|The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date. This site is not updated so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. |
NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
Title: Iraq Human Rights Practices, 1995 Author: U.S. Department of State Date: March 1996 IRAQ* *The United States does not have diplomatic representation in Iraq. This report draws to a large extent on non-U.S. Government sources. Political power in Iraq is concentrated in a repressive one-party apparatus dominated by Saddam Hussein. The provisional Constitution of 1968 stipulates that the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party governs Iraq through the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which exercises both executive and legislative authority. President Saddam Hussein, who is also Prime Minister, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of the Regional Command of the ABSP, wields decisive power. A "referendum" was held on Saddam's presidency in October; Saddam received 99.96 of the vote for election to the presidency for a term of 7 years. This referendum was not democratic: it included neither secret ballots nor opposing candidates, and voters feared possible reprisal for a negative vote. Ethnically and linguistically, the Iraqi population includes Arabs, Kurds, Turcomans, Yazidis, and Armenians. Historically, the religious mix is likewise varied: Shi'a and Sunni Muslims (both Arab and Kurdish), Christians (including Chaldeans and Assyrians), and Jews (most of whom have emigrated). Ethnic divisions have resulted in civil uprisings in recent years, especially in the north and the south. The Government has reacted against those who revolt with extreme repression. The Government's security apparatus includes militias attached to the President, the Ba'ath Party, and the Interior Ministry. Security forces have been responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses. They play a central role in maintaining the environment of intimidation and fear on which government power rests. The Government controls most of the economy, which is largely based on oil production, and owns all major industries. Damaged by the Gulf War and subjected to United Nations sanctions as a result of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the economy continues to deteriorate. The sanctions ban all exports and allows imports only of food, medicine, and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs. The Government's failure to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions has led to repeated extensions of the sanctions. In April the Security Council passed U.N Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 986 allowing a controlled sale of Iraqi oil to purchase food and other humanitarian goods to improve the deteriorating situation of the Iraqi people. The Government has refused to allow implementation of this resolution which would provide substantial relief supplies, but a senior-level delegation from Baghdad held an inconclusive round of negotiations with the U.N. Secretariat in February 1996. A second round has been scheduled for March. The Government's poor record on human rights did not improve in 1995. Human rights abuses are difficult to document because of government efforts to conceal the facts, including its refusal to permit visits by human rights monitors or other observers and continued restrictions designed to prevent dissent. Nevertheless, it is clear that systemic violations increased as the regime expanded its use of torture and further tightened its control over all aspects of Iraqi politics and society. Throughout the year, the Government forcibly transferred hundreds of government workers from one job to another, purportedly to prevent the development of potential opposition in any government institutions. After a failed coup attempt in March and further disturbances in May and June, the Government arrested, removed from their jobs, or otherwise punished numerous Iraqis for their alleged association with these incidents. After Saddam's daughters and their husbands, Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel al-Majid, defected to Jordan in August, the Government reportedly arrested scores of mid-level military and civilian officials for their association with the defectors. The two men and their families returned to Iraq in February 1996 after receiving promises of amnesty. Shortly after entering Iraq, the two were separated from their families and were killed, allegedly in a gunfight with relatives. Opposition sources report that Saddam or his sons were involved in the executions. The number of summary executions of perceived political opponents reportedly increased, and reports of disappearances continued. Tens of thousands of political killings and disappearances remain unresolved from previous years. The authorities routinely use arbitrary arrest and detention. The judiciary is not independent; the President can override any court decision. The Government continues to deny citizens the right to due process and privacy and severely limits freedom of religion and workers' rights. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. The October "referendum" on Saddam's presidency was not free. It was dismissed by most international observers. Max van der Stoel, the Special Rapporteur for Iraq appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), cited the denial of a secret ballot and fear of reprisal for a negative vote. Freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association do not exist, except in the northern areas which enjoy the protection of an internationally enforced safehaven. Iraqi military operations continued to target Shi'a Arabs living in the southern marshes. In central and southern Iraq, the regime continued to divert humanitarian supplies to its security forces, the military, and other supporters. The Government maintained an internal embargo against Iraq's northern governorates, blocking the shipment of food, medicine, and other goods from government-controlled territory to the Kurdish- controlled areas. As socioeconomic conditions deteriorated, the regime punished persons accused of economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other charges with torture, including the extensive use of amputation. The Government persisted in its flagrant interference with the international community's provision of humanitarian assistance, in contravention of the conditions of UNSCR 688. It harassed and intimidated relief workers as well as U.N. security personnel throughout the country. Reliable reports indicate that the Government continues to offer rewards for killing international relief personnel. Northern Iraq was the scene of continued fighting between the two main Iraqi Kurd groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), in which both fighters and civilians were killed. Clashes with the Turkish terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), also resulted in the death of both fighters and civilians. Both Iraqi Kurdish groups and the PKK reportedly tortured civilians. