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Mr. U. Rosenthal
Minister of Foreign Affairs
PO Box 20061
2500 EB Den Haag
The Netherlands

Dear Minister Rosenthal,

I am writing to you regarding the section in your December 2011 Netherlands Country Report on Iraq about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

While Human Rights Watch appreciates your government’s discussion of Iraqis identifying as LGBT in the report, we are concerned that the section downplays the severe challenges and risks faced by the LGBT community in Iraq.

Your report suggests that the most significant problems facing the LGBT community in Iraq are that “homosexuality is a social taboo” and that “people are generally disapproving of homosexuality.” The situation for the LGBT community is much more dire than what the report states.

Even though in a footnote the Dutch report refers to the 2009 Human Rights Watch report “They Want Us Exterminated”: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq, it does not address the alarming findings and conclusions of Human Rights Watch on the situation of LGBT people in Iraq. “They Want Us Exterminated” documents a pattern of torture and murder by Iraqi militias against men suspected of homosexual conduct or of not being "manly" enough, and of Iraqi authorities doing nothing to stop the killing. The report revealed a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009 in which, some people told Human Rights Watch, Iraqi security forces colluded and joined in the killing. 

Since the publication of the report, Human Rights Watch has had several research missions to Iraq and has continued to document abuses against vulnerable groups. With respect to the LGBT community, our research indicates that members continue to live in fear because of the atrocities committed as part of the 2009 campaign. The abuses have forced members of the community to go underground; many continue to fear for their lives.

The widespread acceptance of violence against members of the LGBT community in the whole of Iraq has allowed perpetrators to act with impunity. In order to preserve their honor, family members of those killed remain silent and investigations are avoided. We are currently in the process of investigating new cases of horrific abuse that came to our attention last week.

Given the continued persecution of members of the LGBT community, we recommend that the government of the Netherlands update its human rights reports to more accurately reflect the risks of violence and persecution that members of Iraq’s LGBT community face. Furthermore, we urge your government to ensure that it does not return LGBT Iraqi asylum seekers to Iraq who face a real risk of persecution on account of their sexual orientation or torture or inhuman and degrading treatment or other serious human rights abuses.


Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director
Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

Mr. G. Leers, Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum, the Netherlands

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