Iraq: Palestinians are 'hidden victims' - New report

Saddam’s ‘preferred group’ perception leading to abduction, mutilation and death

Palestinian refugees living in Iraq are the hidden victims of the Iraq conflict, said Amnesty International today (1 October), as it published a new report showing that Palestinians in the country have suffered threats, torture, killings and appalling living conditions in refugee camps near the Syrian border.

The 21-page report, Iraq: human rights abuses against Palestinian refugees, examines the human rights abuses committed against Palestinians living in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 and highlights the lack of action by the Iraqi government and the US-led Multi-National Force to protect them.

Palestinians are being targeted as a minority group by armed militia groups because they are perceived by some Iraqis to have received preferential treatment under the government of Saddam Hussein. As non-Iraqis who are mainly Sunni Arabs, they have also been suspected of supporting or sympathising with Sunni Iraqis involved in the insurgency against the predominantly Shi’a government and the Multi-National Force.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart said:

“Palestinians are currently one of the most vulnerable groups in Iraq.

“They are being hunted down, abducted, tortured and, in some cases, killed without any effective steps being taken to protect them.

"They also face great obstacles in seeking refuge as the authorities in both Syria and Jordan, the main countries hosting Iraqi refugees, remain extremely reluctant to allow Palestinian refugees to enter their territory, and there is now a pressing need for other countries to resettle those most at risk.

“The Iraqi government and the Multi-National Force must do all they can to afford effective protection to those at risk in Iraq, including the increasingly beleaguered Palestinian refugee community. Other governments should also expand and expedite their refugee resettlement programmes in order to assist this especially vulnerable community.”

Since 2003, scores - possibly hundreds - of Palestinians have been abducted by armed groups, and their bodies later found in morgues or dumped on the streets, often mutilated or with clear marks of torture. Estimates of the number killed since 2003 range from 320 to nearly 500.

For example, on 13 August Mostafa Ahmad, a 27-year-old taxi driver, was waiting at a petrol station near al-Baladiyat in Baghdad when he was attacked and abducted by armed men believed to belong to the Mahdi Army, a militia force. Two days later the abductors used Mr Ahmad’s mobile to tell his family that his body was in the local morgue. A relative told Amnesty International that the body had drill holes, teeth had apparently been ripped out with pliers and there were six bullet wounds to the head and upper body. No investigation into his murder is known to have taken place.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians in Iraq have been forced to flee their homes after receiving death threats. From about 34,000 in May 2006, it is now estimated that only 15,000 Palestinians remain in the country - some of these in hiding, while over 2,000 remain stranded in camps near the Iraq-Syria border, living in extremely harsh conditions.

Amnesty International is calling on the Syrian and Jordanian governments to allow Palestinian refugees to enter their territory, and is urging the international community at large to assist with the resettlement of Palestinians in line with their international obligations.

Amnesty International has been calling for international action to tackle the wider Iraq refugee crisis. At least four million Iraqis are now displaced and their numbers are rising at an estimated rate of 2,000 people per day, making it the world's fastest growing displacement crisis. Syria now hosts 1.4 million Iraqi refugees and Jordan up to 750,000 - 10% of Jordan’s population - while 2.2 million people are displaced but still remain inside Iraq.

A week ago (24 September) Amnesty International also pressed the UK government to do more to assist Iraq’s displaced, as the organisation published a report on the overall Iraq refugee situation.

  • Read the report online
  • Find out more about the situation in Iraq /li>
  • More about the refugee and asylum campaign /li>

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