Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Iraq

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Iraq, 30 January 1994, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis 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.


Political power in Iraq is concentrated in a repressive one-party apparatus under the domination of Saddam Hussein. The provisional Constitution of 1968 stipulates that the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (ABSP) governs Iraq through the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which exercises both executive and legislative authority. Saddam Hussein wields decisive power as Chairman of the RCC, Secretary General of the Regional Command of the ABSP, and President of the Republic.

Ethnically and linguistically, the Iraqi population includes Arabs, Kurds, Turcomans, Yazidis, and Armenians. The religious mix is likewise varied: Shi'a and Sunni (both Arab and Kurdish) Muslims, Christians (including Chaldeans and Assyrians), and Jews. Ethnic divisions have resulted in civil uprisings in recent years, especially in the north and south. The Government has reacted against the people in those areas with severely repressive measures.

The Government's security apparatus, which includes militias attached to the President, the ABSP, and the Interior Ministry, has been responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses; security forces play a central role in maintaining the intimidation and fear on which government power rests.

The Government controls Iraq's oil-based economy and owns all the major industries. Damaged by the Gulf war and subjected to a series of U.N. sanctions as a result of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the economy remains in poor condition. U.N. sanctions ban all Iraqi exports and all imports except food, medicine, and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs. Iraq's failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions has led to repeated Security Council extensions of the sanctions.

Iraq's abysmal record on human rights did not improve in 1993. Systematic violations of human rights continued in virtually all categories in 1993; these included mass executions of political opponents, widespread use of torture, extreme repression of ethnic groups, disappearances, denial of due process, and arbitrary detention. Furthermore, tens of thousands of political killings and disappearances remained unresolved from previous years. Owing to the efforts that the Government takes to conceal its human rights abuses, however, it is difficult to know precisely the details and numbers of such practices. Citizens do not have the right to change their government, and the freedoms of expression and association do not exist, except in Kurdish- controlled areas in the north.

Indiscriminate military operations in the south – which included burning and razing of villages, emplacement of bombs in civilian areas, and the forced relocation of noncombatant inhabitants – were directed primarily against Shi'a Arabs living in the southern wetlands. In the north, the regime maintained an internal embargo on the importation of food, medicine, and fuel. Elsewhere, it diverted humanitarian supplies to its own supporters and the military. In violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Government also continued its flagrant interference with the international community's provision of humanitarian assistance. Relief workers were harrassed, intimidated, and, in some cases, killed.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The Iraqi regime has a long record of executing perceived opponents. In 1993, as in past years, the U.N. Special Rapporteur expressed dismay at Iraq's liberal use of the death penalty for a full range of political offenses such as insulting the President or the Ba'ath Party. Throughout the fall of 1993, there were numerous credible reports that the regime had executed a number of persons (including some members of Saddam Hussein's family and tribe) who were allegedly involved in a coup plot against him. High-ranking civilian, military, and tribal leaders were reported among those killed.

The Free Iraqi Council (FIC), an Iraqi opposition organization based in London, reported a mass execution of prisoners at the Al-Radwaniyah prison near Baghdad in August (see also Section 1.c.). At the end of the year this incident remained unconfirmed.

As in 1992, numerous Shi'a civilians from southern Iraq reportedly were arrested and removed to detention centers in the central part of the country. Shi'a witnesses who survived arrest and detention later reported that some of their comrades had been executed (see also Section 1.g.).

Political killings and terrorist actions also were frequent in the north and often were directed against civilians and third-country nationals involved in the relief effort. Seven relief workers (one Australian, one Belgian, and five local employees of international nongovernmental organizations) were killed, and several others were injured.

In January an Assyrian delegate to the local legislature in the north was killed under suspicious circumstances. That same month, a car bomb in Irbil killed 11 civilians and injured 128; regional authorities alleged that Iraqi authorities were responsible. In January a man carrying explosives was arrested in Dohuk; while in the custody of the local authorities, he claimed he had been recruited by Iraqi forces to place the explosives in a U.N. vehicle in exchange for 200,000 Iraqi dinars. In many of these incidents, however, it was not possible to determine who was responsible – Iraqi agents; local Kurds who had been coerced or recruited for pay; agents of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Turkish-based Kurdish resistance movement; or lone perpetrators.

In 1993 new information was developed concerning the so-called Anfal campaign ("Spoils" in Arabic) of 1988, in which tens of thousands of Kurds reportedly lost their lives. The Anfal remains the most prominent example of political killing in Iraq. Most of the Kurds who were initially arrested during the Anfal have never been seen again and are presumed to have been killed in official custody (see Sections 1.b. and 1.g.).

b. Disappearance

As in previous years, Iraqis continued to disappear without explanation, reportedly while in the custody of government authorities. In February the U.N. Special Rapporteur reported that he was continuing to receive "regular and consistent reports on disappearances." He stated that he was in possession of the names of 5,000 persons whose cases had not yet been addressed by the U.N. Working Group on Enforcement on Involuntary Disappearances. These were in addition to the 9,447 names that the Working Group already had transmitted to the Iraqi Government in prior years and another 2,000 cases that the working group is presently investigating.