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing The regime has a long record of executing perceived opponents. The U.N. Special Rapporteur, the international media, and other groups all reported an increased number of summary executions in 1995. In his February report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the Special Rapporteur stated that the Government's "aim of killing is a political one, with the objective of silencing dissent and suppressing opposition." As in previous years, there were numerous credible reports that the regime executed persons allegedly involved in plotting against Saddam, including high-ranking civilian, military, and tribal leaders, as well as members of his family and clan. One unconfirmed eyewitness report charged that 200 prisoners were executed in February at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Other executions occurred after several antiregime disturbances. The most serious incidents included an uprising in March led by former Gen. Wafiq al-Samarra'i; an uprising in May led by Gen. Turk Ismail Dulaimi and other members of the Dulaimi clan; and the August defections of Hussein and Saddam Kamel, Saddam's sons-in-law who held high-ranking government positions. An undetermined number of people are believed to have been executed extrajudicially after each of these events. This trend continued in early 1996, when Hussein and Saddam Kamel returned to Iraq from Jordan after reportedly receiving an amnesty. Several days after their return, the two were murdered, allegedly by relatives who claimed that they took action to punish the defectors for "treason." At least two other relatives who had not defected were killed during these attacks. While the details of the murders are unavailable, at least one opposition party asserted that Saddam Hussein and his son, Uday, were involved in inciting the killings. The Special Rapporteur noted continued reports of the frequent use of the death penalty for such offenses as "insulting" the President or the Ba'ath Party. In reports submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in September and November, the Special Rapporteur cited several government decrees stipulating the death penalty for certain political and civil offenses (see Section 1.e.). Numerous midlevel officials and local leaders who fled government-controlled areas cited the fear of extrajudicial killing as a reason for their flight. In his November report, the Special Rapporteur noted that some condemned convicts can buy their freedom by bribing the judge. Others have reported that in such cases the convict helps authorities find another person to be executed in the accused's place. The Special Rapporteur, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and other human rights groups reported that the Government executed several doctors who refused to perform amputations imposed on persons convicted of certain crimes, or who performed corrective surgery on such amputees (see Section 1.c.). Government forces have reportedly executed numerous Shi'a inhabitants of the south marshes, but there was no independent means to verify these reports (see Section 1.g.). Indications persist that the Government has offered "bounties" to anyone who assassinates United Nations or other international relief workers in northern Iraq. During the year, the regime continued to deny the widespread killings of Kurds in northern Iraq during the "Anfal" Campaign of 1988 (see Sections 1.b. and 1.g.). Both the Special Rapporteur and HRW have concluded that the Government's policies against the Kurds raise issues of crimes against humanity and violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention. There was no further information on the death of the prominent Shi'a oppositionist Taki Al-Khoei, who, along with three others, was killed in 1994 in a suspicious automobile crash in southern Iraq. Strong circumstantial evidence points to the Government's involvement. During the year, political killings and terrorist actions occurred in northern Iraq. Intra-Kurdish fighting erupted over the first half of the year between two Iraqi Kurdish groups, the PUK and the KDP. An undetermined number of fighters and civilians were killed in these attacks. Later in 1995, elements of the PKK, a Turkish Kurd terrorist group, increased their activity in northern Iraq and reportedly killed local residents in an effort to control a territorial base. These groups sometimes attacked civilians, foreign relief workers, and journalists. b. Disappearance The Special Rapporteur stated in November that he continues to receive reports on widespread disappearances, especially in southern Iraq. The Government has not replied to any of the more than 15,000 cases conveyed to it in 1994 and 1995 by the U.N. Working Group on Enforcement on Involuntary Disappearances. The United Nations has documented over 16,000 cases of disappeared persons. According to the Special Rapporteur, most of these cases occurred during the Anfal Campaign. He estimates that the total number of Kurds who disappeared during Anfal could reach the tens of thousands. HRW estimates the total at between 70,000 and 150,000, and Amnesty International (AI) at more than 100,000. The Special Rapporteur and several human rights groups continued to request that the Government provide information about the arrest in 1991 of the late Grand Ayatollah Abdul Qasim Al-Khoei and 108 of his associates. The Ayatollah died while under house arrest in Al-Najaf. Others arrested with him have not been accounted for, and the regime refuses to respond to queries regarding their status. The Government failed to return, or account for, a large number of Kuwaiti citizens and third-country nationals detained during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Regime officials, including military leaders known to have been among the last to see the disappeared during the occupation, have refused to respond to the hundreds of outstanding inquiries about the missing. The regime denies having any knowledge of them and claims that relevant records were lost in the aftermath of the Gulf War. In addition to the tens of thousands of reported disappearances, human rights groups report that the Government continues to hold thousands of other Iraqis in incommunicado detention. Several kidnapings took place during fighting among Kurdish factions in northern Iraq. In September supporters of the PKK took hostage several Iraqi and foreign relief workers at a Turkish Kurd refugee camp. All were eventually released unharmed. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The security services routinely torture detainees, even though the Government is a party to international conventions against torture and the Constitution prohibits the practice. In his November report, the Special Rapporteur noted the Government's systemic use of physical and psychological torture, especially in southern Iraq. According to former detainees, torture techniques include brandings, electric shocks administered to the genitals and other areas, beatings, burnings with hot irons, suspension from ceiling fans, dripping acid on the skin, rape, breaking of limbs, denial of food and water, and threats to rape or otherwise harm relatives. Tormentors kill many torture victims and mutilate their bodies before returning them to the victims' families. The regime continues to practice amputation of ears and hands, as well as branding, as punishment for crimes ranging from theft to military desertion. Eyewitnesses reported that the Government carried out second amputations and brandings on repeat offenders and on those who sought corrective surgery for earlier disfigurements. In some of these cases, the regime executed the offenders as well as the doctors who either performed corrective surgery or refused to carry out amputations. In his November report, the Special Rapporteur concluded that the amputations and brandings are "gross violations of human rights." Several government officials cited Islamic law (Shari'a) as a rationale for amputating the right hands of convicted thieves, but none commented on the punishments imposed on repeat offenders or the Government's disregard for rights protected under Islamic law. One senior official claimed that brandings were instituted in order to avoid confusing criminals with war veterans who had lost limbs in battle. The Special Rapporteur, human rights organizations, and opposition groups continue to receive numerous reports of women still suffering severe depression after they were raped while in custody. The security forces allegedly raped women captured during the Anfal Campaign and during the occupation of Kuwait. The Government has never acknowledged these reports of rape or conducted any investigation. Although the regime made a variety of pronouncements against rape and other violent crimes during the year, it took no action against regime activists who committed this abuse. Certain prisons are notorious for routine mistreatment of prisoners. Al-Rashidiya Prison, on the Tigris River north of Taji, reportedly has torture chambers. The Al-Shamma'iya Prison, located in east Baghdad, holds the mentally ill and is reportedly the site of both torture and disappearances. The Al-Radwaniyah Prison is a former prisoner-of-war facility near Baghdad and reportedly the site of torture as well as mass executions. This prison was the principal detention center for persons arrested following the civil uprisings of 1991, and returned to prominence in May as the site of executions following an uprising led by members of the Dulaimi clan (see Section 1.a.). Many persons taken into custody in connection with this and other civil uprisings have not been seen since. HRW and others estimate that the Al-Radwaniyah Prison holds more than 5,000 detainees, only a few of whom may have been released following a so-called "amnesty" announcement in July (see Section 1.d.). There were reports that Iraqi Kurdish groups tortured captured criminal suspects and political opponents. The PKK also reportedly tortured civilians captured in northern Iraq in the latter half of the year. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Although the Constitution and Legal Code explicitly prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the authorities routinely engage in these practices. In his September report, the Special Rapporteur stated that the existence of several repressive laws "quells freedom of thought, information, expression, association, and assembly through fear of arrest." The military and security services, rather than the ordinary police, carry out most cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. Government officials have linked ending these practices to the lifting of the international embargo. They maintain that the arrests are a temporary preventive measure and do not constitute human rights violations. In the aftermath of several security incidents, security forces reportedly arrested hundreds of persons perceived as security threats, mainly on the basis of an individual's personal association or family connection with opponents of the regime. Many of those arrested were reportedly killed while in custody (see Section 1.a.). According to international human rights groups, numerous foreigners arrested arbitrarily in previous years remain in detention. In March the regime arrested two Americans who unknowingly crossed the Iraqi border with Kuwait. The regime's efforts to link the fate of the two men to political issues failed, and the two were released in July. In July the Government issued two "amnesty" decrees: Decree No. 61, for certain convicted criminals, and Decree No. 64 for those convicted of political offenses. The Special Rapporteur noted that Decree No. 61 stipulates that criminals granted amnesty may be convicted again of the same crimes for which they were sentenced and that Decree No. 64 requires those granted amnesty to report to competent authorities in order to benefit. He also noted that because "there is no effective rule of law in Iraq, there will be little confidence in the reliability of amnesty decrees." Human rights groups concluded that the amnesties should not be considered legitimate. HRW observed that when some 3,000 residents of southern Iraq came forward for a similar amnesty in 1991, they were placed on trucks and subsequently disappeared. Further, two Iraqis who specifically were granted amnesties before returning from Jordan, where they had earlier defected, were murdered shortly after their return (see Section 1.a.). There was insufficient information to determine how many persons were released or accepted the amnesties. The Special Rapporteur and opposition sources reported that the regime continued to target the Shi'a Muslim clergy and their supporters for arbitrary arrest and other abuses. The Government reportedly forced some Shi'a of southern Iraq to move to northern areas near Kirkuk, purportedly to "Arabize" that historically Kurdish area. At the same time, the Government deported hundreds of Turcomans from their northern Iraqi homes, either to areas outside government control or to southern Iraq. It also refused to allow tens of thousands of Kurds and Turcomans to return to their homes in Kirkuk and Mosul. These forced movements amount to a policy of internal exile (see Section 2.d.). There were no reports that the Government forcibly exiled anyone from Iraq. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The judiciary is not independent, and there is no check on the President's power to override any court decision. The Special Rapporteur and international human rights groups all observed during the year that the repressive nature of the political and legal systems eviscerates any concept of rule of law. There are two parallel judicial systems: the regular courts, which try common criminal offenses; and special security courts, which generally try national security cases, but may also try criminal cases. Procedures in the regular courts theoretically provide for many protections. However, the regime often assigns to the security courts cases which, on their merits, would appear to fall under the jurisdiction of the regular courts. Trials in the regular courts are public, and defendants are entitled to counsel, at government expense in the case of indigents. Defense lawyers have the right to review the charges and evidence brought against their clients. There is no jury system; panels of three judges try cases. Defendants have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal and then to the Court of Cassation, the highest court. The Special Rapporteur noted in his November report that numerous laws lend themselves to continued oppression, such as the 1994 decree stipulating the death penalty for automobile theft, smuggling, various categories of theft, and solicitation for the purposes of prostitution. In 1995 the Government also announced the death penalty for possession of stolen goods and for the failure of agricultural workers to supply food for government distribution. The Government shields certain groups from prosecution for alleged crimes. A 1992 decree grants immunity from prosecution to members of the Ba'ath Party and the security forces who kill anyone while in pursuit of army deserters. Unconfirmed but widespread reports indicate that this decree was applied often in 1995 to prevent trials or punishment of such government officials as Uday Saddam Hussein, the President's son. A 1990 decree grants immunity to men who kill their mothers, daughters, and other female family members who have committed "immoral deeds." Special security courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving espionage and treason, peaceful political dissent, smuggling, currency exchange violations, and drug trafficking. According to the Special Rapporteur and other sources, military officers or civil servants with no legal training head these tribunals, which hear cases in secret. Authorities often hold defendants incommunicado and do not permit contact with lawyers. The courts admit confessions extracted by torture, which often serve as the basis for conviction. Many cases appear to end in summary execution, although defendants may appeal to the President for clemency. Saddam may grant clemency in any case that apparently suits his political goals, for example, the case of the two detained Americans and the purported amnesty for Iraqi exiles (see Section 1.d.). There are no Shari'a, or Islamic law, courts as such. Regular courts are empowered to administer Islamic law in cases involving personal status, such as divorce and inheritance. Because the Government rarely acknowledges arrests or imprisonments, it is difficult to estimate the number of political prisoners. Many of the tens of thousands of persons who have disappeared or been killed in recent years were originally held as political prisoners. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Government frequently disregards the constitutional right to privacy, particularly in cases allegedly involving national security. The law defines security offenses so broadly that authorities are virtually exempt from the legal requirement to obtain search warrants. In 1995 the authorities subjected Iraqis of various ethnic groups and tribal affiliations to searches without warrants (see Section 1.g.). The regime routinely ignores the constitutional provisions safeguarding the confidentiality of mail, telegraphic correspondence, and telephone conversations. The Government periodically jams news broadcasts, including those of opposition groups, from outside Iraq. The security services and the Ba'ath Party maintain pervasive networks of informers to deter dissident activity and instill fear in the public. Voters in the October "referendum" were required to name relatives on their ballots and, according to some opposition reports, threatened with punishment against their families if they voted against extending Saddam's rule. In his November report, the Special Rapporteur noted that because of the intrusiveness of the security apparatus "virtually no citizen would risk demonstrating any opposition to the Presidency or Government--or would do so at his mortal peril." g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts As in previous years, Iraqi armed forces conducted deliberate artillery attacks against Shi'a civilians in the southern marshes and against minority groups in northern Iraq. In 1992 the Gulf War allies imposed a "no-fly zone" over both northern and southern Iraq. The no-fly zones continue to deter aerial attacks on the marsh dwellers in southern Iraq and residents of northern Iraq, but they do not prevent artillery attacks in either area or the military's large-scale burning operations in the south. Throughout the year, the Government announced that it would undertake several water-diversion and other projects, which continued the process of large-scale environmental destruction. The Government claims the drainage is part of a land reclamation plan to increase the acreage of arable land, spur agricultural production, and reduce salt pollution in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. However, the evidence of large-scale human and ecological destruction appears to belie this claim. Credible reports confirm the ongoing destruction of the marshes. The army continued to construct canals, causeways, and earthen berms to divert water from the wetlands. Hundreds of square kilometers have been burned in military operations. Moreover, the regime's diversion of supplies in the south limited the population's access to food, medicine, drinking water, and transportation. The Government maintains an internal embargo against the three governorates in northern Iraq, populated primarily by Kurds and other ethnic minorities. The embargo prevents the entry of food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies to that area. Beginning in 1993, the embargo also included electric power cut-offs in specific areas, causing the disruption of water and sanitation systems, and interfering with the delivery of food and fuel. The United Nations and donor governments installed temporary generators to alleviate the crisis. In July the Government restored some electricity and allowed increased fuel trade with the northern governorate of Dohuk, but the fuel trade was again severely restricted with the onset of winter. The entire northern area remains subject to the threat of future cut-offs. Operation Provide Comfort--a multinational coalition made up of the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Turkey--continued enforcement of a "no fly zone" to inhibit government aerial activity to repress citizens in northern Iraq. However, government military forces continued intermittent, sometimes heavy shelling of northern villages by long- range artillery. The Government also maintained efforts to "Arabize" certain areas, such as the urban centers of Kirkuk and Mosul, through the forced movement of local residents from their homes and villages and their replacement by Arabs from outside the area (see Section 1.d.). Civilians were the victims of fighting between the forces of the two main Iraqi Kurd political groups, the KDP and the PUK, during the first half of 1995. A ceasefire during the second half of the year sharply reduced the number of civilian casualties and the use of torture on those detained or arrested. The PKK committed numerous abuses against civilians in northern Iraq in the latter half of the year. In September the PKK seized eight U.N. relief workers as hostages at the Atrush refugee camp. The camp, populated by some 14,000 Turkish