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Iraq: Violence continues to undermine human rights

Violence continues to undermine human rights in Iraq, UN mission says

The ongoing insurgency, terrorist attacks and revenge killings by armed groups in Iraq are increasingly targeting women, children and professionals, including academics, judges and their relatives, while military operations have also severely affected the enjoyment of human rights, resulting in civilian deaths, the United Nations Assistance Mission for the country (UNAMI) says in a report released today.

The Iraqi ministries, the judiciary, donor countries and the UN system have strongly supported rule-of-law efforts to set up an independent national human rights commission, but delays in forming a government have impeded urgent action, particularly in setting out regulations and accountability for the justice system, UNAMI says in its Human Rights Report covering the period from March through April.

On the insurgency, UNAMI says: “Especially after the 22 February bombing against the Al Askari shrine in Samarra, sectarian killings, intimidations and threats have become one of the most significant forms of human rights violation. As a result, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has increased considerably, affecting many communities and creating further tensions and socio-economic problems.”

It also notes that “Ongoing military operations, especially in western and central Iraq, have also severely affected the enjoyment of human rights and have resulted, at times, in the loss of life of civilians.”

The Medico-Legal Institute in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, issued 1,294 death certificates in March and 1,155 in April, the report says. Most of those deaths, which include only individuals who have not been identified or whose death is violent or suspect, died as a result of gunshot wounds.

Targeted assassinations continued against politicians, members of the public administration, including police, army and judges, other professionals and people perceived to be associated with the Multinational Forces (MNF), according to the report, with a resulting impact on the functioning of key institutions, such as the judiciary.

UNAMI says the recent spike in assassinations of politicians’ relatives is disturbing and cites three examples of politician’s siblings being targeted and killed last month.

In addition to the bombing of mosques, churches and shrines, “with the clear intent of fomenting sectarian animosity,” pilgrims going to the holy city of Karbala for the celebration of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in March were targeted, resulting in 15 deaths and 50 wounded in Baghdad, Mahmoudiya and other towns.

Despite an appeal from 49 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), no information has been received on the whereabouts of the head of the Iraqi Human Rights Society, Ahmed Al-Mosawi, since his kidnapping on 6 March, it says.

Other human rights defenders from the Prisoners of War Organization and the Association of Disabled Females were assassinated in front of their homes, UNAMI says.

Meanwhile, it says, “a new brand of violence has emerged, a mix of organized crime and sectarian killings, increasingly attacking businesses. Gunmen often wearing police uniforms have stormed numerous businesses since the beginning of March resulting in of workers being kidnapped or killed and money being stolen.”

The number of detainees has declined below the January-February figures, but is still high and a source of discontent in the country, UNAMI says, citing statistics from the Ministry of Human Rights, which reported that as of 30 April, there were a total of 28,700 detainees – 15,387 in the custody of the MNF; 7,727 held by the Ministry of Justice; 176 juveniles held by Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; 5,077 held by the Ministry of Interior and 333 by the Ministry of Defence.

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