Amnesty International Report 1999 - Iraq
|Publication Date||1 January 1999|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Iraq, 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa098.html [accessed 10 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Suspected political opponents, including possible prisoners of conscience, continued to be arrested and tens of thousands of others arrested in previous years remained held. Scores of Kurdish families were forcibly expelled from their homes and members of targeted families detained. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and detainees were widely reported. According to reports, at least six people had their hands amputated as punishment. There was no further news on the fate of thousands of people who "disappeared" in previous years. Hundreds of people, including political prisoners, were reportedly executed; some may have been extrajudicially executed. Death sentences continued to be imposed, including for non-violent offences. Human rights abuses were reported in areas under Kurdish control.
Iraq remained under the economic sanctions imposed in 1990 by UN Security Council resolutions. Deaths of thousands of civilians, including many children, owing to malnutrition and lack of medicines as a result of the sanctions continued to be reported. In September, during consideration of the report on Iraq under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Rights of the Child observed that children had been most affected by the sanctions. Two "air-exclusion zones" over northern and southern Iraq also remained in force.
In January the government barred some members of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) from inspecting suspected weapon sites, including eight presidential palaces. A US-government- led coalition threatened military action against Iraq unless full access to UNSCOM inspectors was allowed. In February Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN Security Council and agreed to allow unconditional and unrestricted access to all suspected weapon sites. However, in August Iraq suspended cooperation with UNSCOM, prompting the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 1194 in September effectively maintaining UN sanctions on Iraq until it resumed cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. In October Iraq announced that it had ended all cooperation with UNSCOM. In November military strikes by US and United Kingdom (UK) government forces against Iraq were aborted after Iraq resumed full cooperation with UNSCOM. However, following an UNSCOM report which stated that Iraq had failed to cooperate fully with UN weapons inspectors, US and UK forces launched air strikes for four days against Iraq in December, during which civilians were reportedly killed.
In February the UN Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing Iraq to sell oil worth US$5.2 billion every six months and use the proceeds for humanitarian purposes. Iraq had previously been allowed to sell oil worth US$2 billion every six months.
Thousands of Turkish government forces remained deployed in parts of northern Iraq (see Amnesty International Report 1998) and made further incursions into the area in pursuit of members and fighters of the Turkish opposition Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).
In September leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met in Washington, USA, and signed a peace agreement that included a commitment to elect a new parliament in 1999 for areas controlled by the two groups. Subsequent meetings took place in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Turkey to discuss implementation of the agreement. The two sides also exchanged prisoners.
In April the UN Commission on Human Rights condemned the "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the government of Iraq", and extended for a further year the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq.
Reports of arrests of suspected political opponents, including possible prisoners of conscience, continued throughout the year, although it was not possible to ascertain the number. Thousands of suspected political opponents and others arrested in previous years in connection with anti-government protests remained held incommunicado.
Dawud al-Farhan, a well-known journalist and writer, was arrested and de-tained for at least two months after he was reportedly summoned to the Ministry of Information in the capital, Baghdad, apparently in connection with articles he had written in al-Zawra' newspaper which criticized government officials and the economic situation of Iraq. He was released in September reportedly after being pardoned by the President. A group of suspected government opponents from the southern city of al-Nassiriya were arrested; the date of arrest was not known. They were believed to have been held at al-Amn al-Am (General Security Directorate) in Baghdad and reportedly sentenced to death. Details of trial procedures in their cases were not known. Those held included Sayyid Ubadi al-Batat, Yassin Ali al-Washah and Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammad Hardan al-Jubair. Their fate remained unknown at the end of the year.
In February President Saddam Hussain reportedly ordered the release of hundreds of Arab prisoners, including Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and Egyptians. More than 50 Jordanians had been released in January. All those freed were believed to have been held on criminal charges.
In January the authorities issued an order for the forcible expulsion of 1,468 Kurdish families resident in the Kirkuk province to provinces under KDP or PUK control, citing the "security and geographical importance" of the area as the reason for the expulsions. The order also stated that one person from each targeted family must be detained. By the end of June more than 100 families were said to have been expelled and further expulsions were subsequently reported. Members of the targeted families were detained as "hostages" until the expulsions of their respective families had been completed.
Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and detainees were widely reported. Methods used included electric shocks to various parts of the body, long periods ofsuspension by the limbs accompanied by beating, falaqa (beating on the soles of thefeet), cigarette burns and solitary confinement.
In August, six members of a group known as Fida'yi Saddam (Saddam's Fighters) reportedly had their hands amputated by order of Uday Saddam Hussain, the President's eldest son. They were reportedly accused of theft and extortion from travellers in the southern city of Basra.
There was no further news on the fate of thousands of people who "disappeared" in previous years (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Among the victims was Sayyid Muhammad Sadeq Muhammad Ridha al-Qazwini, a Shia Muslim cleric born in 1900, who was arrested in 1980 apparently to put pressure on his sons abroad to stop their anti-government political activities; and Aziz al-Sayyid Jassem, a well-known writer and journalist who was arrested in 1991. Unconfirmed reports suggested that Aziz al-Sayyid Jassem was still in detention in 1996 but his fate and whereabouts since then remained unknown.
