Annual Report: Iraq 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Iraq 2010

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  • Safa 'Abd al-Amir al-Khafaji, the head teacher of a girls' school in Baghdad's al-Ghadir district, was shot and seriously wounded by unidentified gunmen on 12 November 2009, soon after she announced that she would contest the elections as a candidate for the Iraqi Communist Party.

Refugees and internally displaced people

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries, and up to 1.5 million others were internally displaced inside Iraq, although around 200,000 were reported to have returned to their homes in 2009, many because they perceived that the security situation had improved. However, they faced great challenges: many found that their homes had been destroyed or taken over by other people and had difficulty obtaining adequate food, water and energy supplies.

Camp Ashraf

Following months of rising tension, Iraqi security forces forcibly entered and took control of Camp Ashraf in Diyala Governorate on 28 and 29 July. The camp, which houses some 3,400 members or supporters of the People's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran, an Iranian opposition group, had been under US military control since 2003 prior to the SOFA. Video footage showed Iraqi security forces deliberately driving military vehicles into crowds of protesting camp residents. The security forces also used live ammunition, apparently killing at least nine camp residents, and detained 36 others who they tortured. The 36 were taken to al-Khalis police station in Diyala, where they mounted a hunger strike, and were then moved to Baghdad despite repeated judicial orders for their release. They were freed and allowed to return to Camp Ashraf in October after an international campaign. However, the government was reported to be insisting that the camp residents move to another location in southern Iraq, despite fears that they would be less safe there, and to have set 15 December as the date by which they should move or be relocated by force. By the end of the year, camp residents had still not moved.

Kurdistan region

Presidential and parliamentary elections for the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were held on 25 July. Masoud Barzani was re-elected as KRG President. The Kurdistan List, which includes the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), retained an overall majority in the Kurdistan parliament. The main opposition Change List won 25 of the 111 seats.

In April, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told visiting Amnesty International delegates that he had personally instructed the Asayish, the security police, and other law enforcement bodies to comply with human rights safeguards recommended by the organization and was taking steps to make the Asayish fully accountable. He detailed measures being taken to combat so-called honour crimes and other violence against women. Despite this and the continuing improvement in human rights in the KRG, cases of arbitrary arrest and detention were reported, as were allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, notably by the Parastin and Zanyari, respectively the security arms of the KDP and the PUK. Activists in the Change List Movement and independent journalists were subject to threats, intimidation and, in some cases, violence for criticizing the KRG or senior officials.

Arbitrary detention

At least nine detainees arrested previously continued to be held without charge or trial.

  • Walid Yunis Ahmed, a member of the Turkoman minority arrested in February 2000, spent his ninth year in detention without trial. He is reported to have been tortured after arrest, and in 2009 was held in solitary confinement in prison in Erbil.

Media freedom

Despite the introduction of a more liberal press law in 2008, journalists working for the independent media were harassed with what appeared to be politically motivated criminal lawsuits. Some were physically assaulted by men in plain clothes believed to be connected to the Parastin and Zanyari.