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Human rights in post-invasion Iraq

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Human rights in post-invasion Iraq have been the subject of concerns and controversies since the 2003 invasion. Concerns have been expressed about conduct by insurgents, the U.S.-led coalition forces and the Iraqi government. The U.S. is investigating several allegations of violations of international and internal standards of conduct in isolated incidents by its own forces and contractors. The UK is also conducting investigations of alleged human rights abuses by its forces. War crime tribunals and criminal prosecution of the numerous crimes by insurgents are likely years away.


Human rights abuses by insurgents

Abuses of Human Rights conducted by, or alleged to have been conducted by, Iraq-based insurgents and/or terrorists include:

August 2003

  • Bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 which killed the top U.N. representative in Iraq, 55-year-old Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian, who was also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.[1] 22 UN staff members were killed and more than 100 injured in the explosion. The dead also included Nadia Younes, former Executive Director at World Health Organization in charge of External Relations and Governing Bodies. The terrorist attack was condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and denounced by the UN security council.[2]

June 2004

South Korean translator Kim Sun-il beheaded by followers of al-Zarqawi.[3]

July 2004

Tawhid and Jihad behead Bulgarian truck drivers Ivaylo Kepov and Georgi Lazov. Al-Jazeera broadcast the videotape containing the killing, but said the portion with the actual killing was too graphic to broadcast.[4]

December 2004

Italian photographer, 52 year old Salvatore Santoro, beheaded in a video. Islamic Movement of Iraqi Mujahedeen claimed responsibility.[5]

February 2005

Al-Iraqiya TV (Iraq) aired transcripts of confessions by Syrian intelligence officer Anas Ahmad Al-Issa and Iraqi terrorist Shihab Al-Sab'awi concerning their booby-trap operations, explosions, kidnappings, assassinations, and details of beheading training in Syria.[6]

July 2005

Egyptian and Algerian envoys.

  • Two Algerian Diplomats were reported to have been killed by Al-Qaida in Iraq. Al-Qaeda in Iraq issued an Internet statement saying it killed two kidnapped Algerian diplomats, Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi. “The court of al-Qaeda in Iraq has decided to carry out God’s verdict against the two diplomats from the apostate Algerian government ... and ordered to kill them,” said the statement, which was signed by Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the al-Qaeda spokesman.[7]
  • Egyptian Diplomat by Al-Quaida was reported to have been killed. Al-Qaida in Iraq posted on a web forum a statement that it killed Egyptian diplomat al-Sherif. Top Sunni cleric Mohamed Sayed Tantawi condemned the killing as a "crime against religion, morality and humanity and a crime that goes against honour and chivalry".[8]

February 2006

The Al Askari Mosque bombing occurred on February 22, 2006 at approximately 6:55am local time (0355 UTC) at the Al Askari Mosque — one of the holiest sites in Shi'a Islam — in the Iraqi city of Samarra, some 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Although no injuries occurred in the blast, the bombing resulted in violence over the following days. Over 100 dead bodies with bullet holes were found on February 23, and at least 165[9] people are thought to have been killed.

June 2006

Insurgents" killed over 12,000 Iraqis over the period of January 2005 - June 2006, according to Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, giving the first official count for the largest category of victims of bombings, ambushes and other increasingly deadly attacks.[10]

  • According to the Iraqi Defense Ministry, Private First Class Thomas Tucker and Private First Class Kristian Menchaca were reportedly "killed in a barbaric way," "slaughtered," and tortured to death, and their bodies were so mutilated that DNA tests are being performed to help identify their remains. The alleged group has said it was a revenge for the rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl and her family in Mahmoudiya by the soldiers of the same brigade.[11]
  • Video of the killing of four Russian diplomats kidnapped in Iraq appear on the Internet. A group called the Mujahideen Shura Council released the hostage video.[12]

Writers Without Borders Organization, AlSharqya TV, warned Iraqi leaders to sectarian violence. Reports released by the orgaisation indicated that the sectarian violence is fueled by politicians, MP's and government officials.