Of the total number of disappeared persons for whom the U.N. has documentation (more than 16,000 cases), the Special Rapporteur noted that most date from the Anfal period but that 500 are as recent as 1992. Amnesty International (AI) reported that it has the names of more than 17,000 Kurds who disappeared during the Anfal and are presumed dead. It is not clear to what extent the Amnesty International and U.N. records duplicate each other or represent different lists of disappeared Kurds.

As a result of his investigations, the Special Rapporteur stated, he had arrived at the conclusion that the total figure for disappeared Kurds during Anfal could number in the "tens of thousands." Middle East Watch places the figure at between 50,000 and 100,000.

In addition to the Anfal disappearances, two other examples of outstanding large-scale disappearances are the Barzani arrests of 1983, in which thousands of relatives and tribesmen of the late Kurdish nationalist hero Mustapha Barzani were rounded up and taken into custody, and the al-Khoei case of 1991, in which the late Grand Ayatollah Abdul Qasim al-Khoei and 108 of his associates – including Iraqis, Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, and Bahrainis – were arrested. None of the Barzani detainees were ever seen again. In the al-Khoei case, the Ayatollah died while under house arrest in al-Najaf, and only two of the persons arrested with him were ever seen again.

In 1993 AI, having received no satisfactory response to its repeated inquiries to the Government in regard to the al-Khoei disappearances, published a report on these unresolved cases, calling Iraq's response "inadequate, vague, or contradictory."

Iraq has failed to return or account for a large number of Kuwaiti citizens and third-country nationals taken to Iraq during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and has denied any knowledge of missing persons. U.N. Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 687 requires Iraq to "facilitate" the search for and the repatriation of those still missing. In March the Government of Kuwait transmitted to the Government of Iraq, through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the case files of more than 600 persons still believed to be missing in Iraq. For the first time, Iraq publicized the names of the missing. However, it stated that it had no information indicating that the missing persons ever had been in Iraqi custody.

Except for 15 who were reportedly executed in 1992, there has been no accounting for a group of 146 Iraqi Turcomans from the Kirkuk area, reported to have been detained since May and June 1992. A group of 19 Iraqi Army officers reportedly arrested in the summer of 1992 also have disappeared.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although Iraq is a party to international human rights conventions which abjure the use of torture and the Constitution forbids the practice, torture is routinely conducted by the Iraqi security services. The Special Rapporteur reported in February, as he has in previous years, that the Government of Iraq continues to engage in "systematic" torture, both physical and psychological. According to persons who have left Iraq after release from prison, techniques employed by the security services include electric shocks administered to the genitals and other sensitive areas, beatings, burnings with hot irons, suspension from ceiling fans, dripping acid on the skin, rape, breaking of limbs, denial of food and water, and threats to rape or otherwise harm relatives.

Certain prisons in Iraq have long been notorious for routine mistreatment of prisoners. Al-Rashidiya prison, on the Tigris River north of Taji, reportedly contains torture chambers in its basement. Another prison, Al-Shamma'iya, located in east Baghdad, is reportedly the site of both torture and disappearances.

Al-Radwaniyah prison (see Section 1.a.), a former prisoner- of-war facility near Baghdad, is reportedly the site of torture and arbitrary killings, including mass execution by firing squad. According to Middle East Watch, Al-Radwaniyah was the principal detention center for persons arrested following the civil uprisings of 1991. Many persons taken into custody in connection with the uprisings have not been seen since. Two executions by firing squad reportedly took place at Al-Radwaniyah in 1992 and another in August 1993.

The Special Rapporteur and AI named both Al-Radwaniyah and another Baghdad prison, Abu Ghraib, as sites where torture and disappearances have recently occurred. Multiple executions also reportedly took place at Abu Ghraib in the fall of 1993, in retaliation for alleged coup plots against the Government (see Section 1.a.).

Iraqi security forces are alleged to have engaged in the rape of captured civilians during the Anfal campaign of 1988 and the occupation of Kuwait and subsequent Gulf war of 1990-91. However, the Iraqi Government has never acknowledged or taken any action to investigate these reported crimes.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Although the Constitution and Legal Code explicitly prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, these practices are widely used. In his February 1993 report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur cited more than 100 detention and interrogation sites, including military and security bases and such unconventional locales as mosques, public buildings, and supermarket basements.

