UN report notes grave rights abuses in Iraq while voicing hope for change

18 July 2006 – A new United Nations report on the human rights situation in Iraq paints a grave picture of abuses in the war-ravaged country while pointing to the possibility for positive change with the establishment of a Government there.

In its bimonthly human rights report for May – June 2006, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) expressed the hope that there are “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.”

At the same time, the report notes a grave situation of human rights in Iraq that the new Government must address.

While welcoming recent positive steps by the Government to promote national reconciliation, the report raises alarm at the growing number of casualties among the civilian population killed or wounded during indiscriminate or targeted attacks by terrorists and insurgents, as well as militias and criminal groups.

Kidnapping of individuals and groups, for ransom or political purposes also continued to surge, according to the report, which commends the release of over 3,000 detainees but expressed concern at new evidence of torture in detention centres administered by the Ministry of Interior.

The report also reiterated the UN’s call for “the immediate release of the report on Al-Jadiryia, a detention centre run by the Ministry of Interior uncovered on 14 November 2005, and for criminal prosecution of those held responsible.”

The document recognizes that the security forces are working under extremely difficult conditions but points out that, on occasions, the response of the security forces itself has been a source of human rights violations and further violence.

Sectarian violence continues to fuel displacement at an alarming pace, UNAMI warns. Mosques and religious leaders have been victims of attacks while teachers, professors and students continue to be severely affected by the violence. The killing and wounding of significant numbers of health workers and professionals is crippling health services at a time when there is an increasing need for health care services as a result of ongoing violence. Women continued to face restrictions in their freedoms while children, minorities, Palestinian refugees and other groups continued to suffer.

The document also describes reports received by the United Nations regarding military operations carried out by the MNF-I which resulted in the loss of civilian life and property.

The report noted a markedly better situation in the Region of Kurdistan. “UNAMI is encouraged that while current challenges remain significant, progress is also manifested in the advancement of legislation in favour of women’s rights, the protection and promotion of children’s rights and in some areas of economic, social and cultural rights. Concerns remain regarding freedom of expression, detainee rights and discrimination.”

The UN, together with other donors, continue to assist the Government of Iraq to establish a strong national human rights protection system which can address both current and past human rights violations. To this end, the report outlines activities conducted to advance the establishment of the rule of law and progress made toward the establishment of a National Commission for Human Rights in the country.

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