Iraq: Alkarama Raises 22 Questions in View of the Country’s Review by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2015
On 17 December 2014, Alkarama provided the Human Rights Committee (HRC) with a list of 22 issues to be raised by the United Nations experts with the Iraqi authorities during their consideration of Iraq's fifth periodic report.
Alkarama started by raising its concerns over the content of Iraq's report, in which the State party seems to be denying that human rights violations continue to occur until today in the country, as "far-reaching changes" allegedly took place since.
Regarding the violation of the right to life, which is protected under article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Alkarama raised the issue of the death penalty, and noted that most sentences are handed down under article 4 of the vague and broad Anti-Terrorism Law of 2005. Alkarama asked if Iraq was considering amending this law or reviewing its position by abolishing the death penalty or, at the very least, adopt a moratorium on executions. Alkarama further raised concerns over the lack of investigation into the Al Hawijah Massacre on 23 April 2013, during which 91 civilians were killed due to the violent dispersion of a sit-in by the Iraqi Armed Forces. Were the complaints filed by injured demonstrators and families of killed demonstrators duly investigated? Were the individuals responsible for the killing of protestors prosecuted?
Alkarama further highlighted the practice of torture, by noting that Iraq had still not incorporated the definition enshrined in the Convention against Torture (CAT) to which Iraq is a party since 2011. Moreover, certain provisions in Iraqi law are conducive to torture as, not only the prosecution of government officials who have engaged in or authorised the abuse of detainees must be allowed by the relevant Ministry, but also most detention facilities remain under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, leaving the door open to further abuses. Alkarama asked several questions, in particular: What steps are being taken to ensure that torture is defined and that the penalties reflect the gravity of the crime? How is Iraq making sure that the crime of torture by government officials does not remain unpunished?
Alkarama followed by denouncing the practice of arbitrary detention and the infringements of fair trial rights by Iraqi authorities. It noted that very often, courts convict accused persons on the sole basis of the testimony of a secret informant or confessions extracted under torture. What measures are being taken by Iraq to ensure that such flawed evidence is systematically excluded? All the more concerning is the practice of airing "confessions" of "terrorists" on state-run channel Al Iraqiya in the TV Show "In the Grip of the law", produced in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior. The case of four security officers assigned to former vice-president Tariq Al Hashimi, who were severely tortured and forced to make false confessions on TV, was raised as an example. Alkarama asked how this practice was compatible with the principle of presumption of innocence.
Finally, Alkarama addressed the violations of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression stemming from the use of anti-terrorism law to neutralise political opponents. A prominent example is that of the Member of Parliament, Ahmed Al Alwani, who was sentenced to death in late November 2014, because of his role as leading public supporter of a protest camp set up in Ramadi by protestors who were denouncing their marginalisation by the central government. Alkarama asked what Iraq was doing to prevent the anti-terrorism law from being used against government critics and whether they were considering repealing the ruling on Al Alwani's case in view of the unfairness of the trial and the politically motivated sentence.
The list of issues, which will be adopted during the HRC's 113th session in March 2015, aims at facilitating the preparation of a constructive dialogue with the State party. Iraq will be due to provide its answers to the list of issues in writing before its review in October 2015.
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