Life in Iraq, A Human Rights Examination

The citizens of Iraq have been subject to numerous human rights violations since the 1970s. While Iraq is a member of the United Nations and signed the ICCPR and the ICESCR in 1969, the government has refused to uphold the standards for human rights set out in these UN doctrines and in thematic mechanisms such as the CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Many of Iraq’s human rights violations not only violate international law, but violate their own constitution as well.

Article 3 of the ICCPR and the CEDAW expresses that states party to the covenant should work to ensure equal rights between men and women. Women cannot travel abroad alone, violating not only the equal rights covenant, but also Article 12 of the ICCPR and Article 3 of the ICESCR. Women are not free to choose whom to marry as they must marry within their religion. This restriction on marriage also violates Article 23 of the ICCPR.

Iraq has violated the he right to life described in Article 6 of the ICCPR by subjecting women to the honor killings and instituting the death penalty for criminal and political offences that do not meet the stringent “most serious crimes” as described in the covenant. Article 6 also requires that citizens subject to the death penalty have the opportunity to seek pardon for their sentence. However, while there use to be special courts that acted as an appeals board, these courts have been abolished in 2003.

Iraq subjects its citizens to various forms of torture, violating the ICCPR, the Torture Convention, and Iraqi legislation. Iraq routinely amputates arms and legs and brands its citizens as punishment. Ba’th party members are provided immunity when they cause bodily harm or even death while pursuing enemies of the regime. Iraqi prisoners are subject to detention techniques that include hangings, beatings, rape and burning of suspects alive. This treatment to prisoners also conflicts with Article 10 of the covenant. Prisoners are beaten twice daily, women are raped by their guards and prisoners receive no medical treatment. Prisoners are kept in boxes and receive light and air for only a half an hour a day. Many are killed randomly to “cleanse” the prison. And thousands have “disappeared.” Rape can also be torture against women when committed by government agents. In Iraq, security forces raped women who were captured during the Anfal campaign and the occupation of Kuwait. Rape has been used systematically and in an institutionalized manner for political purposes.

Article 9 of the ICCPR acts as a due process rights covenant. In October of 2000, Iraq beheaded many women without any judicial process for alleged prostitution. Iraq institutes retroactive punishment. One of the women executed, Najat Mohammend Haydar, was arrested before the policy to behead prostitutes even existed. This retroactivity violated Article 15 of the ICCPR. Article 14 also speaks to the treatment of those accused of criminal charges. In a trial in 1987, 45 people were not presumed innocent until guilt was proven. The minimum guarantees outlined in Article 12 were not followed. These people were not even permitted to defend themselves. The only issue before the court appeared to be sentencing.

Iraqi citizens certainly have had their right to privacy (article 17 of the ICCPR) violated. Families targeted for expulsion are threatened with visits to their home. The right to privacy also includes the right to be free from unlawful attack on ones honor or reputation. Forced rape results in an attack on ones honor and reputation, since there is such a strong stigma attached to rape. The videotapes sent to the families showing these brutal rapes have this same effect.

The ICCPR states that everyone should have the right to free thought and religion. Another fundamental human right is to be free from discrimination, and to receive equal protection before the law. This is stated in the ICCPR at Article 26. These covenants also ensure that minorities have the right to enjoy and practice their own culture and religion. The Iraqi government has evicted large non-Arab communities from their homes, seizing their property without notice. Shi’a Muslims have been the subject for decades of a campaign of murder, summary execution and arbitrary arrest. Shi’a Muslims are forbidden to pray as a community on Friday and are restricted on the borrowing of books from libraries. This also violates Article 15 of the ICESCR. There is a ban on funeral processions unless they are organized by the government. Article 18 also states that parents should be permitted to ensure that the religious and moral education of their children are in conformity with their own convictions. Yet parents are not allowed to register their newborns with names reflecting their cultural and religious heritage. This restriction also violates Article 24 of the ICCPR.

One of the most fundamental of human rights is the right to choose your own government. But in Iraq, citizens do not have this right. Refusal to join the Ba’th Socialist party results in innumerable obstacles and discrimination in daily life. Under the ICESCR, people have the right to work and to gain a living. However, using pressure tactics, the Iraqi government has forced many non-Arabs out of their farming communities. Additionally, under the ICESCR, the widest possible protections are to be given to family, yet parents who chose not to send their children to “Saddams Cubs” courses are denied food ration cards. The ICESCR and the Convention on the Rights of the Child affords special protection to children from economic and social exploitation, however children who do not attend “Saddams Cubs” camps cannot receive school examination results.

Lastly, but perhaps most gross of all human rights violations, is the act of mass killing of members of national, ethnic racial of religious groups. Genocide is recognized as a crime against humanity. After Nuremberg, the General Assembly affirmed the principles laid out in the Nuremburg tribunal as “principles of international law.” However, the Iraqi government has practiced mass extermination of Kurdish people. Government documents have identified more that 115 military and civilian officials were involved in this grave human rights violation.



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