In his November report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reported that approximately 100 persons were arrested in Basrah on August 26, ostensibly because they were not carrying identification papers. The Special Rapporteur also reported that the regime continued in 1993 to target Shi'a clergy for arbitrary arrest and other human rights abuses.

Several foreign nationals were arrested arbitrarily and held in Iraq in 1993, and others who were arrested in previous years remained in detention. On April 25 an American citizen and oil worker living in Kuwait disappeared near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and in May was charged by Iraqi authorities with illegal entry and espionage. He was tried, found guilty of illegal entry, and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Subsequently, he was released on November 15. (See also Section 1.e. for details of similar cases illustrating the lack of fair trial.)

While there is currently no known policy of exiling Iraqi citizens abroad, the refusal of Iraqi authorities to allow tens of thousands of Kurds and Turcomans to return to their homes in Kirkuk and Mosul amounts to a policy of internal exile (see Section 2.d.).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the Revolutionary Court system was abolished in 1991, the change was cosmetic. Iraq retains a bifurcated judicial system, encompassing distinct treatment for all cases deemed to have a security component and a more conventional court system to handle other charges. The President may override any court decision, and there are no checks on his power.

The procedural rules applicable in the regular (i.e., nonsecurity) court system theoretically provide many basic protections. However, the regime often assigns to the security courts cases which, on their merits, would appear to fall under the jurisdiction of the regular courts.

The regular courts provide for investigation by police and then by an inquiry judge, who may refer a case to the courts or dismiss it. Trials are open to public view, and defendants are entitled to counsel – at government expense if the defendant is indigent. Charges and evidence are available for review by counsel. Judges try criminal cases; there are no juries. Convictions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal and then to the Court of Cassation, Iraq's high court.

There are no Shari'a (Islamic) courts as such in Iraq; however, family courts administer Shari'a law according to Iraqi custom.

Special security courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving espionage and treason, peaceful political dissent, smuggling, currency exchange violations, and drug trafficking. Defendants are often held incommunicado, and confessions extracted by torture are admissible and often serve as the basis for conviction. In theory, verdicts may be appealed to the Chairman of the RCC. In practice, many cases appear to end in summary execution shortly after trial.

An array of ABSP and presidential decrees defines political dissent as encompassing a wide range of activities. Persons suspected of engaging in dissent are routinely imprisoned without charge or trial or after trials that do not meet minimum standards of fairness.

Two British citizens, arrested in 1992 for illegal entry, continued to be held for most of 1993. They had been given prison sentences of 7 and 10 years, respectively. Referring to these two cases in his February report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur commented on the "disproportionately lengthy sentences for the crimes allegedly committed." In December the British prisoners were abruptly released after British officials interceded with President Saddam Hussein. (See also Section 1.d. for details of a similar case illustrating arbitrary arrest.)

Because the Government rarely makes public acknowledgement of arrests or imprisonments, it is difficult to estimate the number of political prisoners. Many of the tens of thousands of persons who have disappeared or been killed in recent years were originally held as political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Government frequently disregards constitutional protections of the right to privacy, particularly in situations in which national security is deemed to be involved. Iraq broadly defines security offenses, and security authorities in virtually all circumstances are exempt from the legal requirement to obtain a search warrant before entering a suspect's home. Among the targets of such abuse in 1993 were the Shi'a Arabs of the southern marshes (see Section 1.g.).

Despite constitutional safeguards for the confidentiality of mail and telegraphic and telephone correspondence, official telephone monitoring and censorship of private mail are common practice.

Pervasive networks of informers maintained by the security services and the ABSP serve to deter dissident activity and instill fear of the authorities. As the U.N. Special Rapporteur noted in his February report, "The networks incorporate multiple security and intelligence services which are themselves supported by webs of agents and informants watching one another and ultimately accountable to the President alone."

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

Throughout 1993, Iraqi armed forces conducted indiscriminate land-based attacks against the civilian population in the southern marshes. These wetlands historically have been inhabited largely by Shi'a Muslims, who have been joined in recent years by significant numbers of Iraqi army deserters and refugees from other areas of Iraq. As a result, the marshes have become the site of guerrilla resistance. The Allied no-fly zone over southern Iraq, imposed in 1992, continued in 1993 to protect the Shi'a marsh dwellers from attacks by Iraqi helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft. In defiance of the no-fly zone, Iraqi forces in 1993 stepped up their use of land-based artillery to shell marsh villages.

In January a number of villages in the Al-Amarah marshes were reported burned to the ground. In April opposition sources reported that government forces had killed some inhabitants and burned homes in two villages in Maysan governorate and had removed survivors to other locations. In June, according to the U.N. Special Rapporteur, civilian settlements in the Al-Hammar marshes were subjected to a 4-day bombardment, followed by a razing of their homes by armored vehicles and tanks. In August opposition sources reported attacks on the village of Al-Ksara in the Al-Aziz region of Maysan governorate. Many of these attacks appeared targeted at unarmed civilian populations, particularly suspected opposition sympathizers. Many civilians were killed or wounded, and an estimated 6,500 refugees fled to Iran, where they joined between 50,000 and 60,000 who had fled in previous years.

