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Iraq Transition: Protection of human rights vital

Iraq: Protection of human rights vital during transition

Despite today's handover of power in Iraq, two days ahead of schedule, many serious human rights issues have yet to be resolved. In particular, clarity is urgently needed on the likely fate of the thousands of prisoners and detainees currently held in Iraq as well as the role, responsibility and accountability of the multinational force, Amnesty International said.

In a report published today, Iraq: Human rights protection and promotion vital in the transitional period, Amnesty International urges all actors on the ground in Iraq to pronounce themselves clearly in relation to respect of international law.

"It is vital that clear lines of accountability and responsibility be established for all those who continue in detention. This is essential in light of the scandalous treatment of detainees held at Abu Ghraib and the failure of both the US and UK forces operating in Iraq to meet their obligations under the Geneva Conventions to protect detainees and internees from torture and ill-treatment." Amnesty International said.

"Transparency in respect of all those held by the occupying powers, after the handover is critical -- all those held must be fully accounted for. There must be no more 'ghost detainees'," Amnesty International said.

Amnesty international has still received no reply to the open letter it wrote on 9 June to the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, John Negroponte, expressing serious concern that UN resolution 1546 fails to clarify what would happen to the thousands of prisoners held by the occupying powers.

The USA has announced that it intends to continue to hold, without charge, between 4,000 and 5,000 detainees without clarifying on what legal basis it will do so. Yet if, as the UN resolution proclaims, occupation effectively ends with the handover, then international humanitarian law requires that all prisoners of war, detainees and internees must be released by the Occupying Powers.

Any further detentions by the US and other members of the multinational force after the handover would be unlawful. They may only be re-arrested by the Iraqi authorities if there are grounds under Iraqi law, consistent with international standards, to detain them.

The post-handover period is a crucial one for the future of Iraq in regard to respect and promotion of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International calls on the new Iraqi government to invite UN human rights experts to visit Iraq, including the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the chair of the Working Group on arbitrary detentions, and the Special Rapporteur on torture, who in a joint statement on 25 June announced their intention to visit Iraq. Amnesty International called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council to do their utmost to enable that visit to take place as early as possible.

Armed groups have shown their contempt for international humanitarian law by stepping up indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including women and children.

In today's report, Amnesty International sets out a series of recommendations to the United Nations, the Interim Government of Iraq (IGI), the Multinational Force (MNF) and armed groups in Iraq. Among the recommendations are the following:

- The UN should establish an independent commission of legal experts to review Iraq's justice system with the aim of bringing Iraqi law into line with international human rights standards.
- Human rights monitors should also be deployed to supervise all places of detention and make public their recommendations to the detaining authorities.
- The Interim Government of Iraq must make it clear that it will not tolerate violations of human rights irrespective of who is implicated.
- An independent and impartial commission should be set up to vet any militia members wishing to join the army and police forces and proper human rights training should be established for all involved in law enforcement.
- The rights of women must be guaranteed with effective measures to combat torture, rape, domestic violence and murder as well as a complete review of discriminatory laws and practices.
- The US-led Multinational Force must end the practice of "ghost" detainees and immediately provide full, up-to-date details of all persons currently in custody as well as clarify their legal status.
- Any alleged abuses of detainees must be promptly and independently investigated, those responsible brought to justice and the victims be given reparation.
- Both the IGI and the MNF must ensure unhindered access to all detainees by international bodies, lawyers, families and human rights organisations.
- All armed groups in Iraq must respect minimum standards of international humanitarian law and, in particular, stop the hostage-taking, torture and killing of civilians.

"The Interim Government of Iraq, the Multinational Force and all other actors on the ground in Iraq must ensure respect of human rights and humanitarian law. They must demonstrate that human rights violations are not tolerated whoever is responsible for committing them." Amnesty International said.

For a copy of the report Iraq: Human rights protection and promotion vital in the transitional period go to:

Iraq Crisis home page

View all documents on Iraq

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