U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Iraq
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Iraq, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa848.html [accessed 21 December 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
IRAQ *Political power in Iraq lies exclusively in a repressive one-party apparatus dominated by Saddam Hussein and members of his extended family. 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. President Saddam Hussein, who is also Prime Minister, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of the Regional Command of the ABSP, wields decisive power. Saddam Hussein and his regime continued to refer to an October 1995, nondemocratic referendum on his presidency in which he received 99.96 percent of the vote. This referendum included neither secret ballots nor opposing candidates, and many credible reports indicated that voters feared possible reprisal for a negative vote. Ethnically and linguistically, the Iraqi population includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, Yazidis, and Armenians. Historically, the religious mix is likewise varied: Shi'a and Sunni Muslims (both Arab and Kurdish), Christians (including Chaldeans and Assyrians), and Jews (most of whom have emigrated). Ethnic divisions have resulted in civil uprisings in recent years, especially in the north and the south. The Government has reacted against those who revolt with extreme repression. The judiciary is not independent, and the President can override any court decision. The Government's security apparatus includes militias attached to the President, the Ba'ath Party, and the Interior Ministry. The security forces play a central role in maintaining the environment of intimidation and fear on which government power rests. Security forces committed widespread, serious, and systematic human rights abuses. The Government owns all major industries and controls most of the highly centralized economy, which is based largely on oil production. The economy was damaged by the Gulf War, and Iraq has been subjected to United Nations sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. As a result, the economy has been stagnant. Sanctions ban all exports, except for oil sales under U.N
* The United States does not have diplomatic representation in Iraq. This report draws to a large extent on non-U.S. Government sources.
Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 986, and allow imports only of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods for essential civilian needs. The Government's failure to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions has resulted in the maintenance of the sanctions. In December 1996, after a nearly a year and a half of obstruction and delay, the Government began to implement UNSCR 986. A significant part of the UNSCR 986 oil for food program was delayed during 1997 because the Government refused to pump oil for extended periods. The Government interfered with the international community's provision of humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people routinely by placing a higher priority on importing industrial items than on food and medicine, diverting goods to benefit the regime, and restricting the work of U.N. personnel and relief workers. U.N. and European Union observers attribute the country's poor economic conditions to the Government's actions, not to the sanctions regime. Human rights abuse remained difficult to document because the Government's efforts to conceal the facts, including its persistent refusal to permit visits by human rights monitors and continued restrictions designed to prevent dissent. Max Van der Stoel, the Special Rapporteur for Iraq of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, based reports on interviews with recent emigres from Iraq and other sources, and opposition groups with contacts still in Iraq published reports. There was no improvement in the Government's extremely poor human rights record. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. The Government continued to summarily execute perceived political opponents, and reports of such summary executions increased significantly during the year. More than 2,000 killings were reported. Several dozen of these reported executions followed specific allegations of coup attempts in February and August. However, reports suggest that far more people were executed merely because of their association with an opposition group or in an effort to clear out of the prisons anyone with a sentence of 15 to 20 years or more. The Government continued to kill and torture persons accused of economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other charges. Prison conditions are poor. The authorities routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention. The judiciary is not independent, and the President can override any court decision, and the Government continues to deny citizens the right to due process. The Government continues to deny citizens the right to privacy. The Government made use of civilians, including small children, as human shields. The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Iraq confirmed in his November report that freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association do not exist, except in some parts of the north under the control of Kurdish factions. The Government severely limits freedom of religion and movement, and discriminates against women, children, religious minorities, and ethnic groups. The Government also restricts worker rights. Iraqi military operations continued to target Shi'a Arabs living in the southern marshes. The Government maintained a partial internal embargo against Iraq's northern provinces, blocking shipments of food, medicine, and other goods, except those provided by the U.N. oil-for-food program. In northern Iraq, fighting continued between the two main Iraqi Kurdish groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). In addition, attacks on civilians by the Turkish Kurd terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), resulted in many deaths, particularly among the vulnerable Assyrian minority and villagers who supported the KDP. Turkish forces entered Iraq several times during the year to combat the PKK. These separate conflicts converged in November, when Turkish air and ground elements joined the KDP to force the PUK and the PKK to return to the established intra-Kurdish ceasefire line. The fighting left over a thousand persons dead and forced thousands of civilians from their homes. A ceasefire established on November 24 ended the fighting for the remainder of the year, albeit with a few sporadic clashes.