one each for the Sabian, Yazidi and Shabak communities) on the basis of their proportionate presence in the governorates.  The Ministry of Planning was not able to conduct a census in 2010 due to security reasons.     

As for the independence of the judiciary, judges enjoyed complete independence.  The Government did not interfere in their work.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, had delayed her visit in January 2015 due to budgetary constraints of the Office of the High Commissioner.  The Government would welcome her visit in order to experience first-hand the situation of the judiciary.   As for dealing with Zionist and free masonry, those were reviewed by the relevant authorities in order to preserve public order.  As for arbitrary detention, the delegation explained that arrests were regulated by the Criminal Code and that delays in detention could occur due to the review of the case and of evidence provided.  Iraq categorically denied the existence of secret detention facilities

The Baha’i faith continued to be forbidden.  Freedom of expression was guaranteed across the board, as long as it did not run counter public order.   The use of mobile phones, satellites, Internet, importing of magazines and newspapers was no longer limited.  The number of Internet providers had increased since 2003.  More than 180 of newspapers and magazines started their publications.  

Follow-up Questions by the Experts

An Expert expressed concern that she had not received a response to her question about the protection of persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  She also asked about the legal standard applied to the perpetrators of domestic violence.  There were reports that shelters for victims of domestic violence were clandestinely operated by civil society. 

As for refugees and internally displaced persons, there was an estimated 50,000 stateless persons in Iraq.  What plans did Iraq have to accede to international treaties on statelessness?  What was the fate of the new draft bill on refugees, which had been in front of the Parliament for two years? 

Independence of the judiciary did not exist in practice, particularly in terrorism cases.  Amnesty International had reported that secret informants provided information for terrorism charges and that persons were declared guilty without due process.  Some 24 men were recently executed on terrorism charges after a trial that had lasted only several hours, and without access to competent legal assistance.

Another Expert reiterated his question about the prohibition of conversion from Islam.  The Constitution of Iraq stipulated that the official religion was Islam and that the source of laws was Sharia.  Since identity documents mentioned the religion of the person, how was that compatible with the separation of the State and religion?  In addition, the Baha’i community was not allowed to mention their religion. 

An Expert inquired about the decriminalization of defamation.  Public insult against the Government was punishable under the Criminal Code. 

The explanation for the abolition of the Human Rights Ministry did not remove the responsibility of the Government for protecting human rights.  An Expert expressed hope that the decision would be reconsidered.   As for the death penalty, an Expert noted that there was a need to look beyond the military and emotional reasons for the use of the death penalty.  What was the insurance that the executed person was indeed responsible for the crime committed?  Why was the death penalty obligatory for some offences?   

The delegation’s denial of the existence of secret detention centers was not convincing, as the recent case of Mohammed Abbas Kadhim Al Sudani illustrated.  The allegation that the Committee had received was that he had been held and tortured in one of the secret detention centers.

Concluding Remarks

MOHAMMAD SABIR ISMAIL, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked Committee Experts for their effort, interest, questions and observations. 

FABIÁN OMAR SALVIOLI, Chairman of the Committee, expressed the solidarity of the Committee with the people of Iraq in their plight and very difficult situation in the country.  That situation posed tremendous challenges for the implementation of the Covenant.   When the Committee requested examples of the Covenant, it was not necessary to provide 15 years of jurisprudence.  A few concrete examples would suffice.  He noted that it was important to assess discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as discrimination against women.  He warned that the negative stereotypes against women performing certain functions in Iraq raised serious concern.  He also underlined the issue of due process and freedom of religion for all individuals.  Mr. Salvioli reminded that the Committee did not compare States, but it looked at the application of the Covenant in them. 

For use of the information media; not an official record