Iraqi government efforts to divert water sources and drain the marshes made considerable headway in 1993. The U.N. Special Rapporteur as well as various human rights groups have reported that, as the marshlands dry, Iraqi military units are able to advance their land-based attacks on villages. In his November report to the U.N. General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur stated that he had viewed aerial and satellite photography confirming the destruction of numerous villages in the marshes. In March the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution characterizing the Baghdad leadership as "seeking the destruction of the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq" through the "systematic poisoning of water, the indiscriminate shelling of civilians, and the destruction of the resources and environment of the people by draining the marshes."

In 1993 a team of Middle East Watch and U.S. Government researchers discovered, in a cache of Iraqi government documents seized 2 years earlier by the Kurds, a 1989 Iraqi plan to destroy the marshlands and the people living there. The plan appears to have been approved at the highest levels of the Government. Minister of Defense Ali Hassan Al-Majid, the same military leader who supervised the Anfal campaign in 1988, is now charged with directing the Government's so-called development plan for the marshes. The U.N. Special Rapporteur has noted the similarity between the "genocide-type operations" directed against the Kurds and the operations currently being conducted in the south. He concluded that "persons in the highest echelons of Government hold special and individual responsibility for a large number of the violations" and that "international law would not afford immunities."

The U.N. Special Rapporteur also reported that he continued to receive detailed accounts of the discovery of mass graves in southern Iraq, which are thought to contain the bodies of persons killed following the post-Gulf war civil uprising of March 1991. None of these reported grave sites have yet been investigated. However, forensic information obtained from mass grave sites in northern Iraq by forensic specialists in 1992 was released in 1993; investigators found the remains of hundreds of persons presumed killed in the Anfal campaign carried out in 1988 by Iraqi military and security forces under the leadership of Ali Hassan Al-Majid. In April a new mass grave, containing up to 1,500 bodies, was found in Irbil in northern Iraq, and another grave with up to 100 bodies was found nearby. As of the end of the year, these graves had not been examined by forensic specialists.

Based on forensic evidence obtained from previously examined graves and extensive documentation that the Kurds seized from Iraqi government offices during the civil uprisings of 1991, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights now estimate that between 50,000 and 100,000 Kurds were killed and up to 4,000 villages may have been destroyed during the Anfal campaign. These human rights groups have built a substantial body of evidence suggesting that Iraqi government efforts to eliminate Iraqi Kurdish communities were widespread, systematically planned, and ruthlessly implemented.

In northern Iraq, Operation Provide Comfort – the joint U.S., British, French, and Turkish command – continued in 1993 to inhibit attacks from the air on the inhabitants of the region. However, the Iraqi military forces continued intermittent, sometimes heavy shelling of northern villages by long-range artillery. The village of Al-Shariye was shelled every night for a week in late September. Also in September, one person was killed and two were wounded during shelling attacks on Taqtaq, near As Sulaymaniyah. In May Iraqi soldiers reportedly entered the security zone, firing on the town of Awaina, located about 10 kilometers inside the zone. Artillery shelling and bombardments reportedly preceded the attacks.

Attacks on humanitarian relief efforts in northern Iraq continued throughout 1993. In the winter and the spring, convoy trucks carrying relief supplies occasionally were destroyed by bombs as they crossed through Iraqi-controlled territory. In June and July, two U.N. guard offices were attacked, four U.N. vehicles were bombed, and a motorcyclist threw grenades onto loaded convoy trucks. Later in the summer, attacks against nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) appeared to accelerate. In one incident an NGO convoy was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades, leaving one relief worker critically injured. In another a bomb exploded on a Turkish truck carrying U.N.-consigned medicines. In December a bomb exploded in the offices of a Belgian NGO, killing two local employees. Some of these incidents pointed to involvement by the Iraqi authorities; in others, it was impossible to determine who was responsible.

Innocent civilians were killed occasionally in fighting between Kurdish guerilla forces and armed forces of the Kurdish Islamist League, a pro-Iranian party. In late December 72 persons were reported killed and 250 wounded in such clashes in Irbil and As Sulaymaniyah.

Civilians also were the occasional victims of armed raids by the Government of Turkey, which conducted counterterrorism operations along the Iraqi-Turkish border against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). Relief workers reported that at least two women and seven children were killed in a Turkish raid near the northern town of Barzan on November 29. The Government of Turkey says Iraqi civilian deaths were unintended.

