Iraq, with a population of approximately 29 million, is a republic with a freely elected government led by Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al‑Maliki. On December 22, the new government was sworn in after the parliament, the Council of Representatives (COR), approved a power-sharing agreement reached by all of the country's major political blocs on November 11, approximately nine months after the March 7 elections. Despite the controversy surrounding the January 15 decision by Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to ban approximately 500 candidates for alleged ties to the banned Ba'ath Party, and violence before and on election day, the COR elections met internationally recognized standards for free and fair elections, and the results of these legislative elections reflected the general will of the voters.
Iraqi security forces (ISF) reported to civilian authorities, but continuing violence, corruption, and organizational dysfunction undermined the government's ability to protect human rights. During the year the following significant human rights problems were reported: arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life; extremist and terrorist bombings and executions; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; poor conditions in pretrial detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; impunity; denial of fair public trials; delays in resolving property restitution claims; insufficient judicial institutional capacity; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; limits on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and extremist threats and violence; limits on religious freedom due to extremist threats and violence; restrictions on freedom of movement; large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees; lack of transparency and significant, widespread corruption at all levels of government; constraints on international organizations and nongovernmental organizations' (NGOs) investigations of alleged violations of human rights; discrimination against and societal abuses of women and ethnic, religious, and racial minorities; human trafficking; societal discrimination and violence against individuals based on sexual orientation; and limited exercise of labor rights.