Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (March 6, 2007) regarding Human Rights conditions in 2006, is an annual report covering world states. Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. We have chosen only its coverage of Kurdistan Province –Iraq.
Though, we believe the reality is much worse than the report states, still Human Rights conditions in Kurdistan, as stated in the report, are shameful and that we have to use our democratic rights to resist peacefully, Kurdish elites flagrant greed, corruption and repression.
The report states that, detainees were tortured and abused, applying electric shocks, fingernail extractions. In some cases, police threatened and sexually abused detainees and visiting family members.
The KRG maintains secret prisons with no access by outsiders. Prisoners were held incommunicado. Judges in the KRG system were accused of being appointed based on party ties.
Media outlets were controlled or funded by the major political parties. KRG Prime Minister Nechirivan (son in law of the KRG president) also funded (Zagros) television station. Few independent media outlets that covered government and party corruption, e.g., the weekly newspapers Hawlatee (The Citizen) and Awena (Mirror) and Radio Nawa. Both newspapers are based in Sulaymaniyah.
In such lamentable Human Rights conditions, one may ask, what is the role of the Kurdish parliament vis-à-vis the acts of violations by KRG and the two dominant political parties?!
Below is the country report.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
In Irbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk, the three provinces comprising the KRG area of the country, there were fewer reports of violence than elsewhere. However, the KRG security forces were sometimes accused of using excessive force that resulted in deaths. For example, on March 16, at a student protest in Halabja, KRG security forces fired into the crowd when the protest turned violent, killing one student and injuring several others.
Kurdish security forces, including the armed forces (Peshmerga), internal security forces (Asayish) and intelligence services (Parastin/Zanyari), reportedly conducted illegal police operations outside KRG boundaries in the provinces of Ninawa and of Tameen, whose capital is Kirkuk. These operations abducted individuals and detained them in unofficial and undisclosed detention facilities in the KRG.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
During the year, local and international human rights organizations continued to report that detainees held in several MoI and MoD detention facilities, as well as in KRG security forces detention facilities, were tortured and abused. Incidents of abuse included application of electric shocks, fingernail extractions, and other severe beatings. In some cases, police threatened and sexually abused detainees and visiting family members.
Abusive interrogation practices reportedly occurred in some detention facilities run by the two KRG internal security forces and the two KRG intelligence forces. The Parastin/Zanyari forces reportedly operated separate detention facilities and prohibited human rights organizations as well as the human rights ministry from visiting their facilities and inspecting the treatment of detainees.
The KRG permitted visits to its MoI prison system by human rights organizations. The KRG Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) also visited these prisons. Conditions generally were reported to meet international standards.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
The ICS system operated 11 prisons and pretrial detention facilities, and Kurdish authorities operated seven. The MoD operated 17 holding areas or detention facilities in Baghdad and at least another 13 nationwide for detainees captured during military raids and operations.
The MOJ/ICS and KRG routinely permitted visits to prisons by representatives of the both the national and the KRG ministries of human rights. Access to national MoI detention and pretrial facilities, as well as to similar facilities of the KRG Asayish and intelligence forces, was generally not permitted for domestic and international human rights NGOs or intergovernmental organizations (see section 4).
The KRG MoI and MoLSA detention facilities met international standards for prisoner needs.
The KRG Asayish detention facilities did not provide consistent access to human rights organizations. The KRG MoHR did not visit these facilities. The KRG intelligence groups reportedly maintained separate detention facilities; however, there were no reports of access by outsiders to these facilities. The condition of prisoners and detainees in these facilities was unknown.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, except in extreme exigent circumstances as provided for in a state of emergency. In practice, there were a number of instances of arbitrary arrest and detention.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
During the year the MOI exercised its responsibilities throughout the country except for the KRG area. Such responsibilities include providing internal security through police and domestic intelligence capabilities, and regulating all domestic and foreign private security companies. It also has responsibility for emergency response, border enforcement, dignitary protection, firefighting, and facilities protection. The army, under direction of the MoD, also played a part in providing domestic security. During the year, ISF often did not have sufficient capacity to prevent or respond to societal violence.
The KRG maintained its own security forces as set forth in the constitution. The KRG functioned with two party-based ministries of interior. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party controlled the ministry with oversight of the province of Sulaymaniyah, and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) controlled the ministry with oversight of the provinces of Irbil and Dohuk. The KRG also maintained two separate army forces and two separate internal security units. All four of these security forces detained and held suspects in custody.
