10 Dicember 2019
By: Elizabeth Cole
On 11 November 2019, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – a key constituent of the UN Human Rights Council – conducted its third review of the human rights situation in Iraq. The Iraqi delegation was headed by Mr. Farooq Ameen Othman, Iraq’s Minister of Justice.
Mr. Ameen Othman began by presenting Iraq’s National Report for its 3rd cycle UPR, explaining the human rights developments since the last review in November 2014 and the general human rights situation in the country. In the aftermath of this previous review, 175 of the total 229 recommendations were accepted by Iraq; these were claimed to have been implemented through the country’s national plan. While it was implied that progress has been difficult as a result of Iraq’s security challenges over the last four years, Mr. Ameen Othman suggested that Iraq’s human rights record was strong; he alleged that Iraq has remained committed to adhering to its international human rights obligations under its numerous signed and/or ratified human rights conventions. Indeed, it was claimed that much heartening progress has been made in the last few years towards this.
The full report of Iraq’s third UPR process includes:
- Iraq's Participation in International Human Rights Treaties
- Background information
- Summary of UN Documentation and Stakeholder Submissions
- Presentation of the National Report
- Interactive Dialogue and Recommendations from States
- GICJ Observations and Contributions to the UPR
Background Information – Overview of the human rights situation in Iraq
Iraq’s Participation in International Human Rights Treaties:
Summary of pre-UPR submissions
In preparation for the review, the Working Group received three reports compiled by the OHCHR. On top of the national report – which will be summarised below – the group also received compilations from both the UN bodies and the stakeholders. The reports follow a very similar structure, first looking at Iraq’s co-operation with international obligations, mechanisms and bodies, then considering the national human rights framework, before considering more specific issues in detail. The content of the latter two of these will be briefly outlined below.
Compilation on Iraq – UN Bodies
Regarding the scope of international obligations and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms and bodies, the UN Human Settlements Programme noted that eight major international human rights instruments have been ratified. Other organisations, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the International Labour Organisation, made recommendations in line with their own objectives, such as the incorporation of international treaties into the Iraqi domestic order. UNAMI, in collaboration with the UNHCR, also suggested that legislation should be enacted to ensure that domestic courts can legislate on international crimes committed in Iraq, and that Iraq ratifies the Rome statute of the ICC.
Concerning the national human rights framework, it was recommended that the principle of the prohibition of torture should be incorporated into Iraqi legislation (Committee against Torture), that the High Commissioner of Human Rights should be able to carry out its mandate fully under domestic law (Human Rights Committee), and that Iraq should establish a comprehensive legal plan to protect the rights of minorities (Special Rapporteur on minority issues).
On more specific issues,
- Cross-cutting issues:
- Equality – The Human Rights Committee was concerned about the negative attitudes as a result of gender identity or sexual orientation – and recommended that efforts are made to prevent discrimination against those affected.
- Development/ the environment/ business – It was recommended that a plan is made to assist those affected by drought, and to look at the fair and equitable use of the river resourced between groups (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
- Counter-terrorism – The Human Rights Commission recommended that Iraq addresses the breadth of the definition of terrorism and ensure that all counter-terrorism legislation is in line with international standards and that it does not include the mandatory imposition of the death penalty.
- Civil and political rights:
- Right to life, liberty and security – The Committee on Enforced Disappearances expressed concern about the containing lack of protections and appropriate investigation for victims of enforced disappearances, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child pushed Iraq to investigate allegations of torture and inhuman treatment against children. UNESCO highlighted that sites of cultural heritage continue to be destroyed, and the Mine Action service considered the mass contamination left behind by explosive hazards. The implementation of forced labour, ill-treatment and sexual violence against minorities, especially from the Yazidi community, was also condemned by a number of organisations.
- Administration of justice – Iraq was repeatedly urged to ensure that the judiciary is fully independent and impartial, as well as to push the judicial process to effectively penalise those accused of torture and ill-treatment. Investigations into key issues were also encouraged, such as torture and ill-treatment (Committee Against Torture), war crimes perpetrated and being perpetrated by ISIL (UNAMI/ OHCHR) and mass graves and disappearances. The Human Rights Committee also encouraged Iraq to make further efforts to raise awareness of the ICCPR among judges, lawyers and prosecutors to ensure that its obligations are considered in domestic spheres.
