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Iraq - HRW World Report 2001 in Arabic



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Human Rights Developments

The Iraqi government continued to commit widespread and gross human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents, executions of prisoners, and forced expulsions of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk and other districts. Known or suspected political opponents living abroad were reportedly frequently targeted and threatened by Iraqi government agents.

Relations between the two opposition groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), that retained control over most of the northern provinces of Duhok, Arbil and Sulaimaniya, remained strained despite a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace agreement and continued mediation efforts by the U.S. In the north, the year was punctuated by clashes between these and other Kurdish parties, resulting in casualties and some arrests, and human rights abuses were committed by the KDP, PUK and opposition groups. Municipal council elections were held in PUK-controlled territory in February, the first in the region since May 1992.

In the area under Iraqi government control, elections were held on March 27 for a new four-year term National Assembly, in which 220 of the 250 parliamentary seats were contested. The other thirty, reserved for the Kurdish population, were filled by presidential appointees.

Economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council in August 1991 remained in force. The Security Council adopted a resolution expanding the "oil-for-food" program and setting up a new weapons inspection system, proposing the suspension of the sanctions for a limited period following compliance by Iraq with the provisions of the resolution. The Iraqi government rejected the proposal, stating that none of the Security Council's resolutions provided for such suspension, and continued to demand the total lifting of sanctions. International consensus over the sanctions was further eroded following several "humanitarian flights" by Russia, France, Syria and Egypt, among others, following the reopening of Baghdad's Saddam International airport in mid-July.

Human Rights Developments in Government-controlled Iraq

Five Republican Guard officers were reportedly executed on December 29, 1999, after being accused of complicity in the alleged attempted murder of President Saddam Hussain's younger son, Qusay. Among them were Lieut. Col. Ibrahim Jassem and Capt. `Umar Abdul Razzaq. In April, a number of Republican Guard and Special Security Forces personnel were reportedly arrested following an alleged coup attempt. Some forty Republican Guard members were reportedly among those taken to Radhwaniyya prison, including Staff Lieut. Col. Hashem JassemMajid and Lieut. Col. Shawqi Shraishi. Further arrests and executions were reported in May of four officers belonging to the Special Security Forces, among them staff colonels Kadhim Jawad `Ali and `Ali Muhammad Salman.

Numerous executions of political prisoners as well as those convicted for criminal offences were apparently carried out as part of the government's "prison cleansing" campaign involving several prisons, including Abu Ghraib and Radhwaniyya. In March, the opposition Iraqi Communist Party's Center for Human Rights submitted to the U.N. special rapporteur on Iraq details on 223 executions that it said were carried out between October 12, 1999, and March 9, 2000. They included twenty-six political detainees executed on November 26, 1999, and a further twenty-six executed on January 27, all in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The majority were Shi'a Muslims from Basra, al-Samawa, al-Nasiriyya, al-Diwaniyya, al-Hilla, al-'Amara and Baghdad, some of whom had been held without judicial due process since 1991 on suspicion of having participated in the March 1991 uprising. The bodies of the victims were reportedly buried in mass graves near the prison.

Iraqi security forces continued to target suspected supporters of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a leading Shi'a cleric who was assassinated in al-Najaf in February 1999 together with his two sons. In March, scores of Shi'a Muslims who had fled Iraq earlier in the year and in 1999 told Human Rights Watch that they had been repeatedly interrogated and in some cases detained and tortured. Some of those detained were relatives of prominent clerics or of Ayatollah al-Sadr's students who had been arrested shortly after his assassination. Twenty-two of those arrested soon after his murder were tried by a special court attached to the Mudiriyyat al-Amn al-'Amma (General Security Directorate) in Baghdad on charges including carrying out armed attacks on military and Ba'th Party personnel, membership of a prohibited organization, and sheltering supporters of Ayatollah al-Sadr who were being sought by the authorities. On May 13, at least six, all students of religion in al-Najaf, were sentenced to death and their homes demolished. They included Shaikh Salim Jassem al-'Abbudi, Shaikh Nasser al-Saa'idi and Sa'ad al-Nuri. Other defendants received sentences of life imprisonment or lesser terms. By October 2000 it was not known whether the death sentences had been carried out. Some of their relatives were also arrested and tortured.

