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Amnesty Iinternational Report (24 November 1999). This report addresses the range of Amnesty International concerns about human rights violations committed in Iraq in recent years, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, the death penalty, possible extrajudicial executions and forcible expulsion of non-Arabs. INDEX: MDE 14/010/1999


Excerpts from the report:



Gross human rights violations are systematically taking place in Iraq. They range from arbitrary arrest and detention, to torture, extrajudicial and judicial executions after unfair summary trials, ''disappearances'', and forcible expulsions on the basis of ethnic origin.

While the Iraqi Government has used every opportunity to publicize the suffering of the population under the sanctions regime, such as by allowing foreign journalists, politicians and others to visit the country, it has exercised a complete news blackout on the atrocities that its security forces have been committing against suspected opponents of the government. This report addresses the range of Amnesty International concerns about human rights violations committed in Iraq in recent years, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, the death penalty, possible extrajudicial executions and forcible expulsion of non-Arabs.

Arbitrary arrest and detention of suspected government opponents continue to take place on a large scale with those targeted for arrest not being given any explanation as to why they are wanted, and they are not shown any arrest warrant. The vast majority of political detainees are held incommunicado and their families do not even know where they are held.

Detainees are routinely physically and psychologically tortured during interrogation. Torture takes place immediately following arrest and methods can be as extreme as gouging out of the eyes. No investigation into torture has ever been reported. Besides, Iraq has in recent years enacted and implemented decrees prescribing judicial punishment amounting to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments.

The death penalty is used on a massive scale in Iraq and covers a wide range of criminal and political offences. Hundreds of executions are reported every year. The government rarely announces executions or makes public any official statistics in relation to the death penalty. Given the secrecy surrounding them in many cases it is impossible to determine whether the reported executions are judicial punishments or carried out extrajudicially.

The majority of the victims of human rights violations have been Shi'a Muslims in Southern Iraq and in some districts of Baghdad, as well as Kurds in the north. Since the beginning of the 1980s hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shi'a Muslims have ''disappeared'' and their cases remain unresolved.

In the last 18 months a number of prominent Shi'a Muslim clerics have been killed in Southern Iraq in circumstances suggesting that they may have been extrajudicially executed possibly by government forces or forces acting on government orders. The Government's repression of Shi'a dissent has continued unabated since the failed Shi'a uprising of 1991 following the Gulf War. Those killed recently were popular religious figures viewed with suspicion by the government. One of them had reportedly publicly criticized the government's repression.

Thousands of Kurdish families have been forcibly expelled by the security forces from their homes in the north to areas controlled by the two Kurdish political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan on the basis of their ethnic origin.

These mass human rights violations and the climate of terror inside the country have forced thousands of Iraqi nationals to flee the country illegally and seek asylum in neighbouring countries, but also in many other countries worldwide.

The Iraqi Government continues to refuse permission to UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Iraq, to visit the country to investigate human rights violations. No international human rights organization has visited the country in recent years. While the United Nations has implemented resolutions taken by the Security Council on Iraq since 1991, Resolution 688 passed on 5 April 1991 which called on Iraq to end ''the repression of the Iraqi civilian population'' and to grant ''immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need in all parts of Iraq'' remains unimplemented.


Although torture is prohibited by the Iraqi legislation (Article 22(a) of the Interim Constitution(19) and Article 127 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) in practice it is used systematically against detainees in Iraqi prisons and detention centres. Iraq has legal obligations under the ICCPR to take measures to prevent torture and to bring perpetrators of torture to justice. The Iraqi Government has the obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to afford special protection to children under the age of 18 against torture.

Political detainees in Iraq are subjected to the most brutal forms of torture. The bodies of many of those executed had evident signs of torture, including the gouging out of the eyes, when returned to their families. The most common methods of physical torture include electric shocks to various parts of the body, pulling out of fingernails, long periods of suspension by the limbs, beating with cables, falaqa (beating on the soles of the feet), cigarette burns on various parts of the body, and piercing of hands with an electric drill. Psychological torture includes threats of bringing in a female relative of the detainee, especially the wife or the mother, and raping her in front of the detainee, threats of arresting and harming other members of the family, mock executions and being kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

Selected examples:

NN (20), a Kurdish businessman from Baghdad, married with children, was arrested in December 1996 outside his house by plainclothes security men. Initially his family did not know about his whereabouts and started going from one police station to another enquiring about him. Then through friends they found out that he was being held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad. The family was not allowed to visit him. Eleven months later in November 1997 the family were told by the authorities that he had been executed and that they should go and collect his body. His body reportedly bore evident signs of torture. His eyes were gauged out and were filled with paper, and his right wrist and left leg were broken. The family was not given any reason for his arrest and subsequent execution. However, they suspected that he was executed because of his friendship with a retired army general who had links with the Iraqi opposition outside the country and who was arrested just before N.'s arrest and was also executed.