- Fundamental freedoms – Concerns were expressed about journalists that have been subject to attacks or killed, and UNESCO encouraged Iraq to introduce a freedom of information law in line with international standards.
- Prohibition of slavery – The Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Iraq amends its official definition of the sale of children to bring it more in line with international standards.
- Economic, social and cultural rights:
- Right to work and good working conditions – Concerns were raised about the rising unemployment rate, and especially the high numbers of Roma and Iraqi persons among the unemployed. It was also recommended that Iraq intensifies its efforts to effectively implement its employment policy to improve awareness (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
- Right to social security – Iraq was called on to reduce poverty, such as by adopting a specific human rights poverty strategy that focuses on marginalised peoples specifically.
- Right to adequate standard of living – The UN bodies generally focused on the lack of housing provision and the incidences of homelessness, clearance operations and forced evictions. UN-Habitat specifically noted that housing demands have increased significantly since the conflict given infrastructural damage.
- Right to health – UNAMI and OHCHR urged Iraq to protect the right of women to access resources about family health, particularly family planning, and to respect and assist them on their reproductive rights and needs. It was also recommended for the health budget to be gradually increased to ensure the human right to the highest attainable standard of health.
- Right to education – Recommendations focused on ensuring access to education for all (particularly minorities), on increasing gender equality in education, and on strengthening the educational system, such as by introducing a period of compulsory and free primary and/ or secondary education.
- Rights of specific persons or groups:
- Women – Regarding women, the groups once again expressed concern about the level of violence against women, whether that be sexual or domestic, and about the continuing practices of discrimination against women and girls. It was repeatedly recommended that perpetrators should be held accountable and that such cases should be promptly investigated.
- Children – For children, concerns were noted over the continuing use of corporal punishment and the sale, prostitution and sexual exploitation of children (Committee on the Rights of the Child). Indeed, many groups highlighted sexual violence against children as a matter of specific concern. Several organisations also looked at the use of children in forced labour and armed conflict, such as the sale of children by the popular mobilisation forces and the practice of the detention and conviction of children for their association with such armed groups.
- Persons with disabilities – The Mine Action Service outlined the lack of care for victims and survivors of explosive hazards and recommended for Iraq to ensure that women especially are given adequate support. Other groups considered how disability protections are ensured in more mainstream legislation – such as gender equality or child protection legislation.
- Minorities – Several organisations expressed concerns about the protection and support of displaced persons, especially from the Yazidi community, and UNAMI and OHCHR showed alarm about the situation of civilians who remain in areas of ISIS control.
- Internally displaced persons – The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons recommended that measures should be taken to ensure that they have the right to move freely and seek safely, and it was noted that in some areas, land clearance programmes prevent some people from returning – an issue which should be addressed.
Summary of Stakeholders’ submissions on Iraq
With regard to co-operation with international obligations, mechanisms and bodies, several organisations and stakeholders pointed out that since the last UPR cycle, no progress has been made towards acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, nor the Optional Protocol to CAT, nor the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Other key points included encouragement to join the ICC, to remove their reservations to CEDAW, to improve their complaint procedure in line with international law, to enact legislation to regulate the administrative rights of minorities and to comply with deadlines when submitting reports to treaty bodies.
Regarding the national human rights framework, it was noted that the Ministry of Human Rights was abolished by the Iraqi government in 2015, and that, despite the existence of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, extra support is still required. Various organisations noted that the Penal Code is not in line with international standards; for instance, one advised Iraq to repeal the Penal Code article that pardons rapists if they marry their victims and another highlighted that it did not encompass the number of ways that rape has been used against the Yazidi population. Other organisations flagged the lack of independence and impartiality of the HCHR, suggested that consultations with survivors, victims and members of their families should be initiated and that a truth and reconciliation commission should be established. Others considered the enduring discriminative nature of both the Personal status laws and the Nationality Law No. 26/2006.