Iraqi intelligence agents targeted political opponents who had fled Iraq, threatening and intimidating them or arresting and torturing family members still in the country. On June 7, Staff Lieut. Gen. Najib al-Salihi, former chief of staff of the Iraqi army's Sixth Armoured Division who had fled to Jordan in 1995, received a videotape showing the rape of a female relative by intelligence personnel. The rape or threat of rape has long been used in Iraq as a punitive measure against opponents to extract confessions or information or to pressure them into desisting from anti-government activities. Shortly afterwards, Salihi received a telephone call from his brother in Baghdad, asking him to cease all opposition activity. Iraqi political exiles living in Europe and elsewhere consistently reported being threatened with the arrest or execution of their relatives if they did not return to Iraq or abandoned opposition activity, and asylum seekers in Jordan, Syria and other countries reported being under surveillance by Iraqi intelligence agents.

The government continued its forced expulsion of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk, Khaniqin, Makhmour, Sinjar, Tuz Khormatu, and other districts as part of its `Arabization' program. Those expelled included individuals who had refused to sign so-called "nationality correction" forms, introduced by the authorities prior to the 1997 population census, requiring members of ethnic groups residing in these districts to relinquish their Kurdish or Turkman identities and to register officially as Arabs. The Iraqi authorities also seized their property and assets; those who were expelled to areas controlled by Kurdish opposition forces were stripped of all possessions and their ration cards were withdrawn. A smaller number, mostly Turkmen, were forcibly expelled to central and southern Iraq, including al-Ramadi, and were allowed to take some of their possessions. In both cases, the Iraqi authorities frequently detained heads of households until the expulsions were complete. Over 800 people were reportedly expelled between January and June, bringing the total number of those expelled since 1991 to over 94,000, according to Kurdish opposition sources.

Press freedom and the right to information remained severely restricted. The government maintained tight control on all media outlets, including television, radio, and newspapers, most of which were state-owned. Satellite dishes and modems remained under ban, and the installation of facsimile machines continued to require special permission. Plans announced by the authorities in November 1999 to allow Iraqis to tune into selected satellite television channels through a paid service had not materialized by October 2000. Internet services, provided solely by the Ministry of Culture and Information, became available to Iraqis for the first time on July 27 when an Internet café opened in Baghdad. The authorities announced that additional centers would be opened in other cities in the future. Minister of Transport and Communications Ahmad Murtada Khalil reportedly said that customers could browse those Web sites that did not violate "the precepts of the Islamic religion" or offend "morals and ethics." However, users were reportedly banned access to unmonitored Web-based electronic mail systems.

On June 28, two staff members of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were shot dead in Baghdad and seven others wounded, reportedly by an Iraqi identified by the authorities as Fowad Hussain Haidar. He said he had carried out the attack in protest at the U.N.-imposed embargo.

The overall humanitarian situation in Iraq remained dire despite the expanded "oil-for-food" program. In his March 10 report to the Security Council on the operation of the program, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that "an excessive number of holds" continued to impede the relief program. These included holds on contracts in the water and sanitation and electric power sectors, which he stated were a major factor impeding progress in the area of public health. In his most recent report of September 8 to the Security Council, the Secretary-General noted some improvements in this area, but said that "infrastructural degradation" of the water and sanitation sector was being exacerbated by "the absence of key complementary items currently on hold and adequate maintenance, spare parts and staffing." As regards the electricity sector, the report stated that the "entire electricity grid is in a precarious state and is in imminent danger of collapsing altogether." The overall provision of health care and services was said to be in "steep decline." This assessment was supported by the findings of U.N. and other humanitarian agencies. In a report published in December 1999, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the sanctions have had a "devastating effect on the lives of civilians," and that while the "oil-for-food" program has alleviated their plight, "it has not halted the collapse of the health system and the deterioration of the water supplies, which together pose one of the gravest threats to the health and well-being of the civilian population." In a report published on September 13, the FAO said that while existing food rations, combined with market food purchases, have "halted further deterioration in the nutritional situation, they have not by themselves been able to reverse this trend." It concluded that acute malnutrition among children under five had decreased only slightly from the 12 percent recorded in 1995, and that at least 800,000 children under five were chronically malnourished.