The Kurdish population along the Iranian border suffered from Iranian shelling of civilian villages, as well as from sporadic Iranian military incursions into Iraqi territory.

Innocent civilians continued to be killed or maimed by exploding landmines in northern Iraq. Many of the mines were originally set to deter Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq war. However, the Iraqi army failed to clear the mines after that war ended in 1988 and before it withdrew from the north in 1991. The mines appear to have been haphazardly planted in civilian areas. The U.N. Special Rapporteur has repeatedly reminded the Iraqi Government of its obligations under the Land Mines Protocol, to which Iraq is a party, to protect civilians from the effects of mines.

The U.S. Government in 1993 released to the U.N. Security Council a document, based on interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, charging that the Iraqi regime engaged in war crimes (willful killing, torture, rape, pillage, hostage taking, unlawful deportation, and related acts) immediately prior to and during the 1991 Gulf war. The United States urged the Security Council to create a commission of inquiry to examine possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocidal actions perpetrated by the Iraqi Government.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and of the press do not exist in areas under Baghdad's control, and political dissent is not tolerated in those areas. The Government and the ABSP own all print and broadcast media and operate them as propaganda outlets for the regime. Opposition views are not reported. The Government periodically attempts to jam news broadcasts from outside Iraq (e.g., the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and radio stations maintained by Iraqi opposition groups in neighboring countries).

In the northern security zone, which is protected by international forces and is administered by a local de facto government, several newspapers have appeared over the past 2 years, as have opposition radio and television broadcasts.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Except in northern areas under the protection of international forces, Iraqi citizens may not legally assemble or organize for any political purpose other than to support the regime. Two organizations, the Communist Party and al-Da'wa al-Islamiya ("Call of Islam") are outlawed; membership in either is a capital offense. Though Iraqi authorities insist that the penalty has never been invoked in such cases, the Special Rapporteur has reported in previous years that persons have been executed for membership in these groups. No new cases were reported in 1993.

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is circumscribed. The Government closely regulates and monitors Islamic affairs under a 1981 law giving the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs authority over places of worship, appointment of clergy, publication of religious literature, and participation in religious councils and meetings.

Although Shi'a Arabs (constituting between 55 and 60 percent of the population) are the largest ethnoreligious group, Sunni Arabs, who comprise only about 12 to 15 percent of the population, have traditionally dominated Iraq economic and political life. Despite legal guarantees of sectarian equality, the Government has in recent years engaged in a succession of actions directed at the clergy and followers of the Shi'ite faith. Attacks on the Shi'a of the southern marshes in 1993 were preceded by the Government's harsh response to the spring uprising of 1991, in which government forces damaged or totally destroyed Shi'a mosques, holy sites, libraries, and archives. Iraqi security forces in 1993 were still encamped in the shrine to Imam Ali at Al-Najaf, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest sites. There were credible reports that the security forces' desecration of the shrine included using it as an interrogation center. Also in 1993, security forces reportedly expelled foreign clerics from Al-Najaf, under the pretext that the clerics' visas had expired.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur in 1993 cited the following continued abuses of religious rights by the Government: a ban on the call to prayer in certain cities, including Samara and Balad; a ban on the broadcast of Shi'a programs on government radio or television; a ban on the publication of Shi'a books, even prayer books; and the prohibition of certain processions and public meetings commemorating Shi'a holy days. Moreover, the Government also intervened, through coercion, in the selection of a replacement for the late Grand Ayatollah Abul Qasim al-Khoei, who had died in government custody in 1992 (see Section 1.b.). Late in the year, the Government appointed al-Khoei's successor.

The Government has been less intrusive into the religious affairs of Iraq's Christians – a small community of approximately 300,000. Their freedom of worship in churches of established denominations is legally protected, but they may not proselytize or hold meetings outside church premises.

The Jewish community – which at its height following World War II was estimated at 150,000 persons – has almost totally disappeared. Only a few hundred remain, nearly all in Baghdad. There is no recent evidence of overt persecution of Jews, but the regime restricts contact with Jewish groups abroad.

Iraqi law does not imposes penalties for conversion from one religion to another. Muslims who convert may suffer a social stigma, however.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government maintains close control over the movement of both citizens and foreigners. Within the country, sensitive border areas and numerous designated security zones are off-limits to all travelers; persons who either deliberately or inadvertently stray into prohibited areas are immediately arrested (see Section 1.d.). Police checkpoints can be found on highways and outside major towns.

All citizens are presently limited to two trips outside Iraq annually, and some citizens reportedly are prohibited from international travel. Women are prohibited from traveling outside Iraq alone.

There are no emigration restrictions for members of minority groups, although emigrants often must leave behind substantial property because of the difficulty of exporting assets. Currency exchange violations are considered security offenses, and penalties can be severe. In May the Government announced that such violations resulting in devaluation of the national currency are punishable by death.

