Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

11 March 2013

Iraq: Still paying a high price after a decade of abuses

Iraq: Still paying a high price after a decade of abuses
Civilians in Iraq are still targets of human rights abuses

Civilians in Iraq are still targets of human rights abuses

© AFP/Getty Images


Ten years after the end of Saddam Hussein’s repressive rule, many Iraqis today enjoy greater freedoms than they did under his Ba’athist regime, but the fundamental human rights gains that should have been achieved during the past decade have signally failed to materialize.
Source: 
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deput Director at Amnesty International.

Ten years after the US-led invasion that toppled the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains enmeshed in a grim cycle of human rights abuses, including attacks on civilians, torture of detainees and unfair trials, said Amnesty International in a new report out today.

A decade of abuses exposes a chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces and by foreign troops in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

It highlights the Iraqi authorities’ continuing failure to observe their obligations to uphold human rights and respect the rule of law in the face of persistent deadly attacks by armed groups, who show callous disregard for civilian life.

“Ten years after the end of Saddam Hussein’s repressive rule, many Iraqis today enjoy greater freedoms than they did under his Ba’athist regime, but the fundamental human rights gains that should have been achieved during the past decade have signally failed to materialize,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“Neither the Iraqi government nor the former occupying powers have adhered to the standards required of them under international law and the people of Iraq are still paying a heavy price for their failure.”

Torture is rife and committed with impunity by government security forces, particularly against detainees arrested under anti-terrorism while they are held incommunicado for interrogation.

Detainees have alleged that they were tortured to force them to “confess” to serious crimes or to incriminate others while held in these conditions. Many have repudiated their confessions at trial only to see the courts admit them as evidence of their guilt, without investigating their torture allegations, sentencing them to long term imprisonment or death.

Adding to the injustice, the authorities have paraded detainees before press conferences or arranged for their “confessions” to be broadcast on local television in advance of their trials or trial verdicts in gross breach of the presumption of innocence and of the right of every accused to receive a fair trial.

The death penalty was suspended after the 2003 invasion but quickly restored by the first Iraqi government on coming to power, and executions resumed in 2005.

Since then, at least 447 prisoners have been executed, including Saddam Hussein, some of his main associates, and alleged members of armed groups.

Hundreds of prisoners await execution on death row. Iraq, where 129 prisoners were hanged in 2012, is now one of the world’s leading executioners.

“Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale,” said Hadj Sahraoui, “It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture.

“It is high time that the Iraqi authorities end this appalling cycle of abuse and declare a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.”

Since December, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in areas where Sunni Muslims are in the majority, to protest against arbitrary detention, abuses of detainees, the use of the anti-terror law, and an end to what they see as government discrimination against the Sunni population.

Meanwhile, Sunni armed groups continue to attack not only government targets but Shi’a civilians, including religious pilgrims.

Although the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in north-east Iraq has remained largely free of the violence that has engulfed the rest of the country, its two ruling Kurdish political parties maintain a tight grip on power and incidents of detainee abuses have also been reported.

The removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003 should have been followed by a process of fundamental human rights reform but almost from day one the occupying forces began committing torture and other serious violations against prisoners, as the Abu Ghraib scandal involving US forces and the beating to death of Baha Mousa in the custody of British soldiers in Basra graphically demonstrated,” said Hadj Sahraoui.

In the UK and the USA, despite investigations into individual cases, there has been a failure to investigate systematically the widespread human rights violations committed by forces from those countries, and to hold those responsible to account at all levels. Iraqi victims of US human rights violations have found the route to remedy in the US courts blocked.

The Iraqi authorities have periodically acknowledged torture and other ill-treatment but they have generally sought to explain them away as isolated occurrences or, in a few high profile cases, have announced official inquiries whose outcomes, if any, subsequently were never revealed.

Yet, as Amnesty International’s report shows, torture and other abuse of detainees has been one of the most persistent and widespread features of Iraq’s human rights landscape, and the government shows little inclination either to recognize its extent or take the measures necessary to consign such grave abuses to the past.

Methods of torture reported by detainees include, electric shocks applied to the genitals and other parts of the body, partial suffocation by having a bag placed tightly over the head, beatings while suspended in contorted positions, deprivation of food, water and sleep, and threats of rape or that their female relatives will be detained and raped. Women detainees are particularly vulnerable and the report cites several cases in which women have alleged that they were sexually abused in detention.

“Iraq remains caught in a cycle of torture and impunity that should long ago have been broken,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “It is high time that the Iraqi authorities take the concrete steps needed to entrench a culture of human rights protection, and do so without further prevarication or delay.”

Country

Iraq 

Region

Middle East And North Africa 

Index card

Iraq: A decade of abuses

Download:


This document is also available in:

Arabic
Spanish

@amnestyonline on twitter

News

21 August 2014

Children accused of being members of armed groups in the conflict in Mali are languishing in adult jails while human rights abuses continue.

Read more »
15 August 2014

The number of killings perpetrated by the police is on the rise again in the Dominican Republic whilst legislation intended to fix the problem stalls and stagnates in Congress... Read more »

29 August 2014

The execution of two men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Read more »
29 August 2014

Russia’s official branding of a civil society organization as a “foreign agent”, an expression akin to “spying”, for speaking out on Ukraine is a sign of the country’s... Read more »

01 September 2014

The Israeli authorities’ outrageous plan to expropriate nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank is illegal and must be rescinded immediately, said Amnesty International.

Read more »