GICJ activities during the 24th session of the Human Rights Council
9 -27 September 2013

The session commenced with a statement from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay. The High Commissioner addressed the variety of human rights concerns around the world. In regards to Iraq, the High Commissioner reiterated her concern for the grave human rights violations and called on “the authorities to do the utmost to protect all people in Iraq, and urge it to ensure the investigation it has announced into the recent deplorable killing”

Iraq has not yet responded to UN and international calls for a moratorium on the death penalty, and continues to periodically execute people in batches. A total of 123 prisoners were executed in 2012, and another 72 so far in 2013, despite the immense risk of miscarriage of justice as a result of systemic weaknesses in the criminal justice system.”

During the session, Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) continued its activities towards accountability and restoring justice for Iraq and its people. On behalf of over 300 NGOs, GICJ members delivered a number of statements. The statements addressed key issues such as the total breakdown of public services, the disastrous situation of the Iraqi judicial system, arbitrary arrests, detentions and executions, the horrific heath situation, the impact of war on children, the systematic corruption and abuse of power including the killing of demonstrators.

The NGOs exposed how the US-invasion is responsible for the disastrous situation and reminded the United Nations of their responsibility to restore justice and accountability for Iraq. They reiterated the on-going demand to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Iraq  as well as sending clear message to the Government of Iraq that it can no longer execute at will and with impunity.

Oral statements delivered under agenda item 2 during the General Debate with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms. Daniela Dönges delivered an oral statement on behalf of GICJ and EAFORD on the 10th of September 2013. Ms Donges underlined the alarming increase in number of executions, torture and abuse of power in Iraq.

Full text of the statement

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement with Geneva International Centre for Justice

We would like to thank the High Commissioner for her report. Our NGOs appreciate the important work she is carrying out and reiterate our full support for her mandate. In particular we thank the High Commissioner for her statement on Iraq, in which she addresses the deplorable execution practises in Iraq.

Madam High Commissioner, in 2013 Iraq has seen several waves of executions, the latest of whom on August 19, when 17 people were executed in only one day. Our organisations are extremely alarmed that in addition to the 72 executions that you mention there are at present 1200 prisoners languishing on death row, whose execution the government of Iraq announced to accelerate despite all international outcries.

In this regard we are surprised that the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights has persistently defended executions and even pushed to enforce them, publicly stating that executions in Iraq cannot be considered a very high number anyway. This is although it is well aware of the lack of fair trial standards in Iraq with death sentences often based on confessions extracted under torture.

We also wonder if the Iraqi delegation, that yesterday claimed in this Council that all executed are terrorist, did not read the latest report of the Report of the Secretary-General on the Question of the death penalty, criticizing the broad scope of the Anti Terrorism Law of Iraq, which provides the death penalty for a wide range of acts that cannot be considered as “most serious crimes”.

Finally, we are extremely shocked that in August the Iraqi Minister of Justice declared on the Iraqi television, that the government plans to amend a law that until now provides basic human rights to accused in order to execute at a higher rate.

Madam High commissioner, the recent wave of executions in Iraq is illegal under international law, but the government of Iraq could not care less about international law. On behalf of the 1200 prisoners languishing on death row our NGOs urgently request that all human rights violation in Iraq be investigated by an international independent body and a special rapporteur on all human rights violation in Iraq to be appointed.

Thank you for your attention

The second oral statement under the General Debate Item 2 was delivered by Ms. Yanet Bahena from GICJ. She adressed the situation of arbitrary arrests and detentions in Iraq.

Full text of the statement

Madam Vice President,

In her address yesterday, Madam High Commissioner touched on some of the deplorable acts taking place in Iraq today. Unfortunately for the Iraqi people, these are but a minute example of the vast human rights violations they are forced to endure on a daily basis.  We heard of the continued execution of “people in batches”, but just as critical, is the wide-spread and unlawful practice of arbitrary arrests and detentions that precede many of these executions.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions were carried out on a mass scale throughout the war, occupation and interim governments, and the current one has done a superb job of continuing and expanding this practice of depriving Iraqis of their right to liberty.

Hundreds of thousands have been arbitrarily arrested or detained since 2003 and to date, night raids continue; arrests are carried out without warrants; thousands are held for years without being charged or incommunicado; sentences are passed down without fair trials or due process; torture remains a method of choice for abstracting confessions; and secret prisons, which by definition embody all the elements of arbitrary arrest and detention, remain in heavy use.

A new campaign named “Thár al-Shuhadá”, or “Martyrs’ Revenge”, launched this past August, ended in the arrest of almost 1,500 people in less than two weeks; all under the guise of counter-terrorism. Prime Minister Al-Maliki has stated that this operation will continue indefinitely and that he will not listen to any condemnations or statements against it. We must make him listen.