The Government continued to pursue its discriminatory resettlement policies, including demolition of villages and forced relocations. In May the Iraqi security service in Mosul ordered Kurdish residents to leave voluntarily within 30 days to central and southern Iraq or face deportation to Kurdish-controlled areas. Subsequently Kurdish families were reportedly required to register at security checkpoints. By late December, approximately 30 Kurdish families (200 persons), reportedly fearing expulsion by the Iraqi Government, had fled their homes in the Mosul area and had crossed into the Kurdish-controlled zone.

The Government continued in 1993 to offer pecuniary inducements to Arab families from central Iraq to resettle in the north. However, the Government's resettlement policies were directed primarily at residents of the south. The Special Rapporteur noted in his November report that he had interviewed numerous witnesses who testified that marsh Shi'a arrested during the course of military operations are regularly taken to the main southern cities and then transferred to detention centers and prisons in central Iraq, primarily in Baghdad.

It is estimated that more than 6,500 Shi'a refugees, most of whom had been displaced from their homes in the southern marshes by the draining of the marshes and indiscriminate shelling and burning operations of the Iraqi army, fled into Iran during the summer of 1993. According to some estimates, up to 40,000 other persons are still in imminent danger in the marshes (see also Section 1.a.).

Several tens of thousands of some 1.5. million refugees who fled the country in the wake of the regime's bloody suppression of the civil uprising of 1991 remained abroad, mainly in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey; lesser numbers are in Jordan and Kuwait. Of the 1991 refugees, approximately 45,000 are in Iran, 23,000 in Saudi Arabia, 6,500 in Syria, and 4,000 in Turkey. Also still in Turkey are approximately 5,300 Kurdish refugees who fled northern Iraq during the Anfal campaign of 1988, in the wake of chemical weapons attacks on their villages.

The great majority of the refugees who fled in 1991, particularly the Kurds, repatriated themselves either to the area of northern Iraq, over which the allies have proscribed overflights by Iraqi aircraft, or to other areas not under government control. However, several hundred thousand Kurds who returned to Iraq still were unable to go back to their former homes in Iraqi-controlled territory.

Iraqi students abroad who refuse to return to Iraq are required to reimburse the Government for education received at government expense, whether in Iraq or abroad. Each student wishing to travel abroad must provide a guarantor. The guarantor and the student's parents may be held liable if the student fails to return.

The Government also requires employees leaving government jobs before 20 years of service to reimburse the State for the cost of their education provided at government expense. Amounts due can be recovered by confiscation, and nonpayment may result in imprisonment of family members.

Non-Iraqi spouses of Iraqi citizens who have resided in Iraq for 5 years must take Iraqi nationality or leave the country. Naturalization is required after 1 year for the spouses of Iraqi citizens employed in government offices. Many foreigners have thus been obliged to accept Iraqi citizenship and become subject to official travel restrictions. The penalties for noncompliance include loss of job, a substantial financial penalty, and repayment of the costs of education.

Iraq does not recognize the concept of dual nationality. Many Iraqi "dual nationals," especially the children of Iraqi fathers and mothers of non-Iraqi birth, have been denied permission to leave Iraq to visit the country of their other nationality.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Iraqi citizens do not have the right to change their government. Only in the Kurdish-controlled region in northern Iraq have free and open local elections been held. Full political participation at the national level is confined to members of the Ba'ath Party (ABSP), estimated to number 1 1/2 million, or about 8 percent of the population. The ABSP governs the country under the provisional Constitution of 1968, and legislative and executive authority is vested in the RCC. The National Assembly is completely subordinate to the executive branch. General elections were last held for the 250-seat National Assembly in April 1989.

Saddam Hussein continues to wield decisive power over all instruments of government. He is President of the Republic, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of the Regional (i.e., Iraq-wide) Command of the ABSP. A personal or tribal relationship with Saddam Hussein is much more important for political advancement than is ABSP membership or ideological affiliation. Almost all of Iraq's most powerful officials are either members of the President's family or long-time family allies from his home town of Tikrit. Although ABSP membership is not required for appointment to senior military or government positions or election to the National Assembly, it can be a powerful aid in attaining political influence.

Opposition political organizations are illegal and severely suppressed. Membership in the Communist Party is punishable by death (see Section 2.b.). In 1991 the RCC adopted a law theoretically authorizing the creation of political parties other than the ABSP. In fact, the law merely reinforced the preeminent position of the ABSP by prohibiting parties that do not support Saddam Hussein and the present Government. New parties must be based in Baghdad and are forbidden to have any ethnic or religious character.

The Government does not recognize the various political groupings and parties that have been formed among natural opposition constituencies – the Shi'a of southern Iraq and the Kurdish, Assyrian, and Turcoman communities in the north. These political groups continued to thrive notwithstanding their illegal status.

