GICJ calls to restore justice and accountability for Iraq
“The situation is the result of foreign intervention and the international community must assume responsibility”
During the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, on behalf of over 300 NGOs, a number of statements were delivered by Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ). The statements addressed key issues such as the total breakdown of public services, the disastrous situation of the Iraqi judicial system, the excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions, torture and abuse as well as the recent 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. They reiterated their on-going demand to appoint of a Special Rapporteur on Iraq and called to send clear message to the Government of Iraq that it can no longer execute at will and with impunity.
On May 30, 2013 Daniela Dönges delivered a statement during the Interactive Dialogue (ID) with the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. The statement explained how the current situation of the Iraqi Judicial System is a direct result of the illegal invasion, the systematic dismantling of state institutions under occupation and the methods introduced by the US-Forces, who established the Special Police Commandos and set up prisons like Abu Ghraib. Over the past ten years the dismantled Iraqi judicial system has often been the subject of deep concern to the SR on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dönges explained, who more than once urged the Human Rights Council to ask the Iraqi authorities to stop applying the death penalty following trials that are in breach of international principles, but since 2010 the Iraqi judicial system has not been mentioned in any anymore, although the situation has further deteriorated. The NGOs urged the SR on the independence of judges and lawyers to re-include the topic in future reports and to schedule the outstanding country-visit as soon as possible as they reiterated their calls on the United Nations to appoint a UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq.
Full text of the statement:
We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the independence of lawyers and judges for her report. Our organisations support the outlined importance of effective legal aid and it’s in this sense that we would like to draw the Council’s attention to the Iraqi judicial system.
Madam Special Rapporteur, in your report you regret that many countries still lack the resources and the capacity to promote the right of everyone to free legal aid. However, the situation of the Iraqi judicial system goes far beyond such shortages, since it is the tragic mirror of an illegal invasion, the systematic dismantling of state institutions under occupation and the methods introduced by the US-Forces, who established the Special Police Commandos and set up prisons like Abu Ghraib. Until today the situation of the Iraqi judicial system is thus disastrous. Security forces target civilians in mass campaigns of arbitrary arrests, corruption and police abuse are rampant, and from the initial arrest over methods of interrogation to sentencing based on confessions obtained under torture even basic requirements of fair trial are not met. The culture of injustice is such that in 2013 millions of people took to the streets.
Over the past ten years the dismantled Iraqi judicial system has therefore often been the subject of deep concern to the previous SR on the independence of lawyers and judges, who more than once urged the Human Rights Council to ask the Iraqi authorities to stop applying the death penalty following trials that are in breach of international principles. A country visit was requested in 2008 and reiterated in 2010 but the visit is still pending, although, far from improving, the situation has still deteriorated. In 2013 Iraq is the country with the highest execution rate in the world and mass executions as in March 2013 have led to a point where the UN High Commissioner herself felt compelled to say that the Iraqi judicial system is too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty and that executing people like this is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse.
Madam Special Rapporteur, with 1,400 prisoners currently on death row after unfair trials, the need to take action could not be more urgent. Since 2010 the Iraqi judicial system has not been mentioned in your reports anymore although the situation more than ever demands your attention.We urge you to re-include it in future reports and to schedule the outstanding country-visit as soon as possible.
We also call on the United Nations to appoint a UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights situation in Iraq and ensure that all human rights violations during sanctions, invasion and occupation be investigated. Thank you for your attention
On May 30, 2013 Daniela Dönges delivered a statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The statement addressed the exploding rate of executions in Iraq, which demonstrates the Iraqi authorities continued disregard for the most fundamental human rights standards and the numerous calls by United Nations officials concerning the use of the death penalty. Authorities claim that those being executed are terrorists and but the real issue at hand is that everyone has the right to due process and a fair trial, Dönges continued. In 2013 Iraq is the country with the highest execution rate in the world and recently the UN High Commissioner herself felt compelled to say that the Iraqi judicial system is too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty and that executing people like this is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse. On behalf of all prisoners on death row, she asked the SR on extrajudicial executions to take immediate action. The Government of Iraq can no longer be allowed to arbitrarily execute people at will and with impunity, she concluded.
