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 Eight Years of Abuses and Impunity

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الدولة : العراق
الجنس : انثى
عدد المساهمات : 408
تاريخ التسجيل : 05/04/2010
الابراج : السرطان
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مُساهمةموضوع: Eight Years of Abuses and Impunity    السبت 05 مارس 2011, 02:19

Eight Years of Abuses and Impunity

A leading human rights group released a report Monday documenting the proliferation of human rights abuses in Iraq since the United States invasion in 2003.

Among the most egregious cases, the 102-page report by Human Rights Watch identifies women, journalists, detainees, and marginalized groups, including internally displaced persons and religious minorities, as the most vulnerable populations in Iraq.

“Beyond the continuing violence and crimes associated with it, human rights abuses are commonplace,” the report found.

It said that in many instances the Iraqi government has failed to pursue “independent and impartial” investigations.“At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the U.S.-Led Invasion” is based on 178 interviews with individuals from a variety of stations in Iraqi society in seven cities across the country dating back to April 2010.

The Iraqi government is a party to a number of international treaties that clearly define the role of governments in preventing human rights abuses, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention Against Torture. However, the report found that it has often failed to enact and enforce commensurate legal and penal codes.

A large portion of the HRW report focuses on the rights of women and girls. “The biggest victims in Iraq,” says one female rights activist interviewed in Baghdad in 2010, “are young women.”Before the 1991 Gulf War, the rights of women in Iraq were “relatively better protected than other countries in the region,” thanks to a series of legal reforms promulgated by the Ba’ath Party, “specifically aimed at improving the status of women in both the public and private spheres,” the report states.

But as Saddam Hussein began to embrace “Islamic and tribal traditions as a political tool to consolidate his waning power,” the status of women’s rights in Iraq witnessed a dramatic decline. This was only compounded by decades of war, international sanctions, and occupation that negatively affected women and girls’ rights disproportionally.

Forced marriages and prostitution and domestic and sexual abuse are frequent occurrences in Iraq, according to the report.In one case HRW investigated, a 14-year-old Baghdadi was kidnapped in 2010, drugged, taken to a residence that held other Arab and Kurdish girls, and was forced to “sleep with one or two men daily” – a story familiar to many victims of forced prostitution in Iraq.

The report found that because “victims of sexual violence and trafficking have well-grounded fears of reprisals, social ostracism, rejection, or physical violence from their families, and a lack of confidence that authorities have the will or capacity to provide the support or protection required,” many cases go completely unnoticed by the Iraqi government. Even those cases that are referred to authorities are met with investigative reluctance.

Western and Iraqi governments’ seemingly ambivalent response to the myriad human rights abuses include cases in which Iraqi journalists have been threatened or victims of illegal detention have been tortured. Several months of parliamentary gridlock in Iraq beginning in March 2010 caused pending human rights legislation to go unattended.

The HRW report also addresses the disproportionate number of religious minorities and other “marginalized communities” that have been forced from their homes and villages due to lack of security and religious extremism.

Millions of internally displaced Iraqis now face an increasingly precarious situation in what has become a full-fledged humanitarian crisis since the 2003 invasion. While security concerns have limited international humanitarian workers’ access to Iraqi populations most in need, Iraq’s government assistance to local NGOs, better suited to address the humanitarian issues, has been lacking.

Several Washington-based advocacy groups, including Refugees International, have called on the United States to increase pressure on the Iraqi government to “meet its responsibilities to its own people.”

Much of this stems from the challenges intrinsic to post-war reconstruction in Iraq, necessitating a continued effort by the international community to alleviate the more serious humanitarian issues. But with budget cuts dominating the political atmosphere in Washington, even United States aid once considered to be critical to Iraq for sustained improvements has come into question.

A Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives budget proposal for fiscal year 2011 takes aim at U.S. foreign aid as a primary budget-slashing target, which would include funds appropriated for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account – the account from which the U.S. government provides internally displaced Iraqis with many of the most basic of necessities.

In a report released last week, Refugees International emphasized the impact modest sums of U.S. foreign aid has on internally displaced populations in Iraq and argues that foreign aid for Iraq should remain at fiscal year 2010 levels. The Republican budget proposal would cut the Migration and Refugee account by 40 percent.

According to the report, without sufficient levels of foreign aid, programs such as the Diyala Initiative, which “helped religious minorities and other Iraqis safely return to their villages where there was extreme violence and destruction,” would likely falter.

The HRW report urges the governments of the United States and Britain to continue pressing the Iraqi government to reform its judicial system and legal code, “provide financial and technical assistance to civil society organizations” within Iraq, make alternative “refugee resettlement places available,” “ensure that no one at risk of torture … is transferred into Iraqi custody,” and “investigate and prosecute crimes” committed by U.S. and UK forces.

Inter Press Services

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Iraq abuses worsening

Human rights abuses remain common across Iraq with the status of women and minority groups on the decline, eight years after the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein, according to a rights watchdog.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also said in a report released late Monday that journalists face harassment and assault from security forces and politicians, and detainees are regularly abused to coerce confessions.

"Today, Iraq is at a crossroads -- either it embraces due process and human rights or it risks reverting to a police state," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based group.

"Eight years after the US invasion, life in Iraq is actually getting worse for women and minorities, while journalists and detainees face significant rights violations."In its report, HRW said Iraqis' rights were "violated with impunity" and anyone who attempted to expose abuse, either by officials or armed groups, did so at significant risk to themselves.

In particular, the group said women's rights had deteriorated significantly, noting that women in Iraq had enjoyed some of the strongest safeguards in the Middle East previous to the 1991 Gulf War.

