By Viktoria Kropp/ GICJ

The devastating human rights situation in Iraq

For decades, Iraq’s human rights record has been horrifying while progress and improvement is not in sight. Enforced disappearances are used every, and as a tool of fear and used to silence dissident voices. An indication for the systematic use of enforced disappearance is the one of Jurf al-Sakhar, a  city whose 130,000 inhabitants are all victims of enforced disappearances. The city was effectively turned into a large secret prison, holding thousands of forcibly disappeared individuals, who were arrested by militias, mainly from Al-Anbar, Salaheldin, Nineveh and Kirkuk, between 2014 and 2018.

Report on the follow-up to the concluding observations of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances

In the follow-up report published on April, 25th 2022, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances discussed Iraq’s progress, as established in the Convention in relation to Article 29 (4), which requires the state party to submit requested information to the CED Committee. In its initial report from 2021, the CED elaborated on possible strategies for Iraqi authorities to prevent enforced disappearances and investigate alleged cases.

One of the recommendations made by the CED consisted of the creation of a database systematically documenting all cases of enforced disappearance in Iraq since 1968. While Iraq did  not reply to this recommendation, the CED strongly urged the country to provide information until the next state report.

Further, the CED noted the urgency of redrafting the national bill on enforced disappearance in light of providing proportionate penalties, civil society engagement, and a proper classification of the severity of the crime. In the reply, Iraq claimed that it had initiated a review of the legislation, while arguing the overall compliance of the bill with international conventions. Even though the Iraqi delegation claimed that a review and adjustments were under way, no further progress or results were reported. In its recommendations, the CED urged to undertake the promised progress in paragraphs 2 to 7 in the CED/C/IRQ/FOAI/1.

As referred to in article 17 of the Convention, secret detention portrays a severe crime currently taking place in at least 420 secret places of detention as reported by the UNAMI and OHCHR.

As the existing reply of Iraq to these allegations is insufficiently claiming that secret detention is evidently not taking place, the CED urges Iraq to provide information on measures taken to ensure its compliance with the Convention.

Another issue addressed by the Committee is the definition of a victim. According to the Convention, a victim is “a disappeared person and any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result of the enforced disappearance”. This definition of a victim is not in accordance with Iraq’s current legislation which is reasoning recommendation 25 of the CED: A sufficient definition of a victim and proportionate compensation and reparation. In alignment with article 19 (4), the CED requested further information on this issue, as previous answers remained unsatisfactory. 

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) welcomes the review of Iraq by the Committee on Enforced disappearances and its report on the aforementioned. However, we remain deeply concerned about the deteriorating records of enforced disappearances in Iraq.

As we have documented in numerous of our reports, enforced disappearances are used on a daily basis. These victims rely on UN treaty bodies to intensely pressure Iraqi authorities to comply with their obligations under the Conventions it has ratified, such as the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. Today, enforced disappearances and related crimes are so widespread and prevalent in Iraq that it is difficult to understate the scale of the problem. With an eye on the repeated unwillingness of Iraq to cooperate with the CED, we urge the UN treaty bodies to initiate recommendations and mechanisms sending a strong, united and urgent appeal to Iraq while insisting on progress to be made. So far, the country has continued to simply enumerate legislation during Committee meetings, instead of providing a detailed plan on how it aims to address all the issues raised by the CED.


Torture, CED, Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Iraq, Justice, invasion, occupation, enforced disappearances, secret detention centres, Review, UNbodies, Geneva4Justice, Geneva, HumanRights, Geneva International Centre for Justice

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