Kurds, has been suspected as a base for PKK terrorist activities. The relief workers were released unharmed after 3 days. In March Turkish armed forces entered northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK terrorists and bases. Human rights organizations charged that the Turkish operation, which lasted 8 weeks, resulted in some civilian deaths. However, Turkish Government authorities stressed that the operation sought to avoid civilian casualties. There were several unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties during four smaller Turkish operations into northern Iraq during 1995. Land mines in northern Iraq, mostly planted by the Government before 1991, continued to kill or maim civilians. Many of the mines were laid during the Iran-Iraq War, but the army failed to clear them before it abandoned the area. The mines appear to have been haphazardly planted in civilian areas. The Special Rapporteur has repeatedly reminded the Government of its obligations under the Land Mines Protocol, to which Iraq is a party, to protect civilians from the effects of mines. Various nongovernmental organizations continue efforts to remove mines from the area and increase mine awareness among local residents. Based on interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, the U.S. Government has concluded that the Iraqi regime engaged in war crimes--willful killing, torture, rape, pillage, hostage-taking, unlawful deportation, and associated acts--directly related to the Gulf War. The U.S. Government continues to urge the U.N. Security Council to establish an international commission to study evidence of a broader range of war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity and possible genocide. Throughout the year, HRW worked with various governments to bring a genocide case at the International Court of Justice against the Government for its conduct of the Anfal Campaign against the Kurds in 1988. HRW reported that the case is based on the evidence obtained from mass graves, government documents, and interviews with eyewitnesses. HRW and Physicians for Human Rights estimate that between 70,000 and 100,000 Kurds were killed, and up to 4,000 villages destroyed, during the Anfal Campaign. The evidence suggests that government efforts to eliminate Kurdish communities were widespread, systematically planned, and ruthlessly implemented. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press Freedom of speech and of the press do not exist, and political dissent is not tolerated in areas under the Government's control. The Government and the Ba'ath Party own all print and broadcast media and operate them as propaganda outlets. They generally do not report opposing points of view that are expressed either domestically or abroad. The Government also jams foreign news broadcasts (see Section 1.f.). Several statutes and decrees suppress freedom of speech and the press. These include a 1986 decree stipulating the death penalty for anyone insulting the President or other high government officials; Section 214 of the Penal Code, which prohibits singing a song likely to cause civil strife; and the Press Act of 1968, which prohibits the writing of articles on 12 specific subjects, including those detrimental to the President. The Government arbitrarily detains writers who criticize or question government policies. In 1995 security forces detained Aziz Said Jasim, a political theorist, and Dhargham Hashim, a journalist who published an article on the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq. Foreigners are also subject to restrictions on freedom of the press. The Government refused to admit a returning Danish member of the U.N. Guard Contingent in Iraq, which protects international humanitarian workers throughout Iraq, for carrying a foreign newspaper with unfavorable coverage of Saddam. In northern Iraq, several newspapers have appeared over the past 3 years, as have opposition radio and television broadcasts. The absence of central authority permits some freedom of expression, although most journalists are influenced or controlled by various political organizations. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association Except in northern areas, citizens may not legally assemble or organize for any political purpose other than to express support for the regime. The Government regularly orchestrates crowds to demonstrate support for the regime and its policies through financial incentives for those who participate and threats of violence against those who do not. The Government controls the establishment of political parties, regulates their internal affairs, and monitors their activities. Several parties are specifically outlawed, and membership in them is a capital offense. A 1974 law prescribes the death penalty for anyone "infiltrating" the Ba'ath Party. Unconfirmed reports continued to circulate of small demonstrations and even confrontations between farm workers and the security forces. One unconfirmed incident occurred in November when some 200 farmers demonstrated in An-Najaf province near Baghdad to protest the requirement that they contribute most of their produce to government authorities for rationing. c. Freedom of Religion The Government severely limits freedom of religion. The Provisional Constitution of 1968 states that "Islam is the religion of the State." The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs monitors places of worship, appoints the clergy, and approves the publication of religious literature. Although Shi'a Muslim Arabs, who compose between 60 and 65 percent of the population, are the largest religious group, Sunni Arabs (composing only about 12 to 15 percent of the population) have traditionally dominated economic and political life. Despite legal guarantees of sectarian equality, the regime has in recent years repressed the Shi'a clergy and followers of the Shi'a faith. Security forces have wantonly desecrated Shi'a mosques and holy sites, particularly in the aftermath of the 1991 civil uprisings. Opposition sources charged that Saddam's late son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, committed many human rights violations in putting down the 1991 uprising in southern Iraq. The following government restrictions on religious rights remained in effect throughout 1995: a ban on the Muslim call to prayer in certain cities; a ban on the broadcast of Shi'a programs on government radio or television; a ban on the publication of Shi'a books, including prayer books; a ban on funeral processions; and the prohibition of certain processions and public meetings commemorating Shi'a holy days. Moreover, the Government also continued to insist that its own appointee replace the late Grand Ayatollah Abul Qasim Al-Khoei, formerly the highest ranking Iraqi Shi'a clergyman, who died in government custody in 1992 (see Section 1.b.). The Shi'a religious establishment refuses to accept the Government's choice. The Government also continued to harass and threaten members of the late Ayatollah Al-Khoei's family (see Sections 1.a. and 1.b.). The Special Rapporteur and others report that the Government has engaged in various abuses against the country's 350,000 Assyrian Christians. Most Assyrians traditionally live in the northern governorates, and the Government often has suspected them of "collaborating" with Kurds. Military forces destroyed numerous Assyrian churches during the Anfal Campaign and reportedly tortured and executed many Assyrians (see Section 4). According to HRW and Assyrian sources, the Government continues to harass and kill Assyrians throughout the country by forced relocations, terror, and artillery shelling. HRW also reported that a group of five Iraqi Jehovah Witnesses were held for more than 2 months without trial by government security forces. During their imprisonment, they were reportedly beaten, placed in severely overcrowded facilities, and denied adequate food. Although now out of prison, they still suffer periodic harassment, threats of imprisonment, and extortion. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The Government controls the movement within the country of citizens and foreigners. Persons who enter sensitive border areas and numerous designated security zones are subject to arrest (see Section 1.d.). Police checkpoints are common on major roads and highways. High-ranking officials and other key supporters of the regime were exempt from these restrictions, but some reports indicate that the Government removed most of these exceptions and tightened internal and border travel controls following the August defection of Hussein Kamel and his party. According to the Special Rapporteur, the regime's ability to secure a voter turnout of over 99 per cent in the October "referendum" demonstrated the regime's ability to control the movement of citizens in the country (see section 3). The Government requires citizens to obtain expensive exit visas for foreign travel. Citizens may not make more than two trips abroad annually. The Government reportedly prohibits some citizens from all international travel. Before traveling abroad, citizens are required to post collateral with the Government which is refundable only upon their return to Iraq. There are restrictions on the amount of currency that may be taken out of the country. Women are not permitted to travel outside Iraq alone; male relatives must escort them. Students abroad who refuse to return to Iraq are required to reimburse any of their expenses that were paid by the Government. Each student wishing to travel abroad must provide a guarantor. The guarantor and the student's parents may be liable if the student fails to return. Foreign spouses of citizens who have resided in Iraq for 5 years are required to apply for nationality. The requirement is 1 year of residence for the spouses of citizens employed in government offices. Many foreigners thus have been obliged to accept citizenship and are subject to official travel restrictions. The penalties for noncompliance include, but are not limited to, loss of the spouse's job, a substantial financial penalty, and repayment for any governmental educational expenses. The Government prevents many citizens who also hold citizenship in another country--especially the children of Iraqi fathers and foreign- born mothers--from visiting the country of their other nationality. The Government continued to pursue its discriminatory resettlement policies, including demolition of villages and forced relocation of Kurds, Turcomans, Assyrians, and other minorities. Human rights monitors reported that the Government continues to force Kurdish and Turcoman residents of Mosul and Kirkuk to move to other areas in the north or the south. According to the Special Rapporteur, security forces continue to relocate Shi'a inhabitants of the southern marshes to major southern cities. Many have been transferred to detention centers and prisons in central Iraq, primarily in Baghdad, or even to northern cities like Kirkuk as part of the Government's attempt to "Arabize" traditionally non-Arab areas. Large numbers of Shi'a refugees from southern Iraq fled to Iran due to military operations in southern Iraq. There is insufficient information to estimate the number of persons displaced by these operations, due to the lack of international monitors in the area. It is estimated that as of September more than 200,000 of the 250,000 former inhabitants of the marshes had been driven from the area since 1991 (see also Section 1.a.). In late 1995, the UNHCR estimated that approximately 12,000 refugees from the marshes were in refugee camps in Iran. Amar Appeal, a charitable organization operating several of the camps, placed the number at more than 35,000 refugees. According to the UNHCR, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees remain abroad--mainly in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, and Jordan. Apart from those suspected of sympathizing with Iran, most fled after the Government's suppression of the civil uprising of 1991; others are Kurds who fled the Anfal Campaign of 1988. Of the 1.5 million refugees who fled following the 1991 uprisings, the great majority, particularly Kurds, have repatriated themselves to northern Iraq, in areas where the allies have prohibited overflights by Iraqi aircraft. Several hundred thousand Kurds remain unsettled in northern Iraq because political circumstances do not permit them to return to their former homes in government-controlled territory. Northern Iraq is host to approximately 14,000 Turkish Kurds who have fled civil strife in southeastern Turkey. The UNHCR is treating these displaced persons as refugees until it reaches an official determination on their status. In late 1995, UNHCR successfully consolidated the Atrush Refugee Camp facilities to enhance protection and assistance for the refugees there. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Citizens do not have the right to change their government. The only free and open elections have been held in northern Iraq, and those only for local officials and institutions. Full political participation at the national level is confined to members of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, estimated at about 8 percent of the population. The political system is dominated by the Party, which governs through the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), headed by President Saddam Hussein. However, the RCC exercises both executive and legislative authority. It overshadows the National Assembly, which is completely subordinate to it and the executive branch. The President wields decisive power over all instruments of government. Almost all powerful officials are either members of his family or are family allies from his home town of Tikrit. Opposition political organizations are illegal and severely suppressed. Membership in certain political parties is punishable by death (see Section 2.b.). In 1991 the RCC adopted a law that theoretically authorized the creation of political parties other than the Ba'ath; in practice the law is used to prohibit parties that do not support Saddam Hussein and the current Government. New parties must be based in Baghdad and are prohibited from having any ethnic or religious character. The Government does not recognize the various political groupings and parties that have been