A new United Nations report on Iraq paints a grim picture of civilian bloodshed and rights abuses fuelling a pervasive climate of fear, and recommends that the country’s authorities focus on fighting lawlessness and impunity.
“The right of victims to timely justice and redress should be central to any strategy to combat violations,” reports the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) in a report examining events from 1 September to 31 October. “Iraq would benefit from enhanced accountability systems and increased efforts to combat impunity for crimes committed by all sides of the conflict.”
Ongoing military and security operations by the multinational forces and the Iraqi forces aimed at restoring law and order, “including the resort to aerial bombardment,” negatively affected human rights, the report notes.
Repeated bombing campaigns by armed groups against civilians and Mosques “are increasing fears that community relations are descending into a pattern of fear, animosity and revenge.” Ongoing military operations continue to send people fleeing and cause hardship for thousands of families, with a “devastating” impact on civilians.
During the period covered, cumulative civilian deaths had reached between 26,000 and 30,000, and there was widespread displacement from aerial bombing, as well as a pattern of illegal searches and detention by authorities, the report said. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and wounded as a result of terrorist attacks, targeted assassinations and extrajudicial execution-style killings. Five journalists and media workers were killed, bringing the total since the United States-led invasion began to 74.
“The large number of detainees held in the country remains a matter of concern,” following mass arrests carried out during military operations under the jurisdiction of the multinational force, despite the review mechanism created in 2004. the report says.
In addition, “massive security operations by the Iraqi police and Special Forces continue to disregard instructions announced in August 2005 by the Ministry of the Interior to safeguard individual guarantees during search and detention operations,” according to the report, which states that a growing number of humanitarian workers had been detained or imprisoned while attempting to carry out their work.
Ongoing military operations by the United States-led multinational force and Iraqi troops have displaced more than 10,000 families in Al Anbar and Ninewa Governates, the report states.
“The price paid by civilians, including women and children, during military activity currently underway calls for further reflection on the nature and conduct of the conflict and on the proportionality of the use of force,” it says.
There is, however, positive work being done by the Government to redress the situation, the report continues. A working group on the rule of law was created by the Ministry of Planning on 18 October. Chaired by the Chief Justice, it will coordinate efforts by all stakeholders, including the UN and civil society to “ensure that technical assistance programmes are translated into an improved rule of law situation in the country.”
For its part, the report says, UNAMI has been active in opposing the death penalty in the country, has objected to the continued extension of the state of emergency across Iraq, and maintains a constructive dialogue with Government ministries on all aspects of human rights.