A unique political situation exists in northern Iraq, where since 1991 all government functions have been performed by local administrators, mainly Kurds. Following the March 1991 uprising, the Iraqi national administrators pulled out of northern Iraq. Local civil servants stepped in to fill the vacuum. In May 1992, local political parties participated in elections to choose assembly representatives and de facto government administrators, who manage the affairs of the security zone – which is protected by allied military forces – and adjacent liberated areas.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

In 1993 the Government continued to deny allegations of human rights violations. It also refused to cooperate in the investigation of alleged violations. The one authorized human rights group in Iraq operates under official control and routinely corroborates official denials of violations. The Government did not allow the Special Rapporteur to visit in 1993 and objected to his recommendation that human rights monitors be stationed throughout Iraq. In March the U.N. Human Rights Commission called on the U.N. Secretary General to send human rights monitors to "help in the independent verification of reports on the human rights situation in Iraq." In December the U.N. General Assembly endorsed the request of the Human Rights Commission for monitors for Iraq.

Iraq has failed to comply with the provision of UNSCR 688 insisting that Iraq afford immediate, unrestricted access by humanitarian workers to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq. In 1993 various organs within the U.N. system – the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, and the U.N. General Assembly – adopted resolutions condemning the human rights violations of the Iraqi regime. These bodies also called for the Iraqi Government to allow the U.N. Special Rapporteur to visit the southern region to interview refugees. Iraq has refused to give access to the Special Rapporteur.

Throughout 1993, the Government threatened, harassed, and assaulted employees of the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations (see Section 1.g.). The U.N. guard contingent – which protects U.N. personnel and operations – operated under severely reduced staffing in 1993, following the Government's refusal in 1992 to allow new guards into the country.

The regime has refused to renew its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United Nations on U.N. operations in Iraq. The United Nations has informed Iraq that the terms of the previous MOU are still operative and that the Government must comply with them. Nonetheless, the Government persisted in violating UNSCR 688 by interfering with the international community's provision of humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people (see Section 1.g.).

In October the Government definitively refused to implement the provisions of UNSCR's 706 and 712, which would allow Iraq to sell oil and purchase humanitarian goods, the equitable distribution of which the United Nations would monitor.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status


The Government claims that it is committed to equality for women, who make up about 20 percent of the Iraqi work force. Laws have been enacted to protect women from exploitation in the workplace and from sexual harassment; to permit women to join the regular army, Popular Army, and police forces; to require education for female children; and to equalize women's rights in divorce, land ownership, taxation, suffrage, and election to the National Assembly. It is difficult to determine to what extent these protections are afforded in practice.

Familial violence against women, such as wife beating and rape, is known to occur, but little is known about its extent. Such abuse is customarily addressed within the tightly knit Iraqi family structure. There is no public discussion of the subject, and there are no official statistics. Excessive violence against women is grounds for divorce and criminal charges, but suits brought on these charges are believed to be rare.

Continuing analysis of documents and testimony concerning the Anfal campaign of 1988 indicate that many women and children, including infants, were killed by firing squad and in chemical attacks during that operation and that many more remain unaccounted for.


No information is available on whether the Government has enacted specific legislation to promote the welfare of children. However, the U.N. Special Rapporteur and various human rights organization have collected a substantial body of evidence pointing to the Iraqi Government's continuing disregard for the rights and welfare of children.

The Government of Iraq's failure to comply with the terms of U.N. resolutions has led to a continuation of economic sanctions against Iraq. As a result, general economic and health conditions throughout Iraq have deteriorated seriously. Children have been particularly susceptible to the decline in the standard of living; increases in child mortality and disease rates have been reported.

Under these circumstances, the Special Rapporteur observes, the Government of Iraq has special obligations to "take steps to the maximum of its resources" to ensure that the most vulnerable groups in the population have adequate food and health care. The Special Rapporteur stated in his November report that Iraq's ongoing refusal to implement U.N. Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712 (which would permit a one-time sale of oil in order to finance the import of humanitarian goods), has had an adverse effect on vulnerable populations, including children. The Special Rapporteur noted: "The Government's failure to act (regarding 706 and 712) bears heavily upon those in need and no doubt accounts for a significant portion of the large increases in mortality rates."