July 2006

Anba' Al Iraq News agency, Writers without Borders Organisation condemn the imprisonment of its staff member, Mr. Husain E. Khadir who was in charge of covering documentaries about the type of threats Kurdistan Federal region imposes to its Neighboring countries. Delegation of Human Rights Watch (HRW) released reports about torture in Iraq and repression of human rights and freedom of expression. HRW interviewed several detaineed writers and journalists to document such violation.[17][18] Mr. Khadir was detained in Karkuk then moved to Arbil where Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited him in one of the detention places. Last year in Baghdad, the same writer suffered even worse when he escaped from Shiia militia who seized his house and thrown his family in the streets which considered as serious threat directed against his life. The move is widely exercised in Iraq in a retaliation against human rights activists, journalists and writers who express critics to the Iraqi government and Shiia coalition party. Several press and media agencies criticized loudly the Iraqi Shiia Coalition during the constitution writing process. Khadir led a campaign to amend the constitution and urged for a constitution to be as peace building tool which brings all parties and opponents to a national consensus and social cohesion rather than a state building as the rulling party is regularly saying. UNAMI commented that most of these civil society activities were and are supported by the UN agencies, International donors or the US and British governments. IRIN/UN news agency reveiled that journalists and writers are the most vulnerable victims to killing, deaths, threats, kidnapping, torture and detention are commonly exercised by un controlled Iraqi forces,paramilitary organisations and Shiia or Suni militias. Similarity to this specific case is occurring and spreading in the south, centre and the north of Iraq.

The number of killed journalists and writers in Iraq has exceeded 220 this year. The Iraqi organisation for Supporting Journalists victims reported to IRIN.

US veteran, Sergeant Frank "Greg" Ford reports that he witnessed serious violation of political and human rights in Kurdistn, Iraq.

US commanding officers. Honorably discharged US veteran, Sergeant Frank "Greg" Ford reports that he witnessed war crimes in Kurdistan, Iraq.

  • Kuwaiti News Agency reports that a high ranking Iraqi security source in the Interior ministry said that the final death toll of the 13 August bombings in the Al-Zafaraniyah district in southern Baghdad is 57 killed and 145 injured, most of them women and children.[13] Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki laid the blame with Sunni extremists seeking to escalate the conflict.[14]

Alleged war crimes by coalition forces

Prison and interrogation abuses by coalition forces

Main article: Iraq prison abuse scandal

January 2004

Footage from the gun camera of an Apache helicopter killing suspected Iraqi insurgents

In January, a video footage was shown on ABC TV, taken from the gun camera of a US Apache helicopter on active duty in Iraq and showing the killing of suspected Iraqi insurgents. Controversy arose around the case, due to the ambiguity of the video. A cylindrical object is tossed on the ground in a field. The US military considered it to be an RPG or a mortar tube fired upon the people. Indymedia UK has suggested that the items may have been harmless implements of some sort. The journal also says that the helicopter opened fire on a man identified as wounded, which they say is in contradiction with international laws.[15][16]

On German television, Retired General Robert Gard (US Army) stated that the incident was in his opinion "inexcusable murders".[17]

April 2004

See: Fallujah during the Iraq War

Eyewitness reports from residents fleeing the city, peace activists, and an aid worker from Doctors Without Borders[18] alleged that the tactics used by U.S. Marines in the siege of Fallujah were a violation of the laws of war and human rights. They alleged that Marine snipers targeted civilians and medical personnel.[19][20][21][22][23][24] Many newspaper reports indicated that a significant proportion of the casualties in Fallujah were women and children.[25][26][27][28][29] In a newspaper interview,[30] a US sniper described Fallujah as "target-rich", and stated "as a sniper your goal is to completely demoralize the enemy". There were also reports that US and Spanish troops forced Fallujah hospitals to be evacuated when they were needed most urgently.[31] The U.S. military mostly denied the allegations, or refused to comment on them.

See: Ilario Pantano

On April 14, Lieutenant Ilario Pantano of the United States Marine Corps, killed two unarmed captives. Lieutenant Pantano claimed that the captives had advanced on him in a threatening manner. The officer who presided over his article 32 hearing recommended a court martial for "body desecration", but all charges against Lieutenant Pantano were dropped due to lack of credible evidence or testimony. He subsequently resigned from the Marine Corps with an honorable discharge.