The report said militias have increasingly targeted women for assassination, while violence against women at home has also been on the rise. According to HRW, women who seek official recourse risk further harassment and abuse.

Sex trafficking is also widespread, it added.

Marginalised minority groups, meanwhile, were in "dire straits," the report said, because Iraq was "failing some of its most vulnerable citizens, such as internally displaced persons, minorities and persons with disabilities."

HRW also said that "Iraqi interrogators routinely abuse detainees, regardless of sect, usually in order to coerce confessions" and called for "independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment" resulting in disciplinary action or criminal prosecution.

It said the prolonged period of political impasse after a parliamentary election in March, before Iraq's politicians finally reached agreement nine months later to form a government, had also "stunted progress" on human rights.

"Beyond the continuing violence and crimes associated with it, human rights abuses are commonplace," the report said.HRW interviewed 178 Iraqis from various professions and backgrounds, including those who had themselves suffered abuses, in seven cities around the country in April 2010 for the report.


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Iraq MPs pull back from pay cuts

Iraqi MPs decided against slashing their salaries and those of ministers on Sunday, opting instead for smaller cuts in a vote in parliament despite government calls for dramatic decreases.

Sunday's pay cuts will result in annual savings of at least $4.9 million (3.58 million euros), compared to $19 million in yearly savings that would have resulted had a proposal submitted by the cabinet been approved.

Salaries of ministers and lawmakers, currently set at $11,000 (8,000 euros) per month, will decline by 10 percent as part of cost-cutting measures that also include the cancellation of expense accounts for Iraq's president and parliament speaker and their deputies, each of which was greater than $1 million a year.

"They are selfish -- the government submitted its proposal for bigger cuts, but MPs refused," said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.Cabinet secretary general Ali al-Alaak told AFP on Wednesday that the government wanted to slash pay for ministers and MPs by nearly 40 percent.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani have both said previously that they wished to halve their salaries. The government official said Maliki intended to stick to his pledge, but it was unclear if Talabani would do so as well.

The vote comes amid nationwide protests against widespread corruption, poor basic services and high levels of unemployment, and after a popular MP in Maliki's bloc resigned after describing parliament as an institution "hamstrung by quotas and cronyism."

Copyright © 2011

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Ahead of ‘Day of Rage’

It is a date being discussed in Iraq’s tea shops, on television and in the streets with varying shades of hope, fear and cynicism.

On Friday, thousands of Iraqis are planning to take to the streets for their own “day of rage,” hoping to harness the popular anger that has swept through much of the Middle East but has failed to gain much traction here.

For all the faults of Iraq’s young democracy, the government here affords people more rights than places like Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. After all, about 60 percent of Iraqi voters participated in nationwide elections last March that were widely deemed free and fair, even if they were the start of an agonizing political deadlock that left Iraq adrift for nine months.

So far Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has publicly supported the rights of protesters, though he has warned them against violence. Senior Shiite clerics have made similar endorsements.

Although many Iraqis fault Mr. Maliki for failing to stop violence or deliver crucial services, most protests are more broadly focused, calling on the government to provide better electricity and more jobs, or for local officials, whom protesters contend are corrupt, to step down. Several demonstrations have advocated for more rights for widows and orphans.

More often than not, there has been talk in the street of huge protests, but only a few hundred people have shown up.Still, some protests have been met with violence. At least five demonstrators have been killed in clashes with public and private security forces, and scores more have been injured or arrested.

On Sunday night in Baghdad, for example, dozens of men in civilian clothes, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked 18 protesters who had set up chairs and a tent in the city’s fortuitously named Tahrir Square, promising to camp out until Friday’s demonstrations. Several protesters were badly beaten or stabbed, none of them fatally.

“They beat me indescribably,” said Ali Nama Hamidi. “I could not defend myself, I could not go to the hospital. I fell on the ground unconscious.”Iraq, he said, had become a “killer’s democracy.”Over the past few weeks the demonstrations have flared like geysers, erupting in the southern oil town of Basra one day, then the heavily Sunni city of Ramadi the next; in the poor Shiite city of Kut, then the fairly prosperous Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.

Protesters have set forth a patchwork quilt of demands. Fire the provincial leadership in Basra. Get rid of the governor of the heavily Shiite Wasit Province. Give the oil workers in the northern oil fields better working conditions. Halt a crackdown against Baghdad’s liquor shops and intellectual haunts. Cleanse the central government of corruption.

A demonstration in Baghdad several days ago encapsulated the potential and limitations of public protests in Iraq.It began among the dusty bookstores and cafes of Mutanabbi Street, the old city’s cultural heartland, and then flowed through the streets to Tahrir Square.

There, people denounced the political elite as thieves and charlatans who had offered empty promises to restore electricity service and provide jobs. They complained about the shortage of publicly funded food rations. Some held grisly photographs of dead relatives. Three women in black abayas told their story in a sing-song of shouts and cries, describing how their husbands had disappeared into Iraq’s labyrinthine detention system. Their children sat at their feet. Chants broke out: “Yes, yes to Iraq” and “No, no to corruption.”

“This is the beginning,” said Abbas Naim al-Maliki.“This is just the wind,” said Jalal Hussein. “The storm will come.”

And then the group of demonstrators, about 300 strong, set off across the Tigris River and stopped at one of the gates to the Green Zone. Beyond the cordon of blast walls and razor wire lay Iraq’s Parliament, the offices of government ministries and old Saddam-era palaces that had been given over to new politicians. The demonstrators, their ranks gradually diminishing as people wandered off, did not try to push their way inside.

New York Times.
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Eight Years of Abuses and Impunity
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