Madam Pillay also spoke of the impunity and lack of accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations in Iraq and called on the authorities to “do the utmost to protect all people” in the country. But who will protect the Iraqi people when it is these same authorities who are perpetrating some of the worst violations? Who will end THEIR impunity and lack of accountability?

The answer is you, distinguished Members of the Council. It is your responsibility to uphold your obligations under the UN Charter and as members of this Council to protect human rights and take action against ALL violators. For the sake of the of the over 42,000 people in Iraqi prisons today, the over 1200 languishing on death row, the close to 2,000 arrested in August alone under the new “Martyrs’ Revenge” campaign, and the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who can meet the same fate, we hope that you uphold your obligations and hold Iraq to theirs.

I thank you, Madam Vice President

Oral Statements delivered under Agenda Item 3

Promotion and Protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Angela Bushati from GICJ delivered a statement under agenda item 3, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui. Ms. Bushati highlighted the difficult situation of children in armed conflicts and impact of occupation on Iraqi children.

Full text of the statement

Thank you Mr. Vice President,

This is a joint statement with EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice on behalf of 300 NGOs. We would like to express our appreciation for the important work of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict and we would like to draw her attention to the following:

Madame Special Representative, your mandate has been created to be an independent voice on behalf of children affected by armed conflicts. Reports by your office thus persistently underline, that conflicts not only lead to basic violations of children’s human rights, but also deprive them of their basic socioeconomic rights.This especially concerns the children of Iraq, whose basic human rights have been shattered on all levels due to the war and occupation. The current situation of Iraqi children requires the attention of the International Community so we strongly encourage you to take this issue in consideration.

Madame Special Representative, even ten years after the invasion the situation of millions of Iraqi children is still very precarious. According to the UN Children's Fund, 3.5 million children are living in poverty, 1.5 million under the age of five are undernourished and 100 infants die every day. Poverty, the total lack of security and displacement have made them further vulnerable to kidnapping, abduction and sexual abuse, especially impacting an estimated two million Iraqi child refugees. Reports of malnutrition, a shattered education system, a high and increased rate of child labour and child trafficking threatens the basic human rights of Iraqi children. We would appreciate if you could make this topic one of your priorities.

Madame Special Representative, the children of Iraq will still suffer from the consequences of war if the International Community does not react. Speaking with your words, finding out what is happening and telling the world, is the first step towards accountability and ending impunity. We call on you to undertake a country visit to Iraq and include the topic of Iraqi children into your further reports. This right cannot be denied to the children of Iraq.

Thank you for your attention.

The second statement under agenda item 3, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, was delivered by Daniela Dönges, GICJ. She outlined the difficult situation of children in armed conflicts, in particular Syria and Iraq.

Full text of the statement

Thank you Mr President,

This is a joint statement with Geneva International Centre for Justice.

We would like to thank the Special Representative for her upate and express our support for the important work she is carrying out.

Madam Special Representative, your mandate has been created to serve as an independent moral voice for children affected by armed conflict.

Our NGOs are deeply concerned about the situation of the children in Syria, who endure a suffering beyond all imagination. Until now some 7,000 children have been killed and more than 740,000 become refugees. Destroyed schools and hospitals seriously undermine the children’s rights to health and education with long lasting consequences. We are alarmed by practises as described by you, with children being arrested or used as combatants. Everything must be done by the international community to ensure that a quick and political solution to the conflict will be found. Any military intervention will only add more suffering to this situation.

At the same time the international community shall not forget the children in Iraq, whose suffering has disappeared from international headlines in favour of other conflicts, although, their situation has constantly deteriorated since 2003.

Until this day health and education systems in Iraq are lying in pieces and little efforts have been undertaken to rebuild these facilities. Over 90.000 children are still missing but neither the United States nor the Iraqi authorities did help families to properly search for them. Today, 23 percent of the Iraqi people live under the poverty line. School dropout and illiteracy rates have increased. The situation makes children extremely vulnerable to violence. Since 2003 tens of thousands of girls in Iraq have been trafficked and 65 % among prostituted females are minor girls, a problem which did not exist prior to 2003.

Madam Special representative, the international community shall never forget those children affected by war. All human rights violations must be prosecuted, whenever they occur and whoever may be the responsible. We call on the United Nations to appoint a Special Rapporteur for the HR situation in Iraq as we urge the international community to find a peaceful solution for the conflict in Syria.

Thank you for your attention

Ms Daniela Dönges delivered another oral statement under agenda item 3, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right on truth, justice, reparations and non recurrence, Mr Pablo de Greiff. She insisted: “If there is one people in this world that have the right to truth, justice and reparations, it’s the Iraqi people.”

Full text of the statement

Thank you Mr President,

Geneva International Centre for Justice and EAFORD would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the right on truth, justice and reparations for the important work he is carrying out and would like to draw his attention to the following.