Full text of the statement:
Mr Special Rapporteur,
We would like to thank you for your report and the important work you are carrying out. Specifically, we appreciate your press release of July 2012, mentioned in your report, calling for the immediate cessation of executions in Iraq.
Mr. Special Rapporteur, executions in Iraq are taking place at a frightening rate. As of today, the number for 2013 is 53. On 16 April alone, 21 people were executed. Ms Pillay herself stated that executing people in such numbers is “like processing animals in a slaughterhouse.” This increasing rate of executions demonstrates the Iraqi authorities continued disregard for the most fundamental of human rights and the numerous calls by United Nations officials.
In your report you outlined that “it is an underlying assumption of most legal, moral and other codes that, when the decision to take life is at stake, the decision-making power should be exercised by humans.” But what about cases where the humans making these decisions do so under immoral, inhumane, unethical and illegal means?
In Iraq people are often sentenced to death without undergoing a fair trial or due process. Further, cases abound of detainees testifying to having been subjected to threats, physical abuse, and torture by police and security officials for the purpose of extracting confession. Death sentences undertaken under these conditions are arbitrary executions and must cease immediately.
Prime Minister Al-Maliki and his authorities claim that those being executed are terrorists and that all calls for the end of the death penalty will not keep the Ministry from carrying out these persons, but the real issue at hand is that everyone, regardless of their presumed crime, has the right to due process and a fair trial. The importance of this could not be more critical then when it comes to death sentences. As you reminded us in your report, we now remind Iraq of the “supremacy and non-derogability of the right to life under both treaty and customary international law,” and the unlawfulness of its arbitrary deprivation.
Mr. Special Rapporteur, with 1,400 currently on death row in Iraq, international action could not be more imperative. Today, on behalf of all of those languishing on death row, we ask that you take immediate action. Hundreds of lives depend on it. It is critical that no further executions be allowed to take place until all cases of detainees on death row are reviewed to ensure that the judicial and legal process followed was in line with international standards. We strongly urge the reinstatement of a Special Rapporteur on Iraq and that you uptake an immediate visit to Iraq. The Government of Iraq can no longer be allowed to arbitrarily execute people at will and with impunity. Thank you for your attention.
On May 31, 2013, Daniela Dönges from GICJ delivered a statement under Human Rights Council agenda item 3 during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education promotion. Her statement explained that contrary to the situation in other countries, where the lack of access to education is due to cultural barriers and limited resources, Iraq had undertaken every very effort to assure the right to assure the right to education until these efforts were destroyed during and following an illegal invasion. Today, Iraq is more illiterate than twenty-five years ago, Dönges said, and the school drop-out rate has risen to alarming 50%. In view of the Special Rapporteur’s proposition to take recourse to the ICC in case of inter-state conflicts, she asked what to do in a case where a functioning education system has been shattered to pieces but until the day accountability is non-existent. She thus called on the UN to finally follow the uncountable calls of hundreds of experts and NGOs and appoint a UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq.
Full text of the statement:
Thank you Mr. President,
We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the right to education for his report. Our organizations share his view that the right to education is an essential component for the enjoyment of other rights and that is has to be an enforceable right.
Mr Special Rapporteur, in your report you identify lack of awareness as well as legal, cultural and procedural barriers as main obstacles to the enforcement of the right to education. Still, one factor is missing, which is the systematic dismantling of a system during war and occupation. We would therefore like to draw your attention to the situation in Iraq, where the right on education has been shaken to the very foundations.
