The top United Nations official in Iraq has strongly condemned the series of bombings targeting pilgrims during a religious commemoration, which have resulted in the killing of dozens of worshippers and the wounding hundreds more.
At least 45 people have reportedly died in the attacks, which occurred in the capital, Baghdad, and other areas of the country today as well as yesterday as Shi’a pilgrims mark an important religious festival.
Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, described the attacks as “horrific crimes committed against defenceless civilians who were practicing their faith.”
The formation of a broad-based government will be the most effective response in the face of insurgents who are aiming at destabilizing the country, added Mr. Melkert, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
In February, over 40 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide bombing that targeted Shi’a pilgrims travelling from Baghdad to Karbala.
Meanwhile, a new UN human rights report covering the latter part of 2009 shows that attacks deliberately targeting religious and ethnic groups continue unabated, including against the Shabak, a Shi’a minority, and Christians.
The report, prepared by UNAMI and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), notes with deep concern the high rate of indiscriminate and targeted attacks, notably at places of worship, and against ethnic groups that claimed hundreds of lives from 1 July to 31 December.
It also documents ongoing violence and targeted assassinations against government officials, high profile figures and journalists, according to a news release issued by UNAMI.
At least 4,068 civilians were killed and 15,935 injured in Iraq in 2009, according to figures provided by UNAMI and the Government. While the number of civilian deaths decreased slightly in the second half of the year, the number of injured civilians rose dramatically, with 9,747 civilians injured during attacks, compared with 6,188 during the first six months.
The report also draws attention to the human rights situation in prisons and places of detention in Iraq, as well as the fact that over 1,250 prisoners were facing execution, as of 31 December.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that continuing allegations of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities in addition to poor conditions of detention remain of concern.
“I urge the Government of Iraq to investigate all such allegations and bring those responsible to justice. Otherwise, these practices will continue to tarnish Iraq’s recovery.”