Iraq five years on: Human Rights Briefing

Huge death toll and refugee flows, death squads, torture, mass imprisonment without charge and rising violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights mark last five years

In the lead-up to the fifth “anniversary” (20 March) of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Amnesty International has today issued a new briefing showing the “disastrous” human rights situation in the country.

According to recent estimates, at least 150,000 civilians were killed in the first three years after the 2003 invasion alone. Killings have been carried out by armed Iraqi sectarian groups, by the US-led Multinational Forces (MNF), by Iraq’s own security forces and secret death squads, and by international armed groups like Al-Qaida in Iraq.

Years’ of bombings and shootings in behaviour likened to “ethnic cleansing” has also meant massive refugee flows, with over four million people (nearly 15% of Iraq’s entire population) forced out of their homes, two million of them having fled to Syria or Jordan.

Meanwhile, some 60,000 people are currently being held - most without charge - by the MNF (23,900) and the Iraqi authorities (35,000), with numerous alleged cases of torture in detention. The oldest detainee is 80, the youngest only 10. In most cases where torture has been alleged, announced “investigations” have failed to bring perpetrators to justice - many apparently never even taking place.

In cases of torture, rape or killings at the hands of British or Americans forces - notoriously with hotel receptionist Baha Mousa’s death at the hands of UK soldiers, and multiple killings by US soldiers at Haditha - investigations have been flawed and have failed to hold those actually responsible to account.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“For the best part of 30 years we denounced torture, imprisonment and killings under Saddam Hussein. Five years on, it’s heartbreaking to see this latest human rights disaster now devastating Iraq’s long-suffering people.

“Whatever direction Iraq takes in the next five years, the authorities must make a determined effort to stamp out torture, to charge or release tens of thousands of people held without charge, and to genuinely safeguard the safety of everyone in Iraq, not least Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and ethnic and religious minorities.”

Amnesty International’s 28-page briefing, ‘Five years on: carnage and despair’, notes a “dramatic” rise in violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in Iraq in the past five years. Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been targeted by armed religious groups for not wearing traditional Islamic dress, for going to work or university, or simply for being from a different religious group. So-called “honour” killings have also risen, notably in Kurdistan, where, according to the UN, 255 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were killed in the first six months of last year alone, 195 by burning.

In April 2007 a 17-year-old girl named Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death in front of security forces and hundreds of onlookers in a town near Mosul. Her agonising death took half an hour and was filmed on mobile phones, with some of the footage posted on the internet as an apparent warning to Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in Iraq. Following international condemnation of the murder, the Iraqi government announced an investigation and early arrests in the case. However, no further information has since been made public.

Amnesty International has repeatedly pointed out that the UN (resolution 1325) requires countries to ensure that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s voices are heard during post-conflict reconstruction. Instead, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights in Iraq have deteriorated in the past five years.

Kate Allen added:

“The investigation of Du’a Khalil Aswad’s utterly grotesque murder seems to have followed an all too typical pattern in present-day Iraq: an investigation is announced which then goes nowhere.

“Time and time again in cases of killings and torture - not least by Interior Ministry death squads - Iraq’s dysfunctional justice system has failed, letting the country slip further into a spiral of killing and more killing. It’s time to start catching and punishing the perpetrators of human rights violations in Iraq.”

Amnesty International has also issued a warning against seeing the death penalty as a solution to Iraq’s spiralling violence. Last year the organisation showed that since Iraq re-introduced capital punishment in 2004 (after a 14-month suspension following the 2003 invasion), hundreds of people have been sentenced to death (at least 199 last year alone), many following unfair trials. Saddam Hussein’s own execution in late 2006 itself came after a flawed trial, and his hanging including him being taunted by guards in filmed scenes that stoked international controversy.

  • Five years on: carnage and despair

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