Head of government Nuri al-Maliki
Death penalty retentionist
Population 30.7 million
Life expectancy 67.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 43/38 per 1,000
Adult literacy 74.1 per cent
Government forces and armed political groups continued to commit gross human rights abuses, although the overall level of violence was lower than in previous years. Thousands of civilians were killed or seriously injured in suicide and other bomb attacks by armed political groups. The government and the US-led Multinational Force (MNF) continued to hold thousands of uncharged detainees on security grounds, some after several years, but released thousands of others. Torture and other illtreatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, including prison guards, remained rife and were carried out with impunity. At least 1,100 prisoners were reported to be under sentence of death, many following unfair trials. The government disclosed no information about executions, but at least 120 were reported and it appeared that some were carried out in secret. At least 1.5 million people were still internally displaced within Iraq and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were refugees abroad. New human rights violations were reported in the semiautonomous Kurdistan region where conditions generally were much better than in the rest of Iraq.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the governments of Iraq and the USA took effect in January, leading US troops to withdraw from Iraqi towns by 30 June and start releasing or handing over detainees to Iraqi custody. The USA also transferred control of Baghdad's Green Zone to the Iraqi government.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition won control of 10 out of 14 governorates, including Baghdad, in provincial elections held in late January in all areas except Kirkuk and the three Kurdish provinces.
The Council of Representatives (parliament) was beset by divisions, agreeing a new election law only in November. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for March 2010.
Despite the country's oil wealth, millions of Iraqis faced deepening poverty amid high unemployment and widespread government corruption. A senior government official told the UN in October that 5.6 million Iraqis were living below the poverty line, said to be a 35 per cent increase compared with the period before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Abuses by armed groups
Armed political groups committed gross human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder. Suicide bombings and other attacks targeted public places, apparently aiming to inflict civilian casualties. Many attacks were mounted by al-Qa'ida in Iraq and by Sunni armed groups. Shi'a militia also committed abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder. The victims included members of ethnic and religious minorities, journalists, women, gay men and other civilians.