Iraq

Iraq: Human rights report - 01 May - 30 Jun 2006

Attachments

Summary
1. The period under review is marked by great challenges, resulting from the prevailing human rights situation in Iraq, as well as by unique opportunities with a new Government of national unity announced on 22 May and its firm commitment to address forcefully urgent human rights concerns so as to establish the rule of law in the country.

2. Insurgent, militia and terrorist attacks continued unabated in many parts of Iraq, especially in Baghdad and in the central and western regions, with an increasing sectarian connotation. A total of 5,818 civilians were reportedly killed and at least 5,762 wounded during May and June 2006.(1) Killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread. Fear resulting from these and other crimes continued to increase internal displacement and outflows of Iraqis to neighbouring countries. The negative effect of violence on professional categories, targeted by sectarian and criminal violence or displaced as a result, coupled with inadequate provision of basic services, also affected the level of education and health care received by the population. Women, children and vulnerable groups, such as minorities, internally displaced and disabled persons continue to be directly affected by the violence and the ongoing impunity for human rights violations. Organized crime and corruption have persistently added to the overall insecurity.

3. The new Government has outlined concrete steps required for the improvement of the security situation and is addressing human rights challenges in a more transparent manner. The Iraqi Government released thousands of detainees, expressed a commitment to engage in national reconciliation and dialogue, to address reform of the security forces, tackle the issue of militias, investigate human rights violations more forcefully and support the establishment of a National Commission for Human Rights. Setting up accountable institutions to protect and promote human rights will be fundamental to building public trust, reducing violence and reinforcing the rule of law in the country.

4. The announcement of a national reconciliation plan by the Prime Minister on 25 June provided a sign of political will needed to confront crucial human rights problems. As recognized in the Prime Minister's plan, a fundamental pillar of national reconciliation must include an open and comprehensive analysis of human rights violations committed by the previous regime as well as of current human rights challenges, which remain the root causes of ongoing grievances and foment the cycle of violence. Efforts to address current human rights concerns must be accompanied by delivery of justice and reparations to victims of past human rights violations and their families.

5. The international community is prepared to assist Iraq in addressing such problems in order to rebuild a democratic society based on the rule of law and respectful of human rights. However, high levels of insecurity are hampering reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts. Improving security remains central also to the normal operation of international agencies providing assistance to the Government and the people of Iraq. Under current circumstances those agencies find it difficult to deploy their full potential in support of national efforts.

6. The police and armed forces are carrying out their work in an extremely difficult environment. Police officers and new recruits are primary targets of the insurgency and have suffered significant losses. While they continue to bear the brunt of incessant attacks, there is equally an urgent need for law enforcement agencies to ensure that adequate training is also translated into standing orders, implementing regulations and effective internal accountability mechanisms. The functioning of these state institutions is negatively affected by the violence, corruption, inadequate resources and infrastructure and internal control systems which are weak or non-existent. Often, the response of law enforcement agencies and military operations has contributed to the violence and has also brought significant distress to civilians in many parts of the country. It is vital that the Government anchor its response to the ongoing violence in law, which should include an absolute ban on torture and the right to a fair trial. Disturbingly, security incidents are said to occur also within view of the police, who are reportedly unable or unwilling to intervene and restore order.

7. Another key element for the establishment of the rule of law will be the dismantlement of the numerous militias and armed groups which have been accused of involvement in serious human rights violations and in criminal activities. Public figures, including from the Government, have recognized this as a necessary step. Therefore, any demobilization and integration of militias into law enforcement agencies must be paired with an effective vetting process. Iraqi citizens, and in particular the victims of abuses, need to be able to rely on public institutions they trust and on individuals that show integrity and professionalism.

8. Monitoring human rights in Iraq remains challenging, particularly because the security situation makes it difficult to independently verify the allegations received. However, individual accounts received by UNAMI, as well as information obtained through the authorities, reports by local human rights organizations, private security firms and the press, provide additional indicators pointing to clear patterns.

Protection

Extra-judicial executions, targeted and indiscriminate killings

9. The reported number of civilian casualties continued an upward trend. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Health, which include counts from hospitals in all Governorates(2) indicate that 1,294 civilians died as a result of violence in May 2006 (among them 58 women and 17 children) and 2,687 were wounded (among them 178 women and 41 children). In June 2006 1,554 civilians died violently (among them 66 women and 30 children) and 3,075 were wounded (176 women and 58 children). The overwhelming majority of casualties were reported in Baghdad. In addition, the Medico- Legal Institute in Baghdad (MLI) separately reported receiving 1,375 unidentified bodies in May and 1,595 in June 2006. The total figure of civilians killed in Iraq, adding the figures provided by the Ministry of Health and the MLI, reaches 2,669 civilians in May and 3,149 in June 2006. According to the Ministry of Health, from January to June 2006 there were 6,826 civilians killed and 13,256 wounded.(3) Including the figures of the MLI in Baghdad for the period, the total of civilians killed in Iraq from January-June 2006 was 14,338.(4)

10. On 25 June, the Ministry of Health publicly acknowledged information stating that since 2003 at least 50,000 persons have been killed violently. The Baghdad morgue reportedly received 30,204 bodies from 2003 to mid-2006. Death numbering 18,933 occurred from "military clashes" and "terrorist attacks" between 5 April 2004 and 1 June 2006. The Ministry further indicated that the number of deaths is probably underreported.

