Geneva (April 27, 2018) – On April 18, 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Committee published its follow-up report after reviewing Iraq’s implementation of four key recommendations issued following the country’s review in October 2015. The report concluded that the recommendations had “not been fully implemented” by the Iraqi authorities.
The Human Rights Committee is vested with monitoring State Parties’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in a process which generally takes place every four years.
Composed of a group of 18 independent experts, the Committee reviews State Parties’ reports detailing how they are implementing the provisions contained in the ICCPR, and subsequently addresses recommendations to the State Party with the aim of improving the human rights situation on the ground.
Human Rights Committee’s review of Iraq
In October 2015, the Human Rights Committee reviewed Iraq’s implementation of the ICCPR for the fifth time since the country ratified the covenant in 1971.
Prior to the review, on September 25, 2015, Alkarama submitted its shadow report to the Human Rights Committee, in which it evaluated Iraq’s implementation of the ICCPR, and presented its main concerns in order to support the Committee’s review process.
Following the review, the Committee published its Concluding Observations, requesting that the State Party provide information on its implementation of four key recommendations within one year. The four issues selected by the Committee were allegations of human rights violations in the context of the ongoing armed conflict, violence against women, the death penalty, and the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.
Iraq followed up on the Committee’s recommendations in July 2017, after which Alkarama submitted an independent follow-up report to the Committee, expressing concern that the majority of recommendations were left unaddressed in the state’s report, and that none of the Committee’s priority recommendations had been fully implemented to date.
At its 122nd session between March 12 and April 6, 2018, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the State Party’s response in conjunction with Alkarama’s independent report.
Allegations of human rights violations in the context of the ongoing armed conflict
Following its 2015 review, the Human Rights Committee recommended that Iraq increase efforts to address human rights violations committed in the context of the armed conflict, including by properly investigating violations and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice, and by taking the necessary precautionary measures to ensure groups under the state’s control do not commit violations.
In its follow-up, Alkarama expressed concern over the fact that the state continues to justify severe human rights violations including mass arrests, incommunicado detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing all within its counter-terrorism strategy.
The Human Rights Committee reiterated many of its previous recommendations made on the issue in its follow-up report, noting “the lack of concrete information on prompt, independent, impartial and thorough investigations into serious human rights violations, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, and full reparation provided to victims.”
The death penalty
The Human Rights Committee recommended that Iraq consider abolishing the death penalty, while emphasising that, in the meantime, the state must take steps to ensure that it is only used for the most serious crimes, that it is never mandatory, and that pardon or commutation is always available.
The state responded by stating that while the death penalty is only prescribed for the most serious crimes, it remains mandatory for certain crimes, and that there are restrictions on whether it can be pardoned or commuted.
Alkarama noted that the state’s response did not address the abolition of the death penalty, but instead justified its use, while also emphasising that there are several offences for which the death penalty is applied that do not meet the definition of “the most serious crimes”. Furthermore, the death penalty remains mandatory for crimes of terrorism, and the judiciary continues to disregard due process and fair trial standards in cases in which the death penalty is prescribed, including through the use of confessions extracted under torture as evidence.
The Human Rights Committee highlighted that Iraq did not report having given due consideration to abolishing the death penalty, and that no action had been taken to bring existing legislation into line with the recommendations issued in 2015.
Prohibition of torture and ill-treatment
In 2015, the Human Rights Committee recommended that the definition of torture included in Iraq’s Criminal Code be brought into line with international standards, and that the state take “more vigorous steps” to prevent torture and ill-treatment and to investigate such cases. The Committee further emphasised that confessions obtained under torture must not be admitted as evidence in court, and that all deaths in custody should be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.
The state responded by stating that both torture and coerced confessions are banned under the Constitution, while highlighting that a bill is currently being drafted which will include a definition of torture consistent with international standards. The State Party drew attention to the provisions of the Criminal Code that outline the penalties imposed on perpetrators of torture, as well as the procedures in place to monitor prisons and places of detention and to investigate deaths in custody.
Alkarama noted that torture has yet to be criminalised under the Criminal Code, and that the only existing definition of torture falls short of international standards. Furthermore, Alkarama observed that the state’s report did not make reference to its obligation to open investigations into all allegations of torture, ill-treatment and deaths in custody.
The Committee, echoing Alkarama’s concerns, noted the lack of information provided on prompt, independent, impartial and thorough investigations into acts of torture as well as deaths in custody as a result of ill-treatment. The Committee also requested that the state provide additional information on the prohibition of admitting coerced confessions as evidence in court.
What is next?
Overall, the Human Rights Committee “considered that the recommendations selected for the follow-up procedure have not been fully implemented”, and requested that the state provide additional information on their implementation in the context of its next periodic report, which is due on November 6, 2018.
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