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Iraq: over 3,700 civilians killed in October in new monthly high, UN reports

Iraq: over 3,700 civilians killed in October in new monthly high, UN reports

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in October reached a new high of 3,709, the influence of armed militias is growing, and torture continues to be rampant despite the Government's commitment to address human rights abuses, according to the latest United Nations rights report on the strife-torn country.

“Hundreds of bodies continued to appear in different areas of Baghdad handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing,” the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) human rights report for September and October says. “Many witnesses reported that perpetrators wear militia attire and even police or army uniforms.”

The report paints a grim picture virtually across the board, from attacks on journalists, judges and lawyers and the worsening situation of women to displacement, violence against religious minorities and the targeting of schools.

The report cites UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates

that 1.6 million people have left the country since March 2003, with the

rate of those fleeing to Syria and Jordan now reaching nearly 100,000

each month.

Based on figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals throughout the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad, 7,054 civilians were killed over the two-month period, including 351 women and 110 children. October's figure was nearly 120 more than July's total of 3,590, which UNAMI had termed unprecedented.

The Mission called on the Government, the United States-led multinational force and the international community to increase efforts to reassert the State authority and respect for the rule of law by dismantling the growing influence of militias, fighting corruption and organized crime and maintaining discipline within the security and armed forces.

“The civilian population of Iraq continues to be victims of terrorist acts, roadside bombs, drive-by shootings, cross fire between rival gangs, or between police and insurgents, kidnappings, military operations, crime and police abuse,” the report says, noting that sectarian violence seems to be the main cause.

“Arbitrary detention, grievous conditions of detention, allegations of torture and mistreatment continue to remain an issue of serious concern in Iraq,” it notes. “The absence of judicial guarantees is a pattern and individuals are often arrested without warrant, not informed of the charges against them, and not brought promptly before an investigative judge.”

UNAMI's Human Rights Office received continuing reports that the police and security forces are either infiltrated or act in collusion with militias, while police and military security operations continued to be based on massive sweeps. Facing criticism, the Government started a vetting process which led to the removal of at least 3,000 members of the Ministry of Interior on allegations of human rights abuses and corruption.

Other points cited by the report include:

Freedom of expression is threatened as an increasing number of media workers are apparently targeted specifically because of their work and assassinated with utmost impunity. In the last two months, 18 journalists were reported killed. Minorities have continued to be targeted. Attacks against Christians have intensified since September while other groups, such as the Sabean-Mandeans, continue to be targeted by extremists and their presence in the country is endangered. The situation of women has continued to deteriorate, with increasing numbers either victims of religious extremists or “honour killings.” Some non-Muslim women are forced to wear a headscarf and to be accompanied by male relatives or spouses. Kidnappings associated with rape and sex slavery have also occurred.Schools have become increasingly a target for sectarian and other criminal attacks and parents are worried about the safety of their children, girls in particular. According to the Ministry of Education, over 300 teachers and ministry employees were killed and 1,158 others wounded in 2006.