The Special Rapporteur further reported that the Government's policy of diverting humanitarian aid to its own supporters also deprived vulnerable groups, including children, of essential food and medicines.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur observed in his November report that the ongoing bombardment of civilian settlements in the southern marshes has resulted in the "deaths of large numbers of innocent persons, including women, children, and the elderly." The Special Rapporteur stated that he had interviewed numerous orphans who had survived military attacks which had killed their parents.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The striking cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity of Iraqi society is not reflected in the country's political and economic structure. Sunni Arabs, who constitute only about 12 to 15 percent of the country's population, have effectively controlled Iraq since independence in 1932. Shi'a Arabs, who make up 55 to 60 percent of the population and live mainly in the Baghdad area and the south, have long been economically, politically, and socially disadvantaged. Like the Sunni Kurds of the north, the Shi'a Arabs of the south have been targeted for particular discrimination and abuse, ostensibly because of their opposition to the Government. Actions against the Shi'a have included large-scale forced resettlement and closure and destruction of Shi'a institutions (see also Section 2.c.).

In the southern marshes, the traditional way of life of the Shi'a – fishing, herding water buffalo, cultivating rice, and selling hand-made reed mats – has all but been destroyed by ongoing military operations. Credible reports describe a continuing process of large-scale environmental destruction in the marshes caused by the Government's burning, draining, and water-diversion projects. The army has constructed canals, causeways, and earthen berms to divert water from the wetlands. Hundreds of square kilometers of marsh areas have been burned, imperiling the marshes' fragile ecosystem. The Government claims the marshes are being drained as part of a land-reclamation plan that will increase acreage of arable land, spur agricultural production, and reduce salt pollution in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. However, the evidence of large-scale humanitarian and ecological destruction appears to belie the Iraqi claim. The destruction also has alarmed many in the international human rights community, including the U.N. Special Rapporteur, who filed a special report on the situation in the marshes in November.

Iraq's Kurds, who make up between 20 and 25 percent of the population, historically have suffered political and economic discrimination, despite the token presence of a small number in the national Government (see Sections 1.a., 1.b., and 1.g.).

The outstanding current example of discrimination against the Kurds and the Shi'a is the Government's ongoing embargo on the north and the diversion of basic supplies in the south, primarily to supporters of the regime. The total blockade of the north includes humanitarian necessities such as food, medicine, and fuel. Since August the embargo against the north also has included massive electric power cut-offs in specific areas, causing spoilage of medicines, breakdowns in local water-purification systems, and loss of certain hospital services. A disaster was averted only by the prompt action of the United Nations and donor governments, who imported and installed temporary generators to alleviate the crisis.

The repressive diversion of supplies in the south – combined with the military burning and razing operations (see Sections 1.a. and 2.d.) – has limited the population's access to food, medicine, drinking water, and transportation.

Citizens considered to be of Iranian origin must carry special identification and are often precluded from desirable employment.

People with Disabilities

No information is available on the Government's efforts to assist people with disabilities or to indicate whether it has enacted legislation or otherwise mandated provision of accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Although Iraq is a party to the 1919 Constitution of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which guarantees the freedom of association, trade unions independent of government control do not exist in Iraq. The Trade Union Organization Law of June 2, 1987, prescribes a monolithic trade union structure for organized labor.

Workers in private and mixed enterprises and cooperatives – but not public employees or workers in state enterprises – have the right to join local union committees. The committees are linked to trade unions, which in turn are part of provincial trade union federations. At the top is a single umbrella organization, the Iraqi General Federation of Trade Unions, which is linked to the Ba'ath Party and is utilized to promote party principles and policies among union members. The General Federation is affiliated with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions.

Union members have not been systematically targeted for human rights abuses.

The right to strike is heavily circumscribed by the Labor Law of 1987, and no strike has been reported over the past two decades.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to bargain collectively is not recognized. Salaries for public sector workers (i.e., the bulk of the employed) are set by the Government. Wages in the much smaller private sector are set by employers or negotiated individually with workers.

The Labor Code does not protect workers from antiunion discrimination, a failure that has been criticized repeatedly by the ILO's Committee of Experts. There are no export processing zones in Iraq.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is theoretically prohibited by law. However, Iraq's Penal Code allows prison sentences – including compulsory labor – for civil servants and employees of state enterprises accused of breaches of labor discipline such as resignation from the job. According to ILO commitee reports, foreign workers in Iraq have been prevented from terminating their employment to return home because of government-imposed penal sanctions on persons who do so.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Employment of children under age 14 is legally forbidden except in small-scale family enterprises. Children are nevertheless frequently encouraged to work as necessary to support their families. The law stipulates that employees between the ages of 14 and 18 work fewer hours per week than adults.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The workweek in urban areas is 6 days, 7 to 8 hours per day, for workers in the private and mixed sectors. These provisions do not apply to agricultural workers, whose workweek and workday vary according to individual employer-employee agreements. Hours for government employees are set by the head of each ministry.

Occupational safety programs are in effect in state-run enterprises, and inspectors theoretically make periodic inspections of private establishments. Enforcement varies widely.

[1]* Because the United States has no embassy in Iraq, this report draws to a large extent on non-U.S. Government sources.

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