On more specific issues,
- Cross-cutting issues:
- Equality – Discrimination is still widespread despite its prohibition in the Iraqi constitution. Organisations highlighted issues such as widespread hate speech, the danger of open LGBTQI identity and de-facto religious discrimination on the basis of Islamic-based legislation and religious specification on ID cards.
- Development/ the environment – One organisation noted that in 2018, Iraq suffered severely from a lack of water, which sparked protests. It was recommended that drinking water should be provided by the government.
- Counter-terrorism – It was recommended that the Anti-Terrorism Act 14 is amended, that human rights laws and due process are respected in terrorism cases, and that “terrorism” is not used as a pretext for indiscriminate arrests.
- Civil and political rights:
- Right to life, liberty and security - Various organisations recommended that Iraq immediately establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolish it completely, with others suggesting that the number of crimes punishable by death should be significantly limited. Others highlighted the high rates of enforced disappearances, the de-facto control of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and the extra-judicial tactics of torture, executions and violence used by the Iraqi governmental forces and their affiliates.
- Administration of justice – One group indicated that the Iraqi judicial system is susceptible to political pressure, corruption and bribery, with another corroborating the fact that judgements are usually not impartial. It was also suggested that alternative forms of punishment to imprisonment should be used, that reparations programmes for survivors of ISIS are founded, and that corruption in politics and society more generally should be tackled.
- Fundamental freedoms – Multiple organisations noted a lack of rights for minorities, whether they be ethnic, religious or linguistic. For example, concerns were raised about the implementation of Islam as the official religion of Iraq and the basis of Iraqi law on Sharia law. The treatment of journalists also represented a key area of concern, with recommendations that the findings of investigations into cases of attacks against journalists are published, that the Penal Code should be amended to abolish penalties for journalists’ opinions and that, more broadly, attacks against journalists represent a violation of Iraqi freedom of speech.
- Prohibition of slavery – One group warned that the government’s methodology for collecting data on trafficking means that the number of trafficked women and girls remains unknown, while another noted the numbers of Yazidi women captured for the purposes of slavery (6,418 – with 3,047 remaining vulnerable post-March 2019).
- Economic, social and cultural rights:
- Right to work and good working conditions – One organisation stated that despite guarantees in the Iraqi constitution, Iraqi citizens continued to suffer from unequal working opportunities. Two groups also expressed their concern over the labour union rights and the fact that a number of union leaders had been arrested or threatened.
- Right to social security – A discrepancy between the retirement provisions for public and private sector workers was expressed.
- Right to an adequate standard of living – One organisation observed that the level of provided services had seen a significant reduction since the previous regime - such as access to safe drinking water. It was also recommended for disparities in the distribution of wealth to be reduced.
- Right to health – Multiple groups reported a worsening of the health situation in Iraq, with 8% of the population being diagnosed with chronic diseases and an increase in the number of preterm infants having been noted, partly as a result of conflict and infrastructural damage. It was recommended that social health insurance programmes should be introduced.
- Right to education – A general fall in the rate of education provision was noted, with a decrease in the enrolment figures at all ages and partly caused by mass displacement as a result of ISIS. One organisation suggested that a law on compulsory primary and middle school education should be introduced.
- Rights of specific persons or groups:
- Women – A number of groups noted that women continue to suffer discrimination and systematic exclusion. Despite legislative reforms, one organisation noted that an increase in domestic violence cases has been seen in recent years.
- Children – One group expressed its concern about the number of displaced children (4.5 million) and orphans (4.5 million) in Iraq. Many of these are at increased risk of sexual exploitation and violence. Others recommended that corporal punishment of children should be explicitly illegalised and that more safe play spaces for children should be provided.
- Minorities – Most groups referred to the protections and treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, who are at increased risk of death, persecution, ill-treatment and sexual abuse. As a result, it was recommended for their representation in the security forces to be increased, for adequate parliamentary representation to be assured, and for greater protections for minorities to be ensured.
- Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons – It was emphasised that minority migrants are at serious risk of being targeted by extremist groups. One group observed that there are 6.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Iraq, another that over two million people are displaced and another that many are forced to flee due to perceived affiliation to ISIS.
- Specific regions/ territories:
- It was highlighted that Assyrian Christian villages and towns have been being legally exploited by PKK militants for several years.
Universal Periodic Review Session, 11 November 2019
Presentation of the National Report
Mr. Farooq Ameen Othman opened the presentation of the national report by offering an overview of Iraq’s progress in human rights since the last UPR. Mr. Ameen Othman explained that the report mostly focused on the implementation of the recommendations of the previous cycle: Iraq accepted 175 of the total 229 recommendations offered during the last review. He then re-iterated that progress has been difficult on the basis of perceived challenges over the last five years – citing ISIL occupation as a key barrier to the implementation of human rights protections.
Mr Ameen Othman explained that responsibility for human rights issues has been transferred to the Ministry of Justice since the last review (in 2015). In spite of this, he claimed that Iraq has continued to actively participate in all aspects of the UN system. He suggested that great strides have been made in institution building for human rights issues, that much human rights legislation and draft laws are currently in the discussion stages and that others have been recently launched, and that numerous policies and strategies have been introduced; for instance, to protect women, to eliminate poverty, to eliminate violence against women and for the purposes of reproductive health. Moreover, he claimed that a culture of monitoring and follow-up for human rights is currently being fostered, and that the state is aiming to secure the total independence of the judiciary.
With regard to the national report, the minister claimed that much has been done to secure the economic, social and cultural rights of the Iraqi people. He applauded the alleged introduction and reform of job-creation programmes, housing opportunities, land allocation programmes, the promotion of industry through financial and other kinds of resources and institutional structural reform to allow such reforms to be implemented. Further areas of his examination included the supposed progress made in limiting corruption and tackling the rights of disabled persons, the right to education, terrorism and the death penalty. For instance, it was claimed that investigations against many current and previous civil servants have been launched – especially following the decision to end life immunity for all members of parliament from the judiciary - and that they are currently in the process of drafting an anti-terrorism act in line with human rights standards.
To conclude, Mr. Ameen Othman held that the Iraqi delegation and the Ministry of Justice are committed to providing a suitable vision for the UPR in terms of its outcomes and recommendations, and that the challenges faced – especially in the face of terrorism – are not used as a pretext for a failure to act. Indeed, he suggested that they are already in the process of enacting a new national plan to implement the new recommendations and have every intention of doing so. It remains to be seen how successful this will be.
A representative from Kurdistan then spoke about the steps taken by the Kurdistan government in Iraq since the last UPR, suggesting that significant steps had been taken despite significant security and economic challenges due to ISIL. He noted that the key aims of Kurdistan were to strengthen the links between the regional and the national and to eliminate hate speech between different groups. Over the last five years, it was claimed that progress has been made towards women’s rights, education, and support for survivors of ISIL, victims of mines and mass grave searches for victims of ISIL.
Interactive Dialogue - Key Recommendations from States
Most states offered some commendations on Iraq’s progress since the last UPR, while also suggesting a large number of recommendations on a variety of issues. Key areas of concern were the reports of excessive use of force against protestors, the use and application of the death penalty, the widespread use of torture and enforced disappearances, the rights and treatment of women and minorities and social policy.
Most of the representatives began by commending Iraq on its progress since the last UPR, particularly for its efforts to implement the recommendations from the previous cycle. Indeed, particular commendations of note include the bringing of international laws into the national legislative and political frameworks after the re-activation of the national plan, development initiatives such as the 2018-22 poverty reduction plan, and efforts to improve the position of women both by combatting violence against women and by increasing their opportunities to contribute to both civil and political society. Despite offering many recommendations, most states were complimentary about Iraq’s progress since their last UPR review in 2014 as well as Iraq’s overall ratification of eight major human rights instruments, especially in face of the serious security challenge during the occupation of vast swathes of territory by the ISIL terrorist group.