Soon after the attempted assassination of 'Uday Saddam Hussain in December 1996 and the mass arrests that ensued, Salah Mahdi, a 35-year-old traffic warden in al-Mansur married with three children, was arrested. He was accused of neglect because he did not notice the car the assailants used. He was held in the Special Security building and was severely tortured. He died reportedly as a result of torture in around June 1997. His family were told that he had died but the body was never returned to them for burial despite their repeated requests and to date his burial place reportedly remains unknown to the family.

A number of former Iraqi political detainees were forced to undergo surgery to have a leg or arm amputated because they had been tortured for long periods of time and had developed gangrene for which they did not receive medical treatment (see photos on page 11). They had no choice but to sign statements in hospitals to the effect that it was their sole decision to have the amputation carried out.

In 1994 Iraq, through a series of decrees issued by the RCC, introduced judicial punishment amounting to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments for at least 30 criminal offences, including theft in certain circumstances, monopolizing rationed goods, defaulting or deserting from military service and performing plastic surgery on an amputated arm or leg. The punishments consisted of the amputation of the right hand for a first offence, and of the left foot for a second offence, or the severance of one or both ears. People convicted under these decrees were also branded with an ''X'' mark on the forehead.

The Iraqi Government argued that the introduction of these severe punishments were in response to the rising crime rate resulting from worsening economic conditions. The punishment of amputation of the auricle of the ears and the branding of the foreheads of army deserters, draft evaders or persons providing them with shelter or protection were suspended in 1996 by the Iraqi Government, through RCC Decree 81/96. …………………………………………….

Amputations were very often publicized in Iraqi media outlets. However, since the end of 1996 following international condemnation of these punishments, reports of amputations being carried out in Iraq have rarely been publicized in Iraq. In August 1998 six members of the Feda'yi Saddam (Saddam's Fighters) reportedly had their hands amputated by order of 'Uday Saddam Hussain. They were said to have been accused of theft and extortion from travellers in the southern city of Basra.



Since mid-1997 thousands of Kurds and a number of other non-Arabs, including Turkmen and Assyrians, who have lived all their lives in the Kirkuk region, which is about 260 kilometres north of Baghdad, have been expelled to the Kurdish provinces in the north controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) because of their ethnic origin and because of Kirkuk's strategic location as well as its oil fields. The authorities have given Kurdish families targeted the choice of either going to Southern Iraq or to the Kurdish provinces. If the families choose Southern Iraq then they are allowed to take some of their possessions with them. However, if they choose to go to the north their properties, as well as their food rationing cards are confiscated by the authorities. The majority of the families have reportedly chosen to go north.

No information is available to Amnesty International regarding families that moved south. The head of the household of each targeted family was detained in preparation of the expulsion. They were held until the expulsion of their respective families and arrangements for their own expulsions were completed. They were also made to sign a statement in the local police station stating that they were willing by their own choice to move to the north.

The Kirkuk Governorate was renamed ''Al-Ta'mim'' which means in arabic ''nationalization''. On 12 January 1998 a decree was issued by the Governorate of al-Ta'mim ordering the expulsion of 1468 families from the governorate because of its ''very important security status and geographical location''. The decree was based on directives issued by the office of the President of Iraq. It sets a date, between 15 April 1998 and 15 June 1998, for the deportation of the 1468 families. The decree gives details of the number of families to be expelled from different neighbourhoods in the Kirkuk governorate. It also includes details of the procedure to be followed by the security forces, it states:

  1. One member of each Kurdish family expelled to the northern provinces should be detained;
  2. Confiscation of property belonging to the expelled;
  3. Confiscation of ration cards;
  4. Confiscation of membership cards to government agencies;
  5. Notification of the decree to: the head of security of each district; the Ba'ath party official of each district, the chief of each village.

Once in Northern Iraq some of the families expelled tried to live with relatives. The majority, however, have been resettled in camps such as the al-Salam camp near Chamchamal and Benislawa camp near Erbil. The KDP, PUK and UN agencies have provided them with basic food, tents, blankets and other items. Their empty properties in the Kirkuk region and in Khanaqeen are given by the authorities to pro-government Arabs brought from other regions in Iraq. Thus far thousands of Arabs from other regions in Iraq have been resettled in the Kirkuk governorate.

The expulsion of Kurdish families and other non-Arabs continued throughout 1998 and 1999. The same procedure described above is followed on each occasion. As of May 1999 at least 15,000 families comprising at least 91,000 people have reportedly been deported to the northern provinces by the Iraqi authorities in recent years. In February of this year 25 families were forcibly expelled from Khanaqeen, southeast of Kirkuk, to al-Ramadi. According to the PUK, 50 families comprising 278 members were expelled in September 1999.


The full report is available at

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-01-06 07:01 PM

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