Police effectiveness, particularly the national police, was seriously compromised by militias, sectarianism, and in the case of the KRG, political party influences. Corruption and a culture of impunity were rampant. During the year, after some investigatory efforts, the MoI announced the firing of hundreds of employees accused of corruption. Many employees accused of serious human rights abuses were transferred rather than fired or arrested.
Arrest and Detention
At year's end, according to MoHR data reported in the UNAMI bimonthly report, the total number of noncoalition force official detainees in the country was 16,308, the great majority being Sunni. The ICS held 8,500; the MoI, 4,034; the MoD, 1,220; and the MLSA, 456. The KRG total was 2,098. The MoI figures were considered to be low estimates.
There were a number of reports that KRG prisoners were held incommunicado. KRG internal security units reportedly detained suspects without an arrest warrant and transported detainees to undisclosed detention facilities. There were many reports that family members were not allowed to know the location of the detainees, nor visit them. Reportedly, police across the country continued to use coerced confessions and abuse as methods of investigation.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary in all regions, the KRG judiciary remained part of the KRG executive branch's Ministry of Justice. Judges in the KRG system were accused of being appointed based on party ties.
Kurdish political activist Kamal Said Kadir had been sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment for "defamation of public institutions" in December 2005. On April 3, after much international attention, he was released from prison. Members of the Parastin, the security intelligence service of the KDP in Irbil, had arrested and detained him incommunicado for two months. Scant information was available concerning detainees in the KRG detention facilities.
There were detainees held in the KRG on security charges who were primarily held for political, sectarian, or ethnic reasons. Individuals were arrested for criticizing government officials. Demonstrators were arrested because they congregated in violation of regulations. Such arrests were for political reasons. The KRG minister of human rights stated that he did not consider these detentions to be a violation of human rights because they were within the law.
The Commission for the Resolution of Real Property Disputes (CRRPD), formerly the Iraq Property Claims Commission, was established in 2004 by Coalition Provisional Authority Regulation 12 as an independent governmental commission. Its purpose is to resolve claims for real property confiscated, forcibly acquired, or otherwise taken for less than fair value by the former regime between July 17, 1968, and April 9, 2003, for reasons other than land reform or lawfully applied eminent domain. The CRRPD process is intended primarily to benefit those whose land was confiscated for ethnic or political reasons as part of the "Arabization" program and other policies of sectarian displacements. The deadline for filing claims is June 30, 2007. On November 30, 2005, new governing legislation was adopted that replaced the old CPA order and made certain changes to clarify the CRRPD process and make it fairer.
There were approximately 1,300 CRRPD employees in offices located in all 18 provinces and led by Ahmed al-Barrak, a former member of the Iraqi Governing Council.
At year's end the CRRPD had received over 124,000 claims nationwide. Of those claims, its regional commissions had adjudicated over 20 percent nationwide, with geographic variations.
The CRRPD issued approximately 2000 decisions awarding compensation of $22 million (28.6 billion dinars). The government budget for all CRRPD compensation awards is $200 million (260 billion dinars). After adjudication, the CRRPD's only role in enforcement is to send official notifications of decisions to the real estate registry office and enforcement office of the regional court, which in turn are responsible, respectively, for re-registering property in the name of successful claimants and evicting current occupants, as appropriate.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
In the KRG provinces, there was pressure on citizens to associate with the PUK party in the province of Sulaymaniyah, and the KDP party in the provinces of Irbil and Dohuk (see section 2.b.).
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Print publications and broadcast media were a primary source of news and public discourse in the KRG provinces; however, almost all media outlets were controlled or funded by the major political parties. The KDP sponsored the Kurdish-language newspaper Khabat (The Struggle), the Arabic-language version, Attaakhi, and KTV (Kurdistan television). KDP member and KRG Prime Minister Nechirivan Barzani also funded the popular television station Zagros. The PUK sponsored the Kurdish-language newspaper Kurdistani-Nwe (New Kurdistan), the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Ittihad, and KurdSat television. Minor parties such as the Kurdish Islamic Union also had their own newspapers and television stations.