There were a number of issues, however, to which states expressed concern. Multiple representatives, centring on but not exclusive to Europe and the wider western bloc, voiced their grave concern about reports of the excessive use of force against protestors, the high death, injury and arrest count, reports of media intimidation and repression, and the use of materials such as tear gas and live ammunition aiming to intentionally harm or even kill protestors. Many of these recommended for the immediate end to violence, for Iraq to hold the perpetrators accountable through fair and independent trial, and for Iraq to respect the demonstrators’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Others expressed concern over the number of cases where the death penalty is applied, notably Switzerland and Ireland. Ireland highlighted that its use has increased significantly since 2018, while Switzerland suggested that the number of contemporary death penalty cases is cause for concern. Indeed, a total of 18 countries recommended Iraq to introduce a special moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolish it completely, with most also advising that Iraq signs the second optional protocol to the ICCPR. More widely, a number of states recommended for Iraq to work towards ratifying the Convention Against Torture (CAT), or at least to promptly investigate allegations of torture (Canada; North Macedonia; Norway) or step up efforts to combat impunity for acts of torture (Czech Republic). Many representatives also recommended for Iraq to consider the issue of enforced disappearances; for example, Malta recommended that Iraq continues the drafting of legislation to prevent its practice, and Argentina suggested that efforts to investigate the causes of enforced disappearances should be multiplied. Moreover, a total of nine countries recommended that Iraq signs and ratifies the Rome statute of the ICC, which would increase protections against four key crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
The rights and treatment of women was also a key topic of discussion during this UPR review. Many representatives encouraged Iraq to continue its efforts to improve both the rights and protections of women, referring specifically to recent efforts to increase the number of women in positions of authority and the introduction of a division charged specifically with the empowerment of women. That being said, numerous recommendations in the sphere of women’s rights were offered. Some of these were legally-based, such as encouragements to adapt the Penal Code to annul clauses that allow domestic or gender-based violence (Seychelles; Switzerland) and to rescind the legal provisions that absolve rapists who agree to marry their victims (Uruguay; Croatia), and suggestions that the draft law on domestic violence should be quickly adopted as law. Several states also mentioned that Iraq should continue to improve its laws against FGM and early enforced marriage and raise awareness of their damaging nature.
With regard to social policy, several states recommended that Iraq introduces specific curricula for human rights education, at both the school and university levels. An improvement in the education provision for marginalised groups, especially for non-native Arabic speakers, such as those with Assyrian or Turkman as a first language. Many representatives also encouraged Iraq to continue with its current efforts to tackle poverty under the 2030 initiative, such as by assuring access to adequate long-term funding.
Finally, a number of states touched on the enhancement of the protection of a number of different minority groups, such as displaced people, migrant workers and their families, disabled persons, women and children. For instance, Ecuador recommended for legislative measures to be introduced to promote equal work opportunities for minorities, while Albania suggested for specific measures to be drawn up to ensure the representation of minorities in politics. Minorities in conflict zones were a particular theme of discussion. Some considered measures to aid the displaced to return to their homes, such as initiatives to re-integrate displaced families (Morocco) or to prevent discrimination against internally displaced women and children, especially those of previous Daesh affiliation (Belgium).
Interactive Dialogue – Iraqi response
The Iraqi delegation held that they appreciated the comments and recommendations from the state parties during the interactive dialogue. Over the course of the dialogue, they offered a number of explanations and comments in response to the contributions, a number of which are summarised below:
- October 2019 demonstrations – In response to the concerns and recommendations expressed on the subject of the 2019 demonstrations, the Iraqi delegation expressed regret for the number of people killed. It was suggested that the objective of the authorities is to protect the demonstrators, and that the harsh reaction by the security forces has only been in response to the actions of some lawless individuals who have abused the peaceful protests by resorting to violence themselves. However, it was also alleged that the government has taken serious measures to investigate the actions of the security forces and thus hold the perpetrators accountable. It was stated that the government considers the demonstrations as an inevitable reform process given the years of tyrant corruption and oppression.
