Iraq still blackspot for human rights, says UN


A UN report on Iraq shows human rights in the country remain a cause for concern, in spite of improvements in security.

The document, prepared by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), covers the last half of 2009 and shows violence is escalating.

The report focuses on the rising rate of attacks on mosques and churches, ethnic groups, officials, journalists and public figures. Violence against women, including honour killings, is prevalent across Iraq. Perpetrators are not held accountable for their crimes.

According to the Iraqi government, at least 4,068 civilians were killed and 15,935 wounded in 2009. While the number of fatalities fell slightly in the second half of the year, the number of those injured rose to 9,747, increasing by more than one-third over the 6,188 wounded in the first half.

The UN agencies seek to publicise the situation in prisons in Iraq where High Commissioner Navi Pillai says there are “continuing allegations of ill-treatment and torture” as well as “poor conditions”. She urges the Iraqi government “to investigate all such allegations and bring those responsible to justice – otherwise these practices will continue to tarnish Iraq’s recovery”. At the end of last year, 12,000 prisoners were facing execution. Ninety-three, including three women, were executed during the second half of 2009; 31, one a woman, during the first.

Three soldiers and three civilians were killed and 20 were wounded yesterday when a suicide driver exploded his car at an Iraqi army checkpoint in the Sunni neighbourhood of Ghazaliyah. This attack followed three days of bombings targeting Shia pilgrims visiting the Baghdad shrine of a Shia holy man in the Khadamiyah district. As many as 70 died, the largest toll in a series of bombings since April.

On the political front, Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqiya bloc which won the most seats in parliament in the March election, called for a government of national unity. He and prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose State of Law list came in second, remained deadlocked over who should head the new government. US and UN officials have warned the political vacuum could result in the resurgence of al-Qaeda or the resumption of sectarian warfare.