11. Civilian casualties resulted mainly from bombings and drive-by shootings, from indiscriminate attacks, in neighbourhood markets or petrol stations, or following armed clashes with the police and the security forces. Civilians were also targeted or became unintended victims of insurgent or military actions. Terrorist acts against civilians have been aimed at fomenting sectarian violence or allegedly motivated by revenge and have targeted members of the Arab Shi'a and Sunni communities, including their cultural symbols, as well as markets in Shi'a neighbourhoods. Collusion between criminal gangs, militias and sectarian "hit groups," alleged death squads, vigilante groups and religious extremists adds further complexity to the situation. Certain neighbourhoods in Baghdad often witness fighting among armed groups, police and Special Forces. Execution-style killings continue to take place in the streets of Baghdad and other locations, most notably in Babil, Basra, Falluja, Karbala, Kirkuk, Mosul and Ramadi.

12. On 22 May, 4 bodies of truck drivers were found in an area near Abu Ghraib severely tortured. On 24 May, 7 bodies were found in Al-Iskandaria South of Baghdad and 9 bodies were found in Al-Da'ira district in Babil. On 29 May, unknown individuals reportedly attacked a bus carrying Iraqi workers employed by the People's Mujahedeen of Iran while driving on the road to Ashraf Camp. The explosion took place 3 kilometers north of Khalis and left 13 Iraqi workers dead and 15 others wounded.

13. On 6 June, with a car-ban in full effect, a suicide bomber exploded inside the Shi'a Buratha mosque, which had been previously targeted in April 2006 - killing at least 11 people. On 10 June, 7 bodies were found in the river "Malih," in Wasit Governorate. The victims wore civilian clothes; some were handcuffed, tortured and shot in the head. Dead bodies are regularly found in the same river. While a new operation to increase security in Baghdad, "Together toward Progress," which was launched by Iraqi security forces with the support of the MNF-I started on 14 June in Baghdad, insurgent attacks continued to take a heavy toll among civilians. On 14 and 15 June car bombs exploded in Al-Waziriya, Bab Al-Mua'adham, Hay Al-Risalah and other places as police patrols and check points became insurgent targets. On 17 June, four explosions in Baghdad, including in the Haraj market, killed more than 40 and wounded many others.

14. On 1 June in Basra, approximately 39 people were killed and 69 wounded, calling into question the implementation of the "state of emergency" declared only the previous day. On 9 June in Mosul, 60-year-old Mr. Anwar Hussein Abdullatef, a former Mosul Deputy Governor, was killed by unidentified gunmen. Also in Mosul, on 9 June 2006, gunmen killed Mr. Zuhayr Kashmula, brother of the Governor of Ninewa Mr. Duraid Kashmula, and four others when they were leaving prayers. Mr. Duraid, member of a prominent Sunni Arab family, had been selected as a Governor following the assassination of his older brother, Usamah Kashmula, appointed as "Governor" by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2003. On 10 June, Governor Duraid Kashmula survived an assassination attempt when gunmen attacked his brother's funeral procession.

15. On 16 June in Basra, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Hassan, chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars for the southern region, Dean of the Basra Sunni religious school "Imam Al-Hassan Al-Basri" and Imam at the "Al-Basra Al-Kabeer" mosque was killed by unknown gunmen. On 30 June in Kut, armed men on a motorcycle killed a former member of the Baath party as he traveled in a vehicle with his wife. The same day, police found four bodies in Al-Rashaad, south of Kirkuk. The victims were shot, blindfolded; their hands and legs were tied and their bodies bore signs of torture.

16. UNAMI HRO has received several reports indicating that, since 2005, homosexuals have been increasingly threatened and extra-judicially executed by militias and "death squads" because of their sexual orientation. It is believed that such incidents are underreported, because families are unwilling to admit that targeted members were homosexual for fear of further abuse. It has been difficult to independently verify the information received due to the fact that members of this group maintain a low profile, preferring instead to go into hiding or leave the country.

17. From October 2005 to 30 June 2006 at least twelve homosexuals were reportedly killed in targeted attacks. Militias are reportedly threatening families of men believed to be homosexual, stating that they will begin killing family members unless the men are handed over or killed by the family. In March 2006, a 29-year-old man was kidnapped in Baghdad and his family threatened for allowing him to lead a homosexual lifestyle. The family paid a ransom for the man's release but the mutilated body of the kidnapped victim was instead found dead a few days later. In another case reported a homosexual man was allegedly victim of "honour crime." It was reported in the press that the man's father was released without trial once he explained that he had hanged his son after discovering that he was homosexual.

18. As with other human rights violations, the Iraqi Government must ensure that all persons are protected without discrimination. In 2005, the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution reaffirming the obligation of States to protect the right to life of all persons under their jurisdiction and called upon States to investigate promptly and thoroughly "all cases of killings, including those committed in the name of passion or in the name of honour, all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation." (5)

Footnotes

(1) See paragraph 9. below.

(2) The Region of Kurdistan is not included in these statistics.

(3) There were 710 civilians killed in January; 1,055 in February; 1,084 in March and 1,129 in April 2006.

(4) The Region of Kurdistan is not included in these statistics.

(5) Commission of Human Rights; resolution E/CN.4/RES/2005/34, 20 April 2005.

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