May 2004

See: Wedding party massacre

The village of Mukaradeeb was attacked by American helicopters on May 19, 2004, killing 42 men, women and children. The casualties, 11 of whom were women and 14 were children, were confirmed by Hamdi Noor al-Alusi, the manager of the nearest hospital. Western journalists also viewed the bodies of the children before they were buried.[32]

November 2005

See: Haditha killings

On November 19, 24 Iraqis were killed. At least 15, and allegedly all, of those killed were non-combatant civilians and all are alleged to have been killed by a group of U.S. Marines. The following ongoing investigation claimed it found evidence that "supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed women and children", according to an anonymous Pentagon official.[33]

February 2006

In February 2006 a video showing a group of British soldiers apparently beating several Iraqi teenagers was posted on the internet, and shortly thereafter, on the main television networks around the world. The video, taken from an upper story of a building in the southern Iraqi town of Al-Amarah, shows many Iraqis outside a coalition compound. Following an altercation in which members of the crowd tossed rocks and reportedly an improvised grenade at the solders, the British soldiers rushed the crowd. The troopers brought some Iraqi teenagers into the compound and proceeded to beat them. The video includes a voiceover in an British accent, apparently by the cameraman, taunting the beaten teenagers.

The individual recording it could be heard saying:

Oh, yes! Oh Yes! Now you gonna get it. You litte kids. You little motherfucking bitch!, you little motherfucking bitch.[34]

The event was broadcast in mainstream media, resulting in the British government and military condemning the event. The incident has become especially worrisome for British soldiers, who had enjoyed a much more favourable position than American Soldiers in the region. Concerns were voiced to the media about the safety of soldiers in the country after the incident. The tape incurred criticism, albeit relatively muted, from Iraq, and media "vox-popping" in the country of course found people prepared to speak out. The Royal Military Police conducted an investigation into the event, and the prosecuting authorities determined that there was insufficient case to justify court martial proceedings.[35]

March 2006

See: Mahmudiyah killings

On March 12, 5 U.S. troops gang raped and killed a 14 year old Iraqi girl, after murdering 3 members of her family currently in the home at the time. The incident resulted the offenders being prosecuted and a number of reprisal attacks against U.S. troops by insurgent forces.

See: Ishaqi incident

On March 15, 11 Iraqi civilians were allegedly bound and executed by U.S. troops in what is termed the "Ishaqi incident". A U.S. investigation found that U.S. military personnel had acted appropriately, and had followed the proper rules of engagement in responding to hostile fire and incrementally escalating force until the threat was eliminated. The Iraqi government has rejected the American conclusions and will launch its own investigation.

April 2006

See: Hamdania incident

On April 26, U.S. Marines shoot dead an unarmed Iraqi man. An investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service resulted in charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy associated with the coverup of the incident. The defendants are seven Marines and a Navy Corpsman. As of February 2007, five of the defendants have pleaded guilty to lesser charges of kidnapping and conspiracy and have agreed to testify against the remaining defendants who face murder charges. Additional Marines from the same battalion faced lesser charges of assault related to the use of physical force during interrogations of suspected insurgents.

May 2006

On May 9, U.S. troops of the 101st Airborne Division executed 3 male Iraqi detainees at the Muthana Chemical Complex. An investigation and lengthy court proceedings followed, currently PFC Corey R. Clagett, SPC William B. Hunsaker, SPC Juston R. Graber and Staff Sgt Raymond L. Girouard are now serving criminal sentences.[36]

September 2007

See: Blackwater Baghdad shootings

On September 16, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad.[37]

The current state of human rights

There have been major criticisms by numerous human rights organizations and Shiite officials that currently Sunnis have systematically kidnapped, tortured and killed Sunnis or those who they deem the enemy.

Sectarian warfare in Iraq

Iraq is in a state of sectarian civil war. Small groups as well as militia engage in bombings in civilian areas and in assassination of officials of various levels, and against Shiites and smaller religious minorities. Secular-oriented individuals, officials of the new government, aides to the United States (such as translators), individuals and families of the nation's various religious groups are subject to violence and death threats.

Refugee response to threats to life

As a result of attempted murders and death threats 2 million Iraqis have left Iraq. They have mainly gone to Syria, Jordan and Egypt. [2]

See also Refugees of Iraq.


On February 17, 2006 then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reported about new realities in the media age:[38]

"In Iraq, for example, the U.S. military command, working closely with the Iraqi government and the U.S. embassy, has sought nontraditional means to provide accurate information to the Iraqi people in the face of aggressive campaign of disinformation. Yet this has been portrayed as inappropriate; for example, the allegations of someone in the military hiring a contractor, and the contractor allegedly paying someone to print a story—a true story—but paying to print a story."

