The United Nations today called on Iraq’s Government to urgently assert control over the security forces and all armed groups in the war-torn country, saying February’s attack on a shrine in Samarra had led to a worsening situation, resulting in hundreds of cases of killings, torture, illegal detention and displacement.
“Throughout the reporting period, insurgent activities, including terrorist acts, intensified after 22 February and continue to affect the civilian population,” says the bi-monthly rights report by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) covering the first two months of this year.
“Allegations that ‘death squads’ operate in the country grew stronger following the discovery by the Multi-National Forces in Iraq (MNF-I) and the Iraqi Security Forces of a suspicious group, acting within the structures of the Ministry of Interior,” the report says.
It also points out that “families living in mixed neighbourhoods were forcibly evicted from their homes or left voluntarily because of threats of violence from militias, insurgents and other armed groups,” adding that civilians – “especially women and children” – continue to bear the brunt of the human rights violations.
Following the destruction of the Shia Shrine in Samarra, the report notes that “serious incidents of violence erupted in and around Baghdad, in Basra as well as in other parts of the country,” and in retaliation a significant number of Sunni mosques were reportedly attacked “and clerics were among those assassinated.”
“Street clashes and assaults by armed groups continued for days. Many individuals were reportedly detained at improvised checkpoints, or were abducted from homes and mosques,” it adds.
The report also says that the Ministry of Interior announced that 249 people had been killed from 22-25 February, figures that “reflect a new high in a trend that has been steadily increasing and provide an important indicator of the absence of protection of the right to life which still prevails at this time in Iraq.”
UNAMI is continuing to receive reports that minorities, including Palestinians, Syrians and Sudanese, are still suffering human rights violations, and also that Christians, among other religious groups, “continue to live in fear.”
The seven-page report also emphasizes throughout UNAMI’s apprehension over the treatment of detainees in Iraq, adding that international law and best practice must be upheld.
UNAMI has repeatedly expressed concerns to relevant members of the Government about allegations of systematic human rights violations in detention centres under the direct or indirect control of the Ministries of Interior and Defence.