Iraq: UN reports widespread rights abuses, urges response measures

11 October 2007 –

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) today issued a report documenting widespread human rights abuses and recommending specific measures in response, including due process for detainees, punishment for perpetrators of “honour killings,” and investigations into deaths caused by private military firms operating in the country.

The eleventh Quarterly Human Rights report does not contain casualty statistics because the mission was “unable to persuade the Government to release data” on the issue.

UNAMI states that civilians continue to be targeted by armed groups through suicide bombings, abductions and extrajudicial executions by perpetrators who make no distinctions between civilians and combatants.

Concentrated around Baghdad, the violence is also prevalent in other cities, such as Mosul and Basra, and has victimized all ethnic groups while targeting professionals, such as journalists and lawyers, according to the report, which warns that such systematic or widespread attacks against a civilian population are tantamount to crimes against humanity and violate the laws of war, and their perpetrators are subject to prosecution.

UNAMI calls on insurgent groups and armed militia to cease attacks against civilians, cease hostage taking and release those being held. It urges the Government to carry out policies aimed at vetting law enforcement personnel, and emphasizes the importance of accountability.

The report also urges the Government and State institutions to do more in ensuring better judicial oversight mechanisms for suspects arrested in the context of the ongoing Baghdad Security Plan and immediately address reports of torture in Iraqi Government facilities as well as those of Kurdistan Regional Government.

UNAMI cites recent media coverage of the Blackwater security firm and other private contractors operating in Iraq, and endorses the position of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that relying on private military firms risks eroding the distinction between civilians and combatants.

The mission urges the United States authorities to investigate reports of deaths caused by privately hired contractors, and establish effective mechanisms for holding them accountable whenever circumstances surrounding the killings show no justifiable cause.

“All credible allegations of unlawful killings by MNF forces be thoroughly, promptly and impartially investigated, and appropriate action be taken against military personnel found to have used excessive or indiscriminate force, and that the initiation of investigations into such incidents, as well as their findings, should be made public.”

The report raises concern about prolonged detention and the absence of timely processing of detainees' cases through the judicial system. The overwhelming majority of detainees interviewed by UNAMI spoke of extended delays in their initial referral to a judicial official of up to two months in many cases and lack of information on what would happen next, or where and when they would be transferred and how long they would be held. As a matter of urgency, the Government of Iraq and the judicial authorities need to take all necessary measures to address these concerns, the report says.

UNAMI also urges the MNF to observe the basic due process guarantees enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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