Mr. Special Rapporteur, your mandate has been created to deal with situations in which there have been gross violations of human rights. One of the most flagrant examples in this regard is certainly the case of Iraq, where an illegal war was led against an independent UN member state, leaving behind a devastated country and a shattered society. Ten years have passed, but the people of Iraq are still waiting for justice and accountability.

As you say in your report, the right to truth stands in the context of ending impunity but impunity remains the dominant feature for Iraq, where hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions of families displaced and a dreadful number of people is still missing. Immunity has been granted for targeted attacks, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions. No efforts have been made to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure, which until this day remains in shambles and no environmental clean-up been undertaken from toxic agents, susceptible to the horrendous increase of cancer and birth defects.

Only few days ago the American foreign minister John Kerry publicly stated that a military intervention in Syria would not repeat the mistakes of the Iraqi invasion and that the community is more than mindful of the Iraq experience. Such an acknowledgement must have legal consequences. Now the United States is under the obligation to act on these words. And square old debts.The time for an official apology from the Government of the United States and all those that participated in the “coalition of the willing” is long overdue.

Acknowledgement however is only a first step which further leads to reparations. Speaking with your words, Mr Special Rapporteur, reparations provide the material form of the recognition owed to people, whose fundamental rights have been violated. It is not only time but also the profound responsibility of the US, to provide compensation for the material and moral injury caused by an invasion and occupation, which was illegal, in contravention to article 2 of the UN Charter.

Compensation should include to re-built the Iraqi infrastructure; clean-up the environment, restore the Iraqi health system, protect displaced persons, locate missing and disappeared and finally also uncover and prosecute violations committed during and after the war.

Mr Special Rapporteur, if there is one people in this world that have the right to truth, justice and reparations, it’s the Iraqi people. We call on you to request a country visit to Iraq and include the topic of Iraq into your further reports. We further call on the United Nations to appoint a Special Rapporteur for Iraq.

Thank you

On the 16 September 2013, Ms. Dhifaf Christina Ati delivered another oral statement during the General Debate under Agenda Item 3

Full text of statement

Thank you Mr. President. This is a joint statement by EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

In her opening statement the High Commissioner pointed out the grave human rights situation in Iraq. Madame High Commissioner highlighted the new wave of violence, the deeply alarming sectarian targeting of civilians, impunity and lack of accountability, the deplorable killing in Camp Ashraf and the fact that the Iraqi government “continues to periodically execute people in batches”.

Another matter of grave concern is the health deterioration. In the US led invasion of Iraq, depleted uranium and white phosphorous were widely used by the Coalition forces in breach of international humanitarian law. The medical situation has become so horrific that it is being compared to Hiroshima. Sadly, this tragedy remains largely ignored by the international community and of even greater injustice, the perpetrators continue to evade responsibility.

Iraq is the third-largest oil exporter and second largest oil producer in the world. Billions of dollars were allocated to development and reconstruction, but due to occupation and corruption; schools, hospitals, homes and roads have not been rebuild, unemployment is high, education and health systems are still destroyed and 23% of the population lives in poverty.

I have personally witnessed the travesty of justice that Iraqis endure daily. In February this year, I returned to Iraq for the first time in 15 years. Iraqi people are denied the most basic and fundamental human rights. The impact of brutal war, corrupt government and sectarian division are evident throughout Baghdad. This is further supported by the numerous statements and submissions this Council has heard including statements by some of the victims of the HR violations that are occurring in Iraq.

Iraq has endured 12 years of sanctions, 2 wars and 10 years of occupation while the international community has watched in silence. Accountability for abuses committed by Coalition forces and under the Al-Maliki administration remains almost non-existent.

Finally, justice must be seen to be done! The silence and inaction of the UN and the international community are no longer tolerable nor condonable. It is time for the United Nations to follow the countless calls and appoint a SR for the severe human rights violations in Iraq.

Thank you.

Oral Statement delivered under Agenda Item 4,
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

During General Debate Agenda Item 4 Ms. Yanet Bahena from GICJ delivered an oral statement in which she underlined the problem of abuse of power and systematic corruption in Iraq.

Full text of statement

Thank you, Mr. President,

The number of issues in Iraq requiring the Council’s attention are too numerous to address in a single, short statement, but one that underpins so many of these issues and hinders any real prospect for development and the advancement of human rights is corruption.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described corruption as an “insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies.” Iraq has been completely overtaken by this plague. It is now one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The levels of corruption experienced during the 2003 invasion and existent today under Prime Minister Al-Maliki are yet one more of the legacies established and left behind by the perpetrators of the war.

Estimates put the total lost to corruption by defense contractors involved in the reconstruction of Iraq to be up to $60 billion; and this is just defense contractors. Coalition Provisional Authority actions in Iraq have been described as “economic war crimes” that breached international law and like all crimes; the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Like his predecessors, Al-Maliki continued and advanced this practice of corruption, which was described by a former minister as “an institutionalized kleptocracy” with the “wholesale theft of public funds” and where “everything is for sale.”