- Enforced disappearances – In response to the contributions on enforced disappearances, it was claimed that a series of measures have been introduced to better co-ordinate efforts concerning enforced disappearances, with a specially-formed body, a judge that has been appointed to follow cases in liberated areas and a specific minister to oversee the cases of enforced disappearance. Moreover, a draft bill is apparently currently pending to combat enforced disappearances, and the delegation expressed hope that the obligations to adopt such a law will be fulfilled.
- Family violence and forced early marriages – It was emphasised that forced early marriages are illegal under the constitution: Law 188 stipulates that relatives must not force anyone to marry without consent, and Law 51 gives a 6-month penalty to anyone who marries someone forcibly without referring to the law. In reality, though, it is widely known that the law in Iraq isn’t always adequately respected. Regarding violence, moreover, it was said that a bill is currently under preparation which defines violence, and a complaint procedure and family court will be set up according to this bill, which will award perpetrators of such violence much harsher sentences. Moreover, it was claimed that care centres and shelters have recently been set up for victims of such violence.
- Freedom of worship and protection of belief – On the topic of religion, the delegation responded to the contributors’ remarks by stating that all components and denominations in Iraq enjoy their rights as far as religious rituals are concerned, that all components are involved in the implementation of laws and legislation regarding war crimes and military acts, and that quotas for religious component representation are ensured by the constitution. Again, in practice, it is clear that such rights are not always respected as they should be under law. Regarding the Yazidi component specifically, statistics for numbers of missing, displaced killed were provided, and it was stated that a law to compensate the Yazidis was currently under consideration.
- Right to education – In response to concerns about the right to education in Iraq, it was suggested that much has been done to improve both the provision and the quality of education. Supposed generous funding for this purpose (which in reality amounted to little) allegedly allowed for the expansion of schools to make space for the displaced, the re-construction and re-habilitation of schools and facilities, the establishment of new Assyrian and Kurd schools and the opening of specific schools for drop-outs. Moreover, it was suggested that a new drive to enforce the law on compulsory education has led to a 58% increase in primary level enrolment and the enrolment of girls reaching 46% in local schools.
Conclusions and the adoption of the draft report
Despite the security challenges and sacrifices Iraq is said to have made over the last five years, Mr. Ameen Othman re-iterated that the government of Iraq is highly committed to ensuring the full exercise of all of the rights of Iraqi citizens, even when dealing with terrorism. He thanked all international institutions that have provided assistance to the Iraqi state in order to improve the human rights situation in Iraq, and re-emphasised that Iraq is determined to place human rights as a top priority in legislation and politics.
At the adoption of the draft report, it was noted that the Iraqi delegation received a total of 298 recommendations during this review cycle. Accordingly, the delegation said that all 298 will be examined by Iraq and their response will be provided no later than the 43rd session of the HRC. The Minister of Justice re-iterated in his final remarks that the government of Iraq will continue working towards the promotion of the human rights and basic freedoms of all Iraqi citizens, that it will continue to interact with the UPR in order to develop a system that promotes human rights to all components, and that all necessary plans will be drawn up to implement the recommendations of this 3rd cycle. It remains to be seen what action will be taken towards the fulfilment of these promises.
GICJ contributions to the UPR
GICJ has contributed significantly to Iraq’s 3rd cycle UPR review, in order to ensure that interested parties are made aware of matters of particular concern for the organisation – particularly in light of the recent protests.
Within the framework of the UPR, GICJ submitted a report to highlight the issues of importance for the organisation in anticipation of their 3rd review. The organisation also conducted a number of meetings with diplomats, and organised and moderated a side event dealing specifically with the UPR reviews of Iran and Iraq.
GICJ’s report on Iraq
In anticipation of Iraq’s 3rd UPR cycle review, GICJ submitted a report to the 34th session Human Rights Council UPR Working Group to highlight particular issues of concern for the organisation and offer GICJ’s own recommendations. This report centred around three key issues: the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment, and the destruction of cities in recent conflict.
