Annual Report: Iraq 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Iraq 2011

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Most death sentences were passed by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq against defendants convicted of involvement in armed attacks. Trials consistently failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial; defendants frequently alleged that they had been forced to sign "confessions" under torture or other duress while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention and were unable to choose their own defence lawyers. Death sentences were also passed by the SICT.

  • 'Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of and former senior official under Saddam Hussain, was executed on 25 January. He had been sentenced to death four times, the last of which was on 17 January.

In December, Iraq was one of a minority of states that voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Kurdistan region of Iraq

The Kurdistan region remained largely unaffected by the political violence seen in other parts of Iraq. Human rights conditions continued generally to improve, although many abuses were reported.

In May, legislation was passed to create a human rights commission for the Kurdistan region. In June, the Kurdistan parliament extended the application of the 2006 anti-terrorism law for a further two years. In November a law restricting demonstrations was passed.

In November, on the occasion of the holy 'Eid al-Adhha festival, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued an amnesty under which 207 prisoners were said to have been released. Among those freed were a few people who had been serving prison terms for "honour crimes"; women's rights activists criticized these releases.

Attacks on opposition activists

Members and supporters of political opposition groups were threatened, harassed, attacked or arrested.

  • On 14 February, unidentified gunmen attacked the office of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) party in Sulaimaniya, but caused no casualties. Four days later, the KRG authorities detained several KIU members in Dohuk.
  • On 16 February, armed men reportedly linked to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the parties forming the KRG, violently disrupted a meeting of the opposition Goran Movement in Sulaimaniya; the authorities arrested 11 Goran Movement activists but took no action against those who broke up the meeting.

Freedom of expression

Several independent journalists were attacked.

  • On 4 May, Sardasht Osman, a student and journalist, was abducted in Erbil by unidentified armed men. Two days later, his body was found in Mosul, outside the area administered by the KRG. He was reported to have received anonymous threats because of articles criticizing senior Kurdish political leaders. However, a KRG-appointed investigative committee reported on 15 September that he had been killed by Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish Sunni armed group. The authorities said one of the alleged perpetrators had been arrested. Sardasht Osman's family rejected the investigative committee's findings.

Violence against women

Women continued to suffer discrimination and violence. Incidents of men killing female relatives were reported, and scores of women died reportedly as a result of self-inflicted burns. Female genital mutilation was reported to be widely practised. According to Kurdish official records, in the first half of 2010 at least 671 women suffered "serious domestic violence" and at least 63 women were sexually abused.