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Iraq: tomorrow's elections to be held amid violence and human rights abuses

‘The challenges for any incoming government will extend far beyond restoring security’ - Said Boumedouha
Tomorrow’s parliamentary elections in Iraq are set to be held amid mounting violence and a catalogue of long-term human rights abuses, said Amnesty International today.
The Iraqi authorities’ failure to tackle rising violence is exposing voters to a high risk of attack. In the latest attack on Friday, at least 31 people were killed and several more injured after a series of blasts targeted a political party’s election rally in Baghdad. 
According to UN figures, some 7,800 people, mostly civilians, were killed in 2013 - the highest death toll since 2008 - and the continuing sectarian divide between the majority Shi’a and minority Sunni populations is fuelling violence across Iraq. 
This is the first parliamentary elections to be held since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, and Iraqis are set to elect 328 new members for the Council of Representatives - Iraq’s Parliament. The new parliament will in turn elect a new prime minister, president and cabinet. 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said: 
“It is the Iraqi authorities’ duty to ensure that people are able to participate in elections free from attacks by armed groups, intimidation by the security forces and any actions which will interfere with exercising their constitutional right to vote.
“The Iraqi authorities must do all they can to protect polling stations. 
“No one should have to choose between risking their lives and electing their representatives to parliament.”
Wider human rights picture
But Amnesty also emphasised that a wider set of problems are plaguing the country, with the elections being held against a backdrop of longstanding human rights violations. These include:
*Thousands of detainees languishing in prison without charge. Meanwhile, even those who are brought to trial are being sentenced to long prison terms after unfair proceedings
*In many cases convictions have been based on “confessions” extracted under torture
*Iraq is one the world’s most prolific executioners, with 169 executions reported in 2013, many on terrorism charges
*Torture and other ill-treatment inside prisons and detention centres are rife and routinely go unpunished
*Journalists face regular assassination attempts or death threats and are insufficiently protected by the Iraqi authorities 
Said Boumedouha added:
“The challenges for any incoming government will extend far beyond restoring security.
“Torture and other ill-treatment in prisons remain rampant. Detainees languish in prison without charge or face unfair trials, and executions are spiralling.”

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