In addition to the party press, there were a few notable independent media outlets that covered government and party corruption, for example, the weekly newspapers Hawlatee (The Citizen) and Awena (Mirror) and Radio Nawa. However, their journalists were subject to frequent criminal prosecution for libel claims and extrajudicial intimidation by junior or midlevel political party officials.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. However, social and religious as well as political pressures restricted freedom of choice in academic and cultural matters. In particular, Kurdish parties controlled the pursuit of formal education and the granting of academic positions in the KRG areas. There were a number of reports of threats by militia or insurgent groups against schools and universities, urging them to modify activities, close down or face violence. Educational institutions often complied with the threats.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, and the government generally respected this right in practice, although there were reports of abusive KRG practices against protesters. During the year, the prime minister invoked the emergency law, which gave him the authority to restrict freedom of movement and assembly pursuant to a warrant or extreme exigent circumstances. In general, this emergency law did not prevent peaceful assembly from occurring, although it was used often to impose curfews. Police in the central and southern parts of the country generally did not break up peaceful demonstrations except when a curfew was violated.
In the KRG area, particularly in the province of Sulaymaniyah, demonstrations took place to protest government corruption as well as poor services. On August 8, KRG security forces opened fire during a protest in Darbandikhan, killing one man. Local human rights organizations reported that 100 protesters were arrested before, during, and after the demonstration. In an August 9 demonstration in Kalar, security forces reportedly shot into the crowd of protesters, killing one person and injuring several others.
Residents alleged that the KRG intimidated and imprisoned numerous participants of protests in Sulaymaniyah. In multiple demonstrations against poor services in the town of Chamchamal, participants reported that the PUK internal security forces as well as armed forces security carefully monitored protests, and in some cases overtly videotaped the proceedings. When authorities considered that the protests had become unruly, participants were detained, in some cases allegedly at undisclosed locations.
Freedom of Association
The constitution provides the right to form and join associations and political parties and specifically mandates that this right be regulated by law. The government generally respected this right in practice. Within the KRG provinces, there was pressure to associate with the PUK party in Sulaymaniyah and the KDP party in Irbil and Dohuk.
c. Freedom of Religion
During the year, there were allegations that the KRG continued to engage in discriminatory behavior against religious minorities. Minorities living in areas north of Mosul, such as Yazidis and Christians, asserted that the KRG encroached on their property, eventually building Kurdish settlements on the confiscated land. In spite of reputed KRG discrimination against religious minorities, many non-Muslim minorities fled to the Kurdish region to escape violence and religious discrimination in other parts of the country.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Members of the Yazidi community reported that they continued to be targeted by Islamists throughout the year. They complained that the misperception that they were devil-worshippers was behind some attacks that the community had suffered in the province of Ninawa.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country,
Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The constitution provides for the right of free movement in all parts of the country and the right to travel abroad and return freely. However, there were some limitations in practice.
Under the state of emergency, the prime minister can restrict movement pursuant to a warrant, impose a curfew, cordon off and search an area, and take other necessary security and military measures (in Kurdish areas, only in coordination with the KRG). The government availed itself of these powers in practice in the course of the year.
There were some reports that the KRG employed checkpoints to prevent Arabs from moving into that area. For example, Arab travelers with a large number of suitcases were reportedly turned away. Despite these reports, thousands of Arab displaced persons were allowed entry into the region.
Protection of Refugees
The government re-established an interministerial committee charged with making group and individual refugee determinations. The committee did not review any cases during the year. The central government and the KRG agreed to integrate approximately 3,000 Iranian Kurd refugees in northern Iraq. The government also continued to facilitate the reintegration of hundreds of Iraqi Faili (Shi'a) Kurds returning from Iran.
Elections and Political Participation
The country's political parties, as a general rule, tended to be organized along either religious or ethnic lines--sometimes both. Shi'a Islamist parties, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya Party, as well as such Kurdish nationalist parties as the KDP and PUK, were predominant political forces. Other political players included the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and other ethnic minority parties, such as the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
Membership in some political parties conferred special privileges and advantages in employment. There were some reports that the KDP and PUK prevented the employment of nonparty citizens and that KRG courts favored party members.
Government Corruption and Transparency
The CPI, formed in January 2004, is the government's commission charged with preventing and investigating cases of corruption in all ministries and other components of the government nationwide (except for the KRG). The CPI, with a staff of 119 investigators, reports to the country's chief executive and legislature and has the authority to refer cases for criminal prosecution. During the year, the CPI received more than 2,000 cases to investigate, a caseload that far outstripped the organization's investigative capacity. By the end of the year, it had adjudicated few of its cases, due to intimidation and lack of training.
