Annual Report: Iraq 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Iraq 2013

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Republic of Iraq

Head of state Jalal Talabani

Head of government Nuri al-Maliki

Thousands of people were detained; hundreds were sentenced to death or prison terms, many after unfair trials and on terrorism-related charges. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and were committed with impunity. Hundreds of prisoners were on death row. At least 129 people were executed, including at least three women. Armed groups opposed to the government continued to commit gross human rights abuses, killing hundreds of civilians in suicide and other bomb attacks. Harassment, intimidation and violence against journalists and media workers continued to be reported. Over 67,000 refugees from Syria sought safety in Iraq.


The political stalemate in parliament continued to stifle the legislative progress, preventing, among other things, the adoption of an amnesty law. Political tensions were exacerbated by the arrest of scores of people associated with Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who fled from Baghdad after he was accused of organizing death squads. In December 2011 Iraqi television broadcast “confessions” by detainees reported to have worked for him as bodyguards, who said they had been paid by the Vice-President to commit killings. The Vice-President evaded capture but was charged, tried and sentenced to death in his absence in September, together with his son-in-law, Ahmad Qahtan, in connection with the murder of a woman lawyer and government official. They received further death sentences in their absence in November and December following further trials.

Relations between the Baghdad authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) remained fraught due to differences over the distribution of oil revenues and the continuing dispute over internal boundaries.

Young people, particularly those seen locally as nonconformists, were subject to a campaign of intimidation after flyers and signs targeting them appeared in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya and Hay al-‘Amal in February. Those targeted included youths suspected of homosexual conduct and those seen as pursuing an alternative lifestyle because of their distinctive hairstyles, clothes or musical tastes.

In March, the League of Arab States held its summit meeting in Baghdad for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Prior to the meeting, the security forces carried out mass arrests in Baghdad, apparently as a “preventive” measure.

In April, parliament approved the establishment of an Independent High Commission for Human Rights.

In December, tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Iraqis began holding peaceful daily anti-government protests against the abuse of detainees. The unrest was triggered by the detention of several bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafi'e al-Issawi, a senior Sunni political leader, and by allegations of sexual and other abuse of women detainees. Parliamentary committees delegated to examine these allegations reached conflicting conclusions.

Abuses by armed groups

Armed groups opposed to the government continued to commit gross human rights abuses, including indiscriminate killings of civilians.