formed by Shi'a Muslims, as well as Kurdish, Assyrian, Turcoman, and other Iraqi communities. These political groups continued to attract support notwithstanding their illegal status. In northern Iraq, all central government functions have been performed by local administrators, mainly Kurds, since the Government withdrew its military forces and civilian administrative personnel from the area after the 1991 uprising. A regional parliament and local government administrators were elected in 1992. This parliament last met in May 1995. Discussions among Kurdish and other northern Iraqi political groups continue on the reconvening of parliament, but the tensions between the PUK and KDP continue to prevent parliamentary activity. The Government's October 15 "referendum" on Saddam's presidency was not democratic. Citizens were given a choice of voting for or against an extension of Saddam Hussein's rule for 7 years. No other candidates or questions were included on the ballot, nor were there any political debates or campaigns. Voters were obligated to identify themselves on their ballots. Over 99 per cent of the electorate reportedly voted, and Saddam received 99.96 per cent approved the extension of his presidency. The Special Rapporteur and human rights groups noted that the denial of a secret ballot, as well as fears of reprisal for a negative vote, invalidated any claim that the referendum was democratic. The law provides for the election of women and minorities to the National Assembly, but they have only token representation. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights The Government does not permit the establishment of independent human rights organizations. It operates an official human rights group which routinely denies allegations of abuses. Citizens have established several human rights groups abroad and in northern areas not under government control. As in 1994, the Government did not allow the U.N. Special Rapporteur to visit Iraq, nor did it respond to his requests for information on several cases. The Government continued to defy various calls from U.N. bodies to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit the southern marshes and other regions. In 1995 the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, and the U.N. General Assembly all adopted resolutions condemning the Government's human rights violations. For the third consecutive year, the UNHRC called on the U.N. Secretary General to send human rights monitors to "help in the independent verification of reports on the human rights situation in Iraq." The U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopted a resolution reiterating the UNHRC request for the deployment of monitors. In December the U.N. General Assembly once again endorsed the request of the Human Rights Commission for monitors for Iraq. The Government has continued to defy these calls for the entry of monitors. Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur dispatched members of his staff--in June to Kuwait and in July to Lebanon--to interview victims of Iraqi human rights abuses. The Special Rapporteur has asserted the need for further resources to carry out his mandate, while recalling that appropriate action on major issues like the Anfal Campaign are beyond the scope of his potential resources (see Section 1.g.). Several major human rights organizations, including HRW, released new reports on Iraq during the year. Other reports were issued by the Iraq Foundation and the Amar Appeal. Opposition organizations such as the Iraqi National Congress and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq also issued reports. The Government continues to fail to accept U.N. Security Council Resolution 688, which insists that the Government afford immediate, unrestricted access by humanitarian workers to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq. Throughout 1995 the Government threatened, harassed, and assaulted employees of the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations working in Iraq (see Sections 1.g. and 2.a.). In April the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 986, providing another opportunity for the Government to sell oil in order to obtain food and other humanitarian goods for distribution to the Iraqi people under U.N. monitoring. The Government rejected that resolution as an infringement on its sovereignty. However, a senior-level delegation from Baghdad held an inconclusive round of negotiations with the U.N. Secretariat in February 1996. A second round has been scheduled for March. The Special Rapporteur noted in his November report that the Government failed to provide for the basic humanitarian needs of its civilian population, and that it is obligated to do so as a signatory to the United Nations Charter and the Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Women Familial violence against women occurs but little is known about its extent. Such abuse is customarily addressed within the tightly knit family structure. There is no public discussion of the subject, and the Government issues no statistics. Spousal violence constitutes grounds for divorce and criminal charges, but suits brought on these charges are believed to be rare. Other reports are impossible to obtain due to the Government's strict controls on freedoms of expression. The Special Rapporteur has commented on rape committed by the armed forces and security services (see Section 1.b.). He has noted that there is an unusually high percentage of women in the Kurdish areas, purportedly caused by the disappearances of tens of thousands of Kurdish men during the Anfal Campaign. The Special Rapporteur has reported that the widows, daughters, and mothers of the Anfal Campaign victims are economically dependent on their relatives or villages because they may not inherit the property or assets of their missing family members. Other reports suggest that economic destitution has forced many women into prostitution. Evidence concerning the Anfal Campaign indicates that the Government killed many women and children, including infants, by firing squads and in chemical attacks. The Government claims that it is committed to equality for women, who make up about 20 percent of the work force. It has enacted laws to protect women from exploitation in the workplace and from sexual harassment; to permit women to join the regular army, Popular Army, and police forces; to require education for girls; and to equalize women's rights in divorce, land ownership, taxation, suffrage, and election to the National Assembly. It is difficult to determine to what extent these protections are afforded in practice. Reports indicate, however, that the application of these laws has declined as Iraq's political and economic crisis persists. Women are not allowed to travel outside Iraq alone. Children No information is available on whether the Government has enacted specific legislation to promote the welfare of children. However, the Special Rapporteur and several human rights groups have collected a substantial body of evidence pointing to the Government's continuing disregard for the rights and welfare of children. The Government's failure to comply