Iraq: UN paints grim human rights picture as killings spike; faults lack of central control

20 September 2006

Despite considerable efforts by the Iraqi Government to ensure respect for human rights and re-establish the rule of law, an unprecedented number of civilians – 3,590 – were killed in July, bringing the total for July and August to nearly 6,600, most of them in Baghdad, the capital, according to a new United Nations report released today.

“Particularly abhorrent are terrorist attacks against markets and mosques and the killing of religious pilgrims,” the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in its latest human rights report, adding that a spike in sectarian and revenge attacks took place in July.

It cited the lack of centralized control over the use of force as a cause for terrorist attacks, the growth of militias and the emergence of organized crime, resulting in indiscriminate killings of civilians, with hundreds of bodies appearing throughout the country bearing signs of severe torture and execution style killing.

Extra-judicial executions of former members of the armed forces or those associated with the former regime and the targeting of judges and lawyers because of their work have continued.

“Such violence against judges is keenly felt because of their already acute shortage throughout Iraq, a fact that further undermines the establishment of the rule of law in the country” the report noted, adding that UNAMI was also concerned at ongoing threats to freedom of expression from the continuous targeting of journalists and news publications.

Intimidation, threats and kidnappings for ransom continue to affect the life of ordinary Iraqis. Such incidents have a sectarian connotation and many continue to be carried out by criminal gangs sometimes wearing police or Special Forces’ uniforms, the study said.

Women also remain particularly vulnerable and exposed to great risks, it noted. “The security situation and the militancy of intolerant groups are increasingly limiting women’s ability to move freely outside their homes while progressively restricting their access to health services and education as well as their ability to participate in public life,” it said.

It cited the case of two boys and a girl of 14 to 15 years of age who were killed in northern Iraq purportedly after the girl established a relationship with one of the boys. No criminal investigation appears to have been initiated by the authorities to identify and punish those who committed such murders.

But so-called honour crimes affect women in a disproportionate manner, violating fundamental rights guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to which Iraq is party, it added, noting that in the first six months of this year 275 women were killed just in the Governorates of Erbil and Sulaymaniya.

“In their fight against generalized violence, central, regional and local authorities should provide greater protection to women from crimes committed within the family, including all types of violence against women and girls on the grounds of honour,” it declared.

Turning to military operations, UNAMI said it has continued to receive reports of involvement by the United States-led Multinational Forcers in incidents of excessive use of force and of restrictions imposed on the movement of civilians.

It also noted that thousands of detainees continue to be held outside the existing legal framework partly because Iraqi courts do not have the capacity to adjudicate such a high number of cases.

UNAMI has consistently documented the widespread use of torture, particularly during interrogation, both in official and extra-judicial detention centres. “Detainees’ bodies show signs of beating using electrical cables, wounds in different parts of their bodies, including in the head and genitals, broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns,” it said.

“Bodies found at the Medico-legal Institute often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.

“Individuals who escaped death in such incidents reported that saw others being tortured to get information about their sect,” it added, noting that many such detainees had been held by Sunni extremists or Shi’a militias.


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