Hundreds of people, including political prisoners, were reportedly executed; some may have been extrajudicially executed. Death sentences continued to be imposed, including for non-violent offences. The victims included suspected political opponents, members of opposition groups, military officers suspected of involvement in alleged coup attempts and other people convicted of criminal offences.
Around June Muhammad Haj Rashid Hussain al-Tamimi was executed and his body handed over to his family. He had been arrested at his home in Baghdad in December 1997 on suspicion of organizing opposition groups. His brother, Colonel Tariq Haj Rashid Hussain al-Tamimi, had been executed in 1988 for his involvement in a plot to overthrow the government. In April a senior Shia Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Shaikh Mortadha al-Borujerdi, aged 67, was shot dead, reportedly while walking home from early morning prayers in the city of al-Najaf. He had reportedly survived two previous assassination attempts. In June another senior Shia Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Shaikh Mirza Ali al-Gharawi, aged 68, his son-in-law Muhammad Ali al-Faqih and two other people were shot dead at night when the car in which they were travelling was stopped between Karbala' and al-Najaf. According to reports, their bodies were buried by the authorities immediately after the incident and their families were not allowed to hold a funeral ceremony. In November, eight people were said to have been arrested in connection with the killings of Ayatollah Shaikh Mortadha al-Borujerdi and Grand Ayatollah Shaikh Mirza Ali al-Gharawi. The authorities reportedly announced that robbery was the reason for the killings.
There were further reports of executions of prisoners, including political prisoners (see Amnesty International Report 1998). In June more than 60 prisoners were said to have been executed at Abu Ghraib Prison near Baghdad. Most had reportedly been arrested in the aftermath of the March 1991 uprising against the government. In September at least 100 political prisoners, including 21 women, were reportedly executed and their bodies buried in mass graves.
A number of people who were convicted of criminal offences were executed, including a group of 10 men who were convicted of smuggling and two others who were convicted of murder and theft. The executions reportedly took place in January and May respectively. No information was available about any trial procedures in the cases.
There was no further news about a group of five men and one woman who were sentenced to death in July 1997 on charges of organized prostitution and smuggling alcohol to Saudi Arabia (see Amnesty International Report 1998). However, Ghalib Ammar Shihab al-Din, a Jordanian national who was sentenced to death in December 1997 on charges of smuggling, was released in January and returned to Jordan after the death sentence against him had been commuted (see Amnesty International Report 1998).
In the areas under Kurdish control there was fighting between Turkish government forces and PKK forces. Thousands of civilians were said to have been forcibly displaced as a result. Human rights abuses were also reported. In April, two members of the Iraqi Workers' Communist Party (IWCP) Shapoor Abd al-Qadir and Kabil Adil were shot dead, reportedly outside the unemployment union's office in Arbil by members of a group called the Islamic League. The incident was said to be connected with clashes that arose over a debate on women's rights on the occasion of International Women's Day between members of the IWCP and the Islamic League. Death threats, allegedly made by Islamist groups, against women members of women's organizations and members of communist groups were reported. In one such case, Nazanin Ali Sharif, a leading member of the Independent Women's Organization in Arbil, reportedly received death threats and escaped an assassination attempt in June. In July she fled abroad and sought asylum.
The fate of Ahmad Sharifi, an Iranian national who was arrested in Sulaimaniya in January 1997, reportedly by PUK security forces, and then "disappeared"; and of Bekir Dogan, a Turkish national and television reporter, who "disappeared" reportedly after KDP security forces entered the Mesopotamian Cultural Centre in Arbil in May 1997, remained unknown (see Amnesty International Report 1998).
Amnesty International called on the government to release any prisoners of conscience, to halt expulsions of Kurdish families and allow those families already expelled to return. It also urged the government to declare a moratorium on executions and review all outstanding death sentences with a view to commuting them.
Amnesty International sought clarification from the government of reports that hundreds of prisoners had been executed in late 1997 in Abu Ghraib and al-Radhwaniya prisons. A list of 288 alleged victims was enclosed. The organization also expressed concern that trial procedures in the case of four Jordanian nationals who were executed in December 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998) violated Iraq's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a State Party. Clarification of the fate of the five men and one woman who were sentenced to death in 1997 (see above) was also sought. In June the government responded and accused Amnesty International of repeating the same allegations as in the organization's previous reports, and claimed that the list of people reportedly executed in late 1997 lacked details that would "facilitate finding the truth". However, the government failed to respond substantively to reports of mass executions and to Amnesty International's concerns about other human rights violations.
In April Amnesty International expressed concern at the expulsion of Kurdish families from Kirkuk province. In June it expressed concern about the killings in April and June of two senior Shia Muslim clerics (see above) and sought information about the circumstances of the killings as well as details of any judicial inquiries carried out. No response was received by the end of the year.
In April Amnesty International wrote to the KDP and raised concern at the killing in Arbil of two members of the IWCP (see above). The organization sought details of any inquiries carried out into the killings. In May the KDP responded that an investigation had been immediately launched and one person had been arrested, but the full results were not known by the end of the year.
In November and December Amnesty International called on the US, UK and Iraqi governments to ensure maximum protection of civilian lives in accordance with international humanitarian law. In its response the UK government indicated that in any military action by UK forces "everything possible will be done to avoid civilian casualties". No response was received from the US and Iraqi authorities.