The Kurdish areas, which have largely been autonomous since 1991, were able to develop a stronger NGO community, although almost all Kurdish NGOs were closely linked to the PUK and KDP political parties. The KRG and Kurdish political parties generally supported humanitarian NGO activities and programs.
Although no ombudsman existed, a national MoHR and a KRG ministry, focused on raising awareness and knowledge of human rights and conducting prison visits. Each ministry reported to its respective prime minister. The national MoHR also worked to monitor human rights abuse and advocate for and assist victims. However, limited resources and poor cooperation from other ministries greatly limited the ministry's effectiveness. The KRG MoHR was in a similar position.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits all forms of violence and abuse in the family, school, and society. NGOs reported that domestic violence against women increased during the year, although no reliable statistics exist. Reportedly "honor killings" also increased based on anecdotal observations from NGOs in the KRG as well as the KRG MoHR. In its March-April report, UNAMI reported that as many as 534 women may have been victims of honor-related crimes--including killings, torture, and severe abuse--in the Kurdish area alone since the beginning of the year.
Although the KRG amended its own penal code to render "honor" an aggravating rather than extenuating factor, continued reports of honor killings in the Kurdish region prompted the UN special representative to send a letter of concern to President Talabani on August 24. Anecdotal evidence from local NGOs and media reporting indicated that domestic violence often went unpunished, with such abuse customarily addressed within the tightly knit family and tribal structure. Harassment of legal personnel working on domestic violence cases, as well as sympathy from both police and judicial personnel, further hampered efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.
Private shelters for women existed; however, space was limited and their locations were secret and subject to frequent change. Some NGOs worked with local provincial governments to train community health workers to treat victims of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence received no substantive assistance from the government.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is not illegal. Research done by NGOs operating in rural areas of the Kurdish region showed that FGM was practiced. NGOs reported few cases of FGM elsewhere. The government offered no substantive assistance for victims of FGM.
Trafficking in Persons
Although statistics did not exist, according to reports from destination countries, the country was a source for trafficking of women and girls to other Arab countries, especially the Persian Gulf and Levant states. The country, particularly in Kurdish areas, was considered a destination for trafficking of male laborers from Southeast Asia. There were also reports of girls, women, and boys trafficked within the country for commercial and other sexual exploitation.
Both the MoI and the KRG MoI have responsibility for trafficking-related issues. However, the demands of the security situation relegated trafficking to a lesser priority. Trafficking crimes were not specifically enumerated in MoI statistics on criminal activity. However, the KRG reported instances in which it had followed up and resolved cases of trafficking. For example, the KRG determined that a Dubai construction firm had engaged in trafficking to bring 500 Indian and Sri Lankan laborers to the province of Irbil. The workers were not paid the contractually agreed-upon salary and were housed in squalid conditions with insufficient food. The KRG facilitated the return of the employees back to their home countries and pursued administrative penalties with the company..
Ethnically and linguistically, the country's population includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Shabak, and Armenians. The religious mix is likewise varied.
Assyrians and Chaldeans are considered by many to be a distinct ethnic group. These communities speak a different language, preserve Christian traditions, and do not define themselves as Arabs.
The constitution identifies Arabic and Kurdish as the two official languages of the state. It also provides the right of citizens to educate their children in their mother tongue, such as Turkmen, Syriac, or Armenian, in government educational institutions in accordance with educational guidelines, or in any other language in private educational institutions.
During the year, discrimination against ethnic minorities was a problem. There were numerous reports of Kurdish authorities discriminating against minorities in the North, including Turkman, Arabs, Christians, and Shabak. According to these reports, authorities denied services to some villages, arrested minorities without due process and took them to undisclosed locations for detention, and pressured minority schools to teach in the Kurdish language. Ethnic and religious minorities in Kirkuk frequently charged that Kurdish security forces targeted Arabs, Turkmen, and Shabak.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
Projects to combat child labor were few, and those that existed affected few children. The government took action only as funded by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) or NGOs. For example, the Italian branch of the international NGO Terre des Hommes and UNICEF operated a rehabilitation and counseling center for a small number of working street children in Baghdad. Kurdish authorities supported several small-scale projects to eliminate child labor in the KRG area. UNICEF had established centers for working children in Irbil.