Human Rights Developments in Iraqi Kurdistan

The two major Kurdish opposition groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, the KDP and the PUK, retained control over most areas in the three northern provinces of Arbil, Duhok and Sulaimaniya. Despite mediation efforts by U.S. government officials, little progress was made towards the implementation of the provisions of the 1998 Washington Accord. Both sides pledged to normalize relations but continued to maintain separate administrative, legislative and executive structures in areas under their control. On October 22, senior officials from the two parties agreed on a series of measures, including prisoner exchanges, the gradual return of internally displaced people to their homes, and arrangements for the organization of free movement of people and trade between their respective areas. Most of these measures were not implemented. In December 1999, the PUK announced that it would set up a separate court of cassation to serve areas it controlled, and on February 3 held municipal council elections. One prisoner exchange took place on March 6, the PUK releasing five KDP prisoners and the KDP releasing ten PUK prisoners. Both sides continued to grant regular access to their prisons to ICRC representatives who, as of April, were visiting an estimated 500 detainees held by both parties.

In March, the KDP broadcast on its television channel, Kurdistan TV, statements by five detainees in its custody who had apparently admitted to carrying out acts of sabotage in the Arbil region in previous months. The five were allegedly members of the opposition Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan (IUMK), whose leaders denied these allegations in a statement issued on March 15, saying that Iraqi government agents were likely to be responsible for these acts. They also said the five detainees had been denied judicial due process and their confessions extracted under torture, which KDP officials denied in an April 2 statement. Acts of sabotage continued, however, with two bomb blasts occurring in June in both Arbil and Sulaimaniya amid reports of the Iraqi government's deployment of additional troops to the northern region, apparently with the aim of launching armed attacks on Kurdish-controlled territory.

KDP security forces attacked the headquarters of the opposition Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) in Arbil on July 11, killing Abdullah Adil Hursit and Feridun Fazil Mehmet, both guards. The immediate reason for the attack was unclear, but relations between the two sides had deteriorated since an earlier incident in April, when several ITF members staged a sit-in at their headquarters in protest at what they stated was undue interference by the KDP in the Turkmen community's internal affairs. The KDP denied these charges.

PUK forces arrested members and supporters of the opposition Iraqi Workers Communist Party (IWCP) in July and August in an apparent attempt to pressure them into leaving PUK-controlled areas. Thirteen demonstrators protesting the cutting of water and electricity supplies to IWCP bases were arrested on July 13 outside the PUK's Ministry of Interior building in Sulaimaniya. Others were arrested in the ensuing days, including three IWCP leaders who were reportedly negotiating a settlement with PUK officials at the time. The premises of two organizations affiliated to the IWCP, the Centre for the Protection of Women in Kurdistan and the Independent Womens' Organization, were raided on July 21. Twelve women sheltering at the center, a shelter for abused women, were taken away and their whereabouts remained unknown. Most of the IWCP detainees were released by late September.

A number of people were killed and attempts made on the lives of others by unknown assailants in apparently politically motivated acts. Among them was Farhad Faraj, a political activist and founder of a trade union organization, the Union for the Unemployed in Kurdistan, who was killed outside his home in Sulaimaniya city on October 17, 1999. In another incident, Hawjin Mala Amin, a researcher at the anthropology department of Sulaimaniya University, was shot outside his home in the city on December 9, 1999. He survived and later stated that he may have been targeted because of his outspoken views on Islam. In a speech on December 23, 1999, PUK leader Jalal Talabani condemned the attack and stated that "perpetrators of terror" who were targeting writers and artists would be punished. On July 17, a parliamentarian in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Osman Hassan, was shot dead by a group of armed men near Arbil. He had represented the PUK prior to 1996, and had elected to remain in Arbil when PUK forces were ousted from the regional capital that year and withdrew to their strongholds in Sulaimaniya province. The KDP initiated an investigation into his death, but its outcome was not known by October 2000.

There were repeated military incursions by Turkey's armed forces into northern Iraq in pursuit of members of the opposition Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) of Turkey. Several thousand troops were deployed in September and November 1999, with the Turkish airforce targeting PKK positions in both KDP and PUK-controlled areas. Further incursions were carried out in April, May, and August 2000, resulting in one case in the killing of thirty-eight Iraqi Kurdish civilians. (See Turkey). In July, armed clashes broke out between PKK and KDP forces, lasting several days and reportedly resulting in forty casualties, most of them PKK fighters. In mid-September, fierce fighting broke out between PKK and PUK forces, which continued intermittently for over two weeks in several areas, including Qala Diza, Rania, and Zeli, with scores of casualties reported on both sides. The fighting ended on October 4 when the PKK declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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