Mr Special Rapporteur you may be aware that until the 90s Iraq the education system of Iraq was known to be one of the best in the entire region. School enrolment was almost universal, and an effective literacy program promoted the right to education and let the illiteracy rate among women drop by over two third. Recent UNICEF studies show that primary school enrolment for both, boys and girls, would be at 100% today, had Iraq progressed at the same rate as other Middle Eastern countries and hadn’t there been an invasion, during which schools and universities were bombed, burnt or looted; teachers killed, thousands of academics fled the country and a discriminatory deba’athification policy furthered an academic decline the country has never recovered from.
Mr Special Rapporteur, over decades Iraq had undertaken every very effort to overcome obstacles to the right of education but the right has been destroyed due to an illegal invasion. Today, as a result, Iraq is more illiterate than twenty-five years ago and the school drop-out rate has risen to almost 50%. Poverty, a rampant lack of security keep thousands of girls at home, children need to work in order to support their families and especially higher education facilities still lack equipment. The situation is such that Iraq is unlikely to achieve its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Mr Special Rapporteur, in your report you propose that in case of inter-State conflict recourse can be made to the International Court of Justice for protecting the right to education of its citizens. But do you propose in a case like Iraq, where until today the invading countries are washing their hands of, where a functioning education system has been shattered to pieces but accountability is practically nonexistent, and finally, when despite the many calls of hundreds of experts and NGOs, no Special Rapporteur has ever been appointed? Mr Special Rapporteur, the current situation is the result of foreign intervention and the international community must assume its responsibility.
We call on you to address the situation of the Iraqi education system in your future reports as we call one more time on the United Nations to finally end the current state of impunity and investigate the human rights violations since 2003 through an UN Special Rapporteur for Iraq. Thank you for your attention.
On 4 June 2013, Ms. Yanet Bahena of Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) delivered a statement on behalf of a coalition of 300 NGOs at the Human Rights Council General Debate on Item 3, which centers on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. In their statement, the NGOs informed the Council of the serious violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly occurring in Iraq. In particular, attention was brought to the attack and killing of peaceful demonstrators in Hawija, Iraq on 23 April 2013. What occurred at Al-Hawija was a premeditated attack by government forces that left 80 dead and hundreds wounded. NGOs asked Council members to take up the case of Al-Hawija and other attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Iraq in their discussions.
Full text of the statement:
Thank you, Mr. President.
The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are fundamental rights. Regrettably, in Iraq these rights are violated at will.
Frustrated with living a life of fear, violations and lack of basic necessities; Iraqi citizens organized peaceful demonstrations, beginning in December, demanding the restoration of their rights. From their onset, Prime Minister Maliki has responded to the demonstrations with force. In an interview in January, Maliki assured protestors that if they did not end the demonstrations, the government would force them to. He stayed true to his threats.Later that month, in Mosul and Fallujah, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, causing several deaths and injuries. In Hawija, the brutality reached an unforgivable extreme.
On 23 April 2013, after four days without access to food, water or medical aid, peaceful demonstrators were attacked by the army and militia. Forces stormed the area with tanks and helicopters and using live ammunition, began to shoot heavily and indiscriminately. According to hospital records that we have obtained, over 80 demonstrators were killed and more than 100 wounded. Many also went missing. Adding to the heinous nature of this crime, SWAT forces targeted and killed the wounded and handcuffed.
What occurred at Al-Hawija was a carefully premeditated large-scale attack by government forces, and therefore constitutes a crime against humanity.
Government officials claim that protestors opened fire on security forces, but witnesses, including then Minister of Education Mohammed Tamim, who personally searched the area for weapons, have firmly sustained that demonstrators were unarmed. Maliki has no intention of stopping this flagrant violation of rights. Since the Hawija massacre he has continuously referred to the demonstrators as “terrorists” and publicly reiterated time and again that he will put an end to all demonstrations.
Distinguished members of the Council, on behalf of all of the lives that have been taken and all those that remain in danger in Iraq, we ask that you take up the case of the Hawija massacre and other attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Iraq in your discussions, in order to put an end to the continued grave human rights violations in Iraq. I thank you, Mr. President.