with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions has led to a continuation of economic sanctions. As a result, general economic and health conditions have deteriorated dramatically. Children have been particularly susceptible to the decline in the standard of living. Increases in child mortality and disease rates have been reported. The Special Rapporteur has observed that, under these circumstances, the Government has special obligations to ensure that the most vulnerable groups in the population have adequate food and health care. The Special Rapporteur stated in his November report that Iraq's refusal to implement U.N. Security Council Resolutions 706, 712, and 986, which would permit the sale of oil in order to finance the import of humanitarian goods, has had an adverse effect on vulnerable populations, including children. In November the Special Rapporteur reported eyewitness accounts that the children of senior members of the Baath Party were treated to a variety of favors in the educational system, including privileged entrance and advancement throughout the system. These reports confirm others from recent emigrants alleging systemic corruption that prevents fair advancement by deserving children whose parents do not have the requisite political ties. The Special Rapporteur also reported in November that "the obvious imbalance between military expenditure and resources allocated to the fields of health care and education clearly illustrate the priorities of the Government." The Special Rapporteur has repeatedly observed that the ongoing bombardment of civilian settlements in the southern marshes has resulted in the deaths of many innocent persons, including women, children, and the elderly. People with Disabilities No information is available on the Government's policy towards people with disabilities. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Iraq's cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity are not reflected in the country's political and economic structure. Various segments of the Sunni Arab community, which itself constitutes a small minority of the population, have effectively controlled the Government since independence in 1932. Shi'a Arabs, the overwhelming majority of the population, have long been economically, politically, and socially disadvantaged. Like the Sunni Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups in the north, the Shi'a Arabs of the south have been targeted for particular discrimination and abuse, ostensibly because of their opposition to the Government. The security forces reportedly were still encamped in the shrine to Imam Ali at Al-Najaf, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest sites, using it as an interrogation center. The former Shi'a theological school in Al-Najaf, which the Government closed following the 1991 uprising, continues to be used as a public market. Security forces continued to expel foreign Muslim clerics from Al-Najaf, under the pretext that the clerics' visas had expired. Kurds, who make up approximately 20 percent of the population, historically have suffered political and economic discrimination, despite the token presence of a small number of Kurds in the national Government (see Sections 1.a., 1.b., and 1.g.). Assyrians are an ethnic group as well as a Christian community (see Section 2.c.). They speak a distinct language--Syriac. Public instruction in Syriac, which was to have been allowed under a 1972 decree, has never been implemented. The Special Rapporteur reported continued discrimination against Assyrians throughout 1995. According to opposition reports, many Assyrian families were forced to leave Baghdad after they had fled to that city for safety following the regime's suppression of the northern uprising in 1991. Citizens considered to be of Iranian origin must carry special identification and are often precluded from desirable employment. Over the years, the Government has deported hundreds of thousands of citizens of Iranian origin (see Section 2.d.). Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association Although Iraq is a party to the 1919 Constitution of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which provides for the freedom of association, trade unions independent of government control do not exist. The Trade Union Organization Law of 1987 established the Iraqi General Federation of Trade Unions, a government-dominated trade union structure, as the sole legal trade federation. The General Federation is linked to the Ba'ath Party, which uses it to promote party principles and policies among union members. It is also affiliated with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions. Workers in private and mixed enterprises--but not public employees or workers in state enterprises--have the right to join local union committees. The committees are affiliated with individual trade unions, which in turn belong to the General Federation. The Labor Law of 1987 restricts the right to strike. No strike has been reported over the past two decades. According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the severe restrictions on the right to strike include penal sanctions. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The right to bargain collectively is not recognized. Salaries for public sector workers (the majority of the employed) are set by the Government. Wages in the much smaller private sector are set by employers or negotiated individually with workers. The Labor Code does not protect workers from antiunion discrimination, a failure that has been criticized repeatedly by the ILO's Committee of Experts. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Compulsory labor is theoretically prohibited by law. However, the Penal Code mandates prison sentences, including compulsory labor, for civil servants and employees of state enterprises accused of breaches of labor "discipline," including resigning from the job. According to the ILO, foreign workers in Iraq have been prevented from terminating their employment to return to their native countries because of government- imposed penal sanctions on persons who do so. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The employment of children under age 14 is prohibited except in small- scale family enterprises. Children reportedly increasingly are encouraged to work in order to support their families, given the country's harsh economic conditions. The law stipulates that employees between the ages of 14 and 18 work fewer hours per week than adults. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Theoretically, most workers in urban areas work a 6-day, 48-hour workweek. Hours for government employees are set by the head of each ministry. In practice, the rate of absenteeism has likely increased with the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions. Working hours for agricultural workers vary according to individual employer-employee agreements. Occupational safety programs are in effect in state-run enterprises. Inspectors theoretically inspect private establishments, but enforcement varies widely. (###)
[end of document]
to 1995 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.