With regard to the death penalty, GICJ expressed its concern about Iraq’s increasing use of capital punishment, including as a penalty for crimes which the international community does not consider as serious. Particular areas of concern were the use of the amendment (12 July 2016) to the Criminal Procedure Code No. 23, the use of the Anti-Terrorism law as a legal ground for death sentences, and the lack of free trial in many death penalty cases. In terms of torture and ill-treatment, key areas of concern noted were the continuous and widespread use of torture in Iraq, only exacerbated by the advancement of ISIS and the subsequent war on terror. Finally, regarding destroyed cities, the report expressed concerned about the numbers of civilian causalities, population displacement and infrastructural damage, and the lack of effective humanitarian assistance and compensation.
Discussions with diplomats and representatives
In the weeks leading up to the UPR review, GICJ conducted a number of meetings with diplomats to highlight further areas of concern, especially in light of recent developments, namely the October 2019 protest movement. Given that the organisation is in direct contact with many protestors on the ground on the Iraq, it was important to highlight the extremity of the situation on the ground to those diplomats and representatives charged with speaking at the UPR.
It is hoped that this will make the delegates and representatives think about the key issues of GICJ concern and convey such concerns to official meetings and publications connected to the current UPR cycle.
Side event on the UPR process in Iran and Iraq
On the 7 November 2019, GICJ, in collaboration with International-Lawyers.Org and EAFORD, organised an information meeting on the UPR process in Iraq and Iran at the UN headquarters in Geneva, open for the attendance of any interested parties or individuals. Former Senior Human Rights official at GICJ Mr. Christopher Gawronski acted as the speaker for Iraq, along with Mr. Tahar Boumedra, former UN Human Rights Chief of the UN Mission to Baghdad, for Iran. The meeting was moderated by Ms. Isabela Zaleski Mori, Human Rights Researcher at GICJ.
In his presentation on Iraq, Mr. Gawronski chose a number of key topics to present orally. He emphasised the difficulty of putting a positive spin on Iraq, even at the UPR, before highlighting the key problems the state continues to face. He focused on enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention; ill-treatment and torture; the death penalty; corruption; the failure of the state to maintain critical infrastructures; and the recent protests. This meeting allowed GICJ to again express its matters of particular concern, and also to answer questions from a live audience.
GICJ wishes to offer a number of observations concerning the claims made by the Iraqi delegation and the true extent of progress in the years since the previous review.
Firstly, while the delegation repeatedly suggested that Iraq was not using the pretext of terrorism or security issues as an attempt to excuse a lack of progress, GICJ holds that this is not a veritable excuse. While it is repeatedly argued that development in human rights and general societal progress has been stunted in many areas as a result of the damages inflicted during war against ISIS and during the occupation, this does not excuse the mass human rights abuses, corruption at all levels of government and lack of infrastructural and social investment. Moreover, most of Iraq remained very stable and secure even throughout the years of Daesh control.
After years of observing Iraq’s affairs, GICJ has also become firm in the belief that Iraq’s promises to implement reforms and initiate progress towards human rights should never be taken seriously. Indeed, the rhetoric employed by diplomats and members of Iraq’s delegation has little in common with the situation on the ground. While it may be being claimed that progress in human rights in Iraq is applaudable, the human rights situation on the ground is dreadful, with rising enforced disappearances, the ad-hoc and illegal use of the death penalty, the continuation of practices of widespread corruption and the pitiful lack of social reform programmes. One only has to look at the determination and demands of the October 2019 protestors to realise how far from reality the delegation’s picture of Iraq painted in the UPR happens to be.
Finally, it should also be noted that many states avoid submitting harsh criticisms of Iraq during formal diplomatic processes criticisms due to their own economic or other interests in Iraq. It must be said that the deplorable political situation in Iraq, regarding corruption specifically, is actually capitalised upon by many Western nations, who gain much from the lacking standards that have become commonplace. For instance, the government cares little about whether products are faulty, and thus pays the same huge funds for wholly inadequate imports. Oil also remains an issue of key concern, with states refusing to criticise to make sure favourable export conditions are maintained. It should also be said that the system of the UN more broadly, as well as the UPR as a more specific procedure, unfortunately does not gave much space for real criticism, especially given the time constraints involved in the process. Indeed, these things should be taken into account when considering the states’ diplomatic statements during Iraq’s UPR.
Geneva International Centre For Justice