On 5 June 2013, Yanet Bahena of Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) delivered a statement under General Debate Item 4 of the Human Rights Council. In her statement, Ms. Bahena outlined the decade of suffering and destruction that the Iraqi people have undergone as a result of the unlawful US-UK invasion and the gross human rights violations they are subjected to under Maliki and his government. Members of the Council were asked to uphold the UN Charter and international law by taking due action on the situation in Iraq, investigating all crimes against humanity, appointing a Special Rapporteur on Iraq, and ensuring that all violators of human rights in Iraq be brought to justice.
Full text of the statement:
Thank you, Mr. President.
Ten years have passed since the unlawful war in Iraq and for the Iraqi people it has been a decade of destruction, death, violations and hardship. All victims of violations are entitled to reparation. Iraqis are still waiting for those responsible to be held accountable.
In breach of international humanitarian law, coalition forces used weapons which have significantly polluted the environment and are suspected of causing a high number of illnesses like congenital birth defects and cancer. The invasion severely affected children. It is estimated that 3.5 million live in poverty, 1.5 million under the age of 5 are undernourished, and 5 million are orphans. Once among the best in the region, the healthcare system has been crippled. Ten years on, health services still fail to meet minimum standards.
Having previously practically eradicated illiteracy, about five million of the country’s 30 million people are now illiterate. An estimated 84% of Iraqi higher education institutional infrastructure was damaged following the invasion. Up to 1 million people, including 90,000 children have been reported missing since 2003. Kidnappings, abductions and detentions occur daily. Archeological sites have been reduced to rubble, cultural property lost or stolen, cities brought to ruins, and infrastructure destroyed.
Gross violations of human rights continue under the Maliki government. Torture is widespread; executions occur regularly; tens of thousands are held in official and secret detention centers, many without charges, death sentences are imposed without fair trails and peaceful demonstrators are met with force and violence. Maliki and his government must be held accountable.
Distinguished members of the Council, we ask that you uphold the UN Charter and international law and take due action on the situation in Iraq. All countries involved with the invasion must provide compensation and reparation to Iraqis. They must undertake and finance an environmental clean-up, specifically, the removal of weapons and radioactive remnants and cover the restoration of damage to infrastructure and archeological sites.
War crimes and crimes against humanity must be fully investigated. The health system must be restored; missing and disappeared persons located; prisoners held without charges released, and arbitrary executions terminated. Finally, a Special Rapporteur on Iraq should be appointed and all measures taken to ensure that all violators of human rights in Iraq, both from the invasion and the current government, are brought to justice.
On June 7, 2013, Daniela Dönges, Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) delivered a second joint statement under General Debate Item 4 of the Human Rights Council. Her statement called to finally justice and accountability for the tremendous suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people by the US-led invasion and was a direct answer to a statement held by the Iraqi delegation two days before, during which the Iraqi delegation had denied reality and praised instead the imposed constitution. How can this country pretend to apply international human rights standards with a judicial system based on fear, torture and mass executions? Dönges asked, and how can they speak about the freedom of assembly when only 6 weeks ago it justified the massacre of unarmed demonstrators in Hawija. And in what way can it boast about freedom of press when only few days after Hawija 10 TV channels were banned from reporting? It is clear that an international independent investigation is necessary to solve the situation, she concluded.
Full text of the statement:
Geneva International Center for Justice and EAFORD would like to draw the Council’s attention to the situation in Iraq. Mr President, prosecuting human rights violations is essential for healthy international relations. The US invasion of Iraq was illegal and such an act entails legal consequences for the aggressors and rights for the victims but until today the Iraqi people are waiting for justice and accountability.
Today Iraq is still one of the worst places in the world. Millions are living in poverty. Unemployment rates are high. The education system has collapsed. Illiteracy is on the rise. Health services have broken down. Corruption is rampant; security nonexistent. The culture of injustice is such that in 2013 millions of people took to the streets.
