Head of state: Jalal Talabani
Head of government: Nuri al-Maliki
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 31.5 million
Life expectancy: 68.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 43/38 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 77.6 per cent
Armed groups opposed to the government carried out numerous suicide bomb and other attacks, killing hundreds of civilians. Militia groups also carried out targeted killings. Serious human rights violations were committed by Iraqi security forces and US troops: thousands of people were detained without charge or trial, including some held for several years, although many others were released. All prisons formerly controlled by US forces were transferred to Iraqi administration by mid-July together with all but some 200 detainees who remained in US custody in Iraq. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces were endemic; some detainees were tortured in secret prisons and several others died in custody in suspicious circumstances. The courts handed down death sentences after unfair trials and at least 1,300 prisoners were reported to be on death row. One execution was reported, although the real total was believed to be much higher. Around 3 million Iraqis were either internally displaced within Iraq or refugees abroad. Women continued to face discrimination and violence.
Parliamentary elections in March resulted in a stalemate until November, when a new government was agreed headed by the incumbent Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki. Armed groups opposed to the government stepped up suicide bomb and other attacks in the interim period, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians.
The USA withdrew its last combat troops from Iraq in mid-August, although around 50,000 US troops remained reportedly in a support and training role.
In July, US forces in Iraq (USF-I) completed their handover of detainees and prisons to the Iraqi government as required by the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the USA and Iraq. Several thousand detainees were transferred to Iraqi custody. Around 200 detainees, mostly leaders of armed groups and former senior members of the Ba'ath administration under Saddam Hussain, remained in USF-I detention, in a section of Camp Cropper (renamed al-Karkh Prison by the Iraqi government in July), apparently at the request of the Iraqi authorities. The SOFA contained no human rights safeguards despite the well-established record of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces.
Most Iraqis continued to live in poverty. Shortages of water and electricity supplies were chronic, and unemployment was above 50 per cent. The continuing high level of insecurity deterred foreign investment, and corruption in government institutions was rife. In July, a US official audit concluded that the Pentagon could not account for over 95 per cent of US$9.1 billion intended for Iraqi reconstruction that it had been given to manage.
In February, Iraq's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review.
In August, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1936, extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for another year.
In November, Iraq ratified the International Convention against enforced disappearance, although it entered reservations concerning individual claims.
Abuses by armed groups
Armed groups opposed to the government and the presence of US forces committed gross human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder. They carried out suicide bombings in public places and other large-scale indiscriminate attacks against civilians, and assassinated individuals. Many attacks were carried out by al-Qa'ida in Iraq, two of whose leaders were killed in April in a raid by US and Iraqi forces, and its allies among Sunni armed groups.
In October, it was reported that many former members of Awakening Councils, Sunni militia recruited to assist US forces fighting al-Qa'ida in Iraq, had gone over to al-Qa'ida under threat and out of disillusion with what they saw as their abandonment by the USF-I.