The report is based on a four-week fact-finding mission in April 2010 in which Human Rights Watch visited the cities of Baghdad, Basra, Tikrit, Najaf, Karbala, Amara, and Sulaimaniyya to examine the human rights situation seven years after the US-led invasion.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 178 Iraqis, including victims of human rights abuses as well as rights activists, representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), journalists, lawyers, political and religious leaders, and government and security officials about violence against women and minorities, the plight of persons with disabilities and internally displaced persons, freedom of expression, torture, detention conditions, and enforced disappearances. We chose these topics in consultation with Iraqi human rights and other NGO activists. We conducted interviews, mainly in Arabic via an Iraqi translator, both privately and in group settings, at the offices of NGOs, homes of victims, community centers, schools, detention and prison facilities, and religious sites. Iraqi NGOs assisted in identifying persons for us to interview.
In addition, Human Rights Watch interviewed five women in a prison, a detention center and a government-run shelter in Sulaimaniyya and Arbil in June 2010. Human Rights Watch also conducted follow-up telephone interviews and consulted official documents provided by victims and NGOs. We informed all persons interviewed of the purpose of the interview, its voluntary nature, and the ways in which the data would be collected and used. The names and other identifying information of most of our interlocutors have been withheld in the interests of their personal security.
The report also draws on meetings in Baghdad with then-Human Rights Minister Wijdan Michael Salim and other government officials in the Ministries of Human Rights and Defense that focused mainly on trafficking of and violence against women, torture, and government restrictions on media. Most of those meetings occurred during the last week of April after we returned to Baghdad from visiting the other cities. In November, Human Rights Watch sent a detailed letter with our findings and recommendations to the Prime Minister's Office and requested the government's response (see annex). The Prime Minister's Office acknowledged receipt of the letter on November 14, 2010, but as of January 15, 2011, it had not responded to the specific issues raised.