This corruption has played a significant role in the devastation of Iraqi society and its citizens’ lives; rendering true democracy impossible; fostering a rule of law where government leaders and officials are above the law and use threats and violence to impose their will; allowing for grave violations of human rights to persist with impunity; and forcing Iraqis into a life of fear, insecurity and poverty.

Iraqis live in miserable conditions while the billions that belong to them line the pockets of those in power.

On average, Iraq has the highest paid officials in the world. Their salaries range from $11,000 to over $80,000 per month—this when the average Iraqi lives on less than $300 per month and lacks the most basic of services.

Of great concern are also the effects that corruption has had on the judicial system. Fair trials are near impossible as many judges are controlled by Maliki, either by fear, threats, or bribes.

Corruption has led to the theft of tens of billions of dollars earmarked for Iraqis and the development of their country and has left them without basic public services like water, food, electricity, education, health services, employment, housing and infrastructure. For the sake of Iraqis and their human rights, all those responsible for practicing and institutionalizing this corruption must be held responsible.

I thank you.

Oral statement delivered under agenda item 6 - Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

On 23 September 2013 during the General Debate under agenda item 6, Ms. Bahena stated that the “Iraqi government’s failure to implement its accepted recommendations demonstrates its unwillingness to uphold its obligations under the UN Charter”.

Full text of statement

Thank you, Mr. President.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once stated that the UPR “has the potential to promote human rights in the darkest corners of the world.”  Iraq is one of these dark corners. Reviewed in 2010, the UPR highlighted many of the violations occurring in Iraq, but regrettably, progress stalled there. Without an effective follow-up mechanism, the UPR’s potential to promote human rights is significantly diminished and countries like Iraq can continue to ignore their obligations.

Iraq received several recommendations on:  human rights in its judicial system; freedom of expression; eradicating torture and arbitrary arrests and detention, and combating corruption and impunity, amongst many others.

Iraq accepted these recommendations, but three years on, violations continue.

Numerous countries recommended the respect of international standards when applying the death penalty, but executions continue at high rates with 17 people being executed on 19 August alone. Death sentences are imposed for crimes not considered “most serious crimes”, without fair trials, and based on confessions extracted by torture. Secret prisons remain in use and thousands are detained without charges, due process and in inhumane conditions. Corruption and impunity are stronger and more protected than ever.

The UPR also allows States to “declare” actions taken to improve human rights in their countries. The Iraqi government takes pride in announcing its constitution’s protection of freedom of expression and assembly, but it exists only on paper. The victims of Al-Hawija prove this. 

The Prime Minister and his officials always equate demonstrators with “terrorists” and in a speech on 18 August, the Prime Minister promised to end all demonstrations against the political process in Iraq and declared that as was done in Egypt, his government could end all demonstrations in less than one hour.

UPR recommendations to incorporate human rights into its anti-terrorism operations fell on deaf ears. A new campaign named “Martyrs’ Revenge” led to the arbitrary arrest of 1,500 people and the death of dozens in August alone, and the Prime Minister has stated that the campaign will continue indefinitely.

Mr. President, the Iraqi government’s failure to implement its accepted recommendations demonstrates its unwillingness to uphold its obligations under the UN Charter and makes evident the criticalness of establishing an effective follow-up mechanism for the UPR.

I thank you Mr President

GICJ & 300 other NGOs have submitted 5 reports on the human rights situation in Iraq. These reports were issued by the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council together with the official documents of the 24th session of the Council:

Participation of GICJ at Human Rights Council Sessions

Human Rights Council - 35th regular session (6 June - 24 June 2017)

Human Rights Council - 34th regular session (27 February - 24 March 2017)

Human Rights Council - 33rd regular session (10 September - 30 September 2016)

Human Rights Council - 32nd regular session (13 June - 1 and 8 July 2016)

Human Rights Council - 31st regular session (29 February - 24 March 2016)

Human Rights Council - 30th regular session (14 September - 2 October 2015)

Human Rights Council - 29th regular session (15 June - 3 July 2015)

Human Rights Council - 22nd special session on the human rights situation in Iraq in light of abuses committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups - 1 September 2014:

Human Rights Council - 21st special session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem - 23 July 2014:

Human Rights Council - 26th regular session (10 - 27 June 2014):

Human Rights Council - 25th regular session (3 - 28 March 2014):

Human Rights Council - 24th regular session (9 - 27 September 2013):

Human Rights Council - 23rd regular session (27 May - 14 June 2013):

Human Rights Council - 22nd regular session (25 February - 22 March 2013):

Human Rights Council - 21st regular session (10 - 28 September, 5 November 2012):

Human Rights Council - 19th regular session (27 February - 23 March 2012):

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