Mr President, two days ago, we were surprised to hear the Iraqi delegation loudly deny the facts and praise instead the achievements of the imposed constitution. How can this country pretend to apply international human rights standards with a judicial system based on fear, torture and mass executions? How can the country we heard speaking in highest terms about the freedom of assembly be the same that only 6 weeks ago justified the massacre on 80 unarmed demonstrators in Hawija? And in what way can this country boast about freedom of press in front of this council, when only few days after Hawija 10 TV channels were banned, among them Al Jazeera?
Mr President, what we have heard from the Iraqi delegation proves that the current government has no intention to end the continuing state of impunity. Without an international independent investigation the situation cannot be solved. All parties that have contributed to the situation must be held accountable, regardless who they are. For too many years UN bodies have neglected the Iraqi state and its people. It is time for the United Nations to follow the countless calls and appoint a SR for the HR situation in Iraq. Thank you for your attention.
On 10 June 2013, Ms. Yanet Bahena of Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) delivered a statement during the Human Rights Council General Debate on Item 6, which covers matters pertaining to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In the statement Ms. Bahena recognized the importance of the UPR, but stressed that without an effective follow-up mechanism, the essence of its mission is lost. Israel's refusal to cooperate with the UPR was also covered in the statement. A recommendation for concrete and effective action against Israel on behalf of the Council was put forth. The statement also highlighted Iraq's continued failure to implement recommendations presented during its review in 2010. These recommendations, which Iraq accepted, include protecting the right to life, freedom of media, eradicating torture and respecting human rights within the judicial system. Despite assurances by the Iraqi government that these rights are protected in the constitution and that advances have been made, on the ground violations by authorities are more rampant than ever. The reality in Iraq presents a much darker scene than that which the Iraqi government hopes to make us believe. Torture is endemic and the judicial system the antithesis of just. Serious human rights violations occur at all levels. The most recent proof of this is seen in Hawija, where peaceful demonstrators were attacked and murdered.
Full text of the statement:
Thank you, Mr. President.
The UPR is an exercise of extraordinary importance. We commend the Council on its achievement and accomplishments thus far. We want the process to continue effectively, but believe this will only be possible if there is an effective follow-up mechanism in place.
Part of the strength of the UPR is in its universality. If Member States are allowed to withhold participation and if recommendations are not followed up or implemented, then the UPR has failed in its mission. It is essential that the Council take concrete action to ensure that Israel understands the consequences of its adamant refusal to cooperate with the Council's UPR.
This refusal is strong evidence of the serious violations of human rights by Israel against the Arab people. It is no coincidence that this failure comes during a time when Israel has used force against Syria in violation of international law, and at a time when it is violating the human rights of Palestinians on a daily basis. The Council's integrity can be greatly enhanced by strong and effective action against Israel.
Mr. President, we are concerned about the lack of results of Iraq’s review in 2010. During its review, States specifically made recommendations regarding the right to life; freedom of media and expression; eradicating torture; combating impunity and respecting human rights within its judicial system. Iraq accepted these recommendations, but on the ground violations by authorities are more rampant than ever.
In Iraq, impunity is the rule, justice the exception. Torture is endemic and the judicial system is the antithesis of fair and just. Mass arrests continue; detainees are held without charges, confessions extracted by abuse and torture, and prisoners executed without fair trials or due process.
Finally, last Friday the Iraqi delegation reiterated the protection of freedom of media and demonstration enshrined in its constitution. This goes to our point on effective follow-up and implementation. What good are rights guaranteed on paper if in practice they are violated at will? Authorities granted demonstrators in Hawija a permit, so yes, demonstrators’ rights were respected, but then they were attacked and more than 80 killed. The government accused them of being terrorists and armed, but the negotiator, working with Maliki’s consent, personally searched the area and informed officials that no weapons were found. Any media in the area had their equipment confiscated or destroyed.
This is the reality in Iraq and testament to the criticalness of implementing an effective UPR follow-up mechanism.
I thank you, Mr. President.
Documenting and reporting human rights violations in Iraq
|Human Rights Violations in the context of fight against terrorism
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):