15 March 2008 In its latest report on human rights in Iraq, the United Nations mission in the war-torn nation noted that violent attacks have decreased significantly in the capital Baghdad, but cautioned this reduction might not be sustainable as the security situation continues to deteriorate in other areas.
The twelfth report of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) – covering the second half of 2007 – said that the decline in such attacks, such as suicide attacks and car bombings, is a result of the ongoing “surge” within the Baghdad Security Plan launched last February.
“The extent to which the decrease in violence was sustainable remained unclear, with the security situation still precarious in many parts of the country,” it observed. “As security improved in parts of Baghdad and other locations, it deteriorated elsewhere with heightened activity by insurgent groups and others in governorates such as Mosul and Diyala.”
Civilians were deliberately targeted by Sunni and Shi'a armed groups through suicide bombings, car bombs and other attacks, UNAMI said.
“Such systematic or widespread attacks against a civilian population are tantamount to crimes against humanity and violate the laws of war, and their perpetrators should be prosecuted,” the mission said.
Also vulnerable to attack were: Government officials; religious figures; state employees; law enforcement personnel; professional groups including academics, journalists, lawyers and judges; religious and ethnic minorities; and women in so-called “honor killings,” it reported.
During the reporting period, thousands were forced to flee due to the continued sectarian violence. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of last December, there are over 4.4 million displaced Iraqis worldwide, with 2.5 million inside Iraq and about 1.9 million in neighbouring countries.
The new report welcomed the expanded capacity of the Iraqi judiciary to process cases as the detainee population continues to grow.
Despite this progress, UNAMI voiced concern over “continuing prolonged delays in reviewing detainee cases; the lack of timely and adequate access to defense counsel for suspects; the failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate credible allegations of torture and to institute criminal proceedings against officials responsible for abusing detainees; and the procedures followed by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) and other criminal courts, which fail to meet basic fair trial standards.”
Additionally, although the Multi-National Force (MNF) has taken steps towards speeding up reviews and decisions on the release of detainees, UNAMI said that its concerns regarding their due process rights within the Force's legal framework remains unaddressed.
The mission cited gender-based violence as cause for serious concern in the Kurdistan Region, in Iraq's north. In spite of the creation by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of an Interior Ministry department to tackle violence against women, the report called for scaled up efforts and political will to bring those responsible to justice.
UNAMI also welcomed Iraq's decision to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, and noted there has been “a greater degree of transparency and access to information pertaining to law enforcement issues on the part of both Iraqi officials and their international advisers.”
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