"The U.S. military plans to continue paying Iraqi newspapers to publish articles favorable to the United States after an inquiry found no fault with the controversial practice," Army General George Casey said March 3, 2006. Casey said that "the internal review had concluded that the U.S. military was not violating U.S. law or Pentagon guidelines with the information operations campaign, in which U.S. troops and a private contractor write pro-American articles and pay to have them planted without attribution in Iraqi media."[39]

The legal status of Freedom of Speech and the Press is also unclear in Iraq. Both freedoms are promised in the Iraqi Constitution, with exemptions for Islamic morality and national security. However, the operating Iraqi Criminal Code of 1969 has vague prohibitions to using the press or any electronic means of communication for "indecent" purposes.

Other human rights

The United States through the CPA abolished the death penalty (since reinstated) and ordered that Criminal Code of 1969 and the Civil Code of 1974 would be the operating legal system in Iraq. However, there has been some debate as to how far the CPA rules have been applied.

For example, the Iraqi Criminal Code of 1969 does not prohibit forming a trade union and the Iraqi Constitution promises that such an organization will be recognized (a right under Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), but for some reason the Iraqi courts and special tribunal seem to be operating under a slightly revised version of the 1988 legal code, and thus a 1987 ban on unions might still be in place.

Likewise, while the Iraqi Criminal Code of 1969 or the apparent 1988 edition do not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults in private (a right under a United Nations Human Rights Commission ruling in 1994), scattered reports seem to suggest that homosexuality is still being treated as a crime, possible a capital crime under a 2001 amendment that technically should not exist. For more information on this topic see Gay rights in Iraq.

See also


  1. ^ NewsHour Extra: Who Are the Iraq Insurgents? - June 12, 2006
  2. ^ UN News Centre | News Focus: Dark day for UN
  3. ^ CBC News Indepth: Iraq
  4. ^ Insurgents kill Bulgarian hostage: Al-Jazeera
  5. ^ CBC News Indepth: Iraq
  6. ^
  7. ^ Free Internet Press - Uncensored News for Real People
  8. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Captors kill Egypt envoy to Iraq
  9. ^ Muslim Clerics Call for an End to Iraqi Rioting. New York Times. Retrieved on 2006-02-24.
  10. ^ Iraq Puts Civilian Toll at 12,000
  11. ^ 'Jihadi Porn' Puts Beheadings Online - June 28, 2006 - The New York Sun
  12. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Russian diplomat deaths confirmed
  13. ^ Kuna site|Story page|Final death toll of attack at Al-Zafaraniyah: 57 ...8/14/2006
  14. ^ Worldwide
  15. ^ "The Apache Killing Video", IndyMedia, 19 January 2004. Retrieved on 2008-03-05
  16. ^ "Experts examine Apache Killing Video", IndyMedia, February 29, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-03-05
  17. ^ "Das Erste - Panorama - Militärexperten beschuldigen US-Soldaten des Mordes", Retrieved on 2008-03-05. (German) 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Democracy Now! | "Fear is Transmuting Into Anger" - Rahul Mahajan Reports on Resistance in Iraq
  20. ^
  21. ^ Iraq Dispatches: Americans Slaughtering Civilians in Falluja
  22. ^ URGENT: Falluja Massacre Update. Eyewitnes Accounts. Please Take Action!: Italy imc
  23. ^ News Wales > Politics > Fallujah - an eyewitness account
  24. ^ Wild fire JO
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Children hit by 'random shooting' | Iraq | Guardian Unlimited
  29. ^ Independent Catholic News
  30. ^ For Marine snipers, war is up close and personal - The Boston Globe
  31. ^ Empire Notes
  32. ^ EastSouthWestNorth [1]
  33. ^ "Evidence suggests Haditha killings deliberate: Pentagon source", Associated Press, 2 August 2006. 
  34. ^ - Video visar hur britter slår irakier
  35. ^ UK Troops Beating Iraqi Children
  36. ^ Bryan Bender, Army says 3 soldiers shot 3 Iraqis execution-style, The Boston Globe, 20 June 2006
  37. ^ Johnston, David; John M. Broder. ""F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause"", The New York Times, 2007-11-14. Retrieved on 2007-11-30
  38. ^ New Realities in the Media Age: A Conversation with Donald Rumsfeld [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service, Inc.] - Council on Foreign Relations
  39. ^ | This article is no longer available online

External links

General human rights

  • [3] Human Rights Watch: Background on the Crisis in Iraq (a contents page for the organization's various reports on Iraq, mostly after Saddam's regime fell)
  • [4] U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Iraq, 2005 (released March 8, 2006)
  • [5] Freedom House 2006 report on Iraq


Death Squads

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