Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amnesty International calls out human rights abuses in the KRG

Today Amnesty International released a report [PDF format warning] entitled "Hope and Fear: Human Rights In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq." The report is 46 pages of text which ends with the following recommendations regarding the press:

Amnesty International is calling on the KRG to:
􀂄 Respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, in conformity with Iraq’s obligations under international law;
􀂄 End the practice of detaining journalists for exercising legitimately their right to freedom of expression and put an end to other forms of illegitimate official interference in the free operation of the media, such as threats against journalists;
􀂄 Publicly condemn physical attacks, acts of intimidation, threats and other crimes carried out against journalists and other media workers. Ensure that all such acts are promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice;
􀂄 Investigate the murder of journalist Souran Mama Hama and ensure that those responsible for his death are brought to justice in a fair trial without resort to the death penalty;
􀂄 Suspend all articles in legislation, especially in the Iraqi Penal Code, which criminalize defamation against public officials, and repeal criminal defamation laws replacing them with civil legislation.

Pages 42 through 46 address attacks on press freedom. The report covers a wide range of abuses. Amnesty's press release notes:

During a fact-finding mission to the Kurdistan Region in 2008, Amnesty International researchers found many cases of people arrested and arbitrarily detained by Asayish (security) officials, including some who were tortured and others who were forcibly disappeared and whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
Torture methods include electric shocks to different parts of the body; beatings with fists, cables and metal or wooden batons; suspension by the wrists or ankles; beating on the soles of the feet (falaqa); sleep deprivation and kicking.
Amnesty International has called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account.
"The Kurdistan Region has been spared the bloodletting and violence that continues to wrack the rest of Iraq and the KRG has made some important human rights advances," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. "Yet real problems - arbitrary detention and torture, attacks on journalists and freedom of expression, and violence against women - remain and need urgently to be addressed by the government."

Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) covers the report and notes, "Authorities have failed to significantly curb the powers of the security forces, or Asayish, Amnesty said. They have also failed to rein in the security arms of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which form the Kurdistan Regional Government, according to the report." BBC News adds, "The report, based on research conducted in 2008, said the number of detainees held without charge or trial had dropped from thousands to hundreds, but some had been held as long as nine years. It describes cases where individuals have 'disappeared' and detainees have been beaten and given electric shocks while in custody."

Along with covering attacks on press freedom, women, arbitrary imprisonment, the report also covers torture, disappearances and the judicial system. The report's introduction explains:

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq,1 unlike the rest of the country, has generally been stable since the 2003 US-led invasion. It has witnessed growing prosperity and an expansion of civil society, including the establishment of numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has made progress in the field of human rights. In mid-2008 it released hundreds of political detainees, many of whom had been held for years without charge or trial. It has
improved Iraqi legislation; the Press Law of September 2008, for example, expanded freedom of expression, and amendments to the Personal Status Law passed in October 2008 strengthened women's rights. The authorities have also established several bodies to monitor and prevent violence against women, including specialized police directorates and shelters.
Platforms have been established to foster dialogue between the authorities, particularly the Ministry of Human Rights, and civil society organizations on human rights concerns, including violence against women.
Despite these positive and encouraging steps, however, serious human rights violations persist and still need to be addressed. In particular, urgent action by the government is required to ensure that the KRG’s internal security service, the Asayish, is made fully accountable under the law and in practice, to investigate allegations of torture, enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the Asayish and other security and intelligence forces. As well, more needs to be done to end violence and discrimination against women, building on the progress achieved so far, and to enhance the standing in society and life choices available to women and girls. Thirdly, the KRG must take steps to
protect and promote the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, taking into account the vital role of the media in informing the public and acting as a public watchdog.
It is these three areas which form the focus of this report.
Since 2000, thousands of people have been detained arbitrarily and held without charge or trial in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in some cases for more than seven years. The vast majority were suspected members or supporters of local Islamist organizations, including both armed groups and legal political parties that do not use or advocate violence as part of their political platform. Some were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.
Invariably, detentions were carried out by members of the Asayish , without producing an arrest warrant, and those detained were then denied access to legal representation or the opportunity to challenge their continuing detention before a court of law or an independent judicial body, throughout their incarceration. Some detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance, including some whose fate and whereabouts have yet to be disclosed -- typically, following their arrest by the Asayish or the intelligence services of the two main Kurdish parties, their families were unaware of their fate and whereabouts and were unable to obtain information about them, or confirmation of their detention from the authorities.
Dozens of other prisoners, meanwhile, are under sentence of death having been convicted in unfair trials.
Despite welcome government efforts to address "honour crimes" and other violence against women, it is clear from comparing survey data on violence against women with the number of police recorded cases of violence against women that the vast majority of such incidents remain unreported. Even when women have been killed or survived a killing attempt, many perpetrators have not been brought to justice -- often because investigations have failed to identify the perpetrators or because suspects remain at large.
Freedom of expression continues to be severely curtailed in practice, despite the recent abolition of imprisonment for publishing offences. Journalists have been arrested and sometimes beaten, particularly when publishing articles criticizing government policies or highlighting alleged corruption and nepotism within the government and the dominant political parties. Again, the hand of the seemingly all powerful and unaccountable Asayish and other security agencies is alleged to be behind a number of these attacks. One journalist was killed in July 2008 in suspicious circumstances.
This report details a wide range of human rights violations committed in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in recent years. In particular, it sheds light on violations such as arbitrary and prolonged detention without charge or trial, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill treatment, the death penalty, unfair trials, discrimination and violence against women, and attacks on freedom of expression. It includes case studies to illustrate these abuses. The report also puts forward numerous recommendations which, if implemented, would go a long
way towards reducing such violations.
Much of the information contained in this report is the outcome of a fact-finding visit conducted by Amnesty International in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from 23 May to 8 June 2008, the first such visit by Amnesty International for several years. Amnesty International submitted its findings, in the form of two memoranda on human rights concerns, to the KRG in August 2008 and sought its response. The responses received in communications from the KRG Ministry of Human Rights at the end of 2008 are reflected in this report.

Meanwhile AP reports West Virginia's National Guard is sending 50 Guard members to Iraq (their farewell ceremony is this morning) and the Dunn Daily Record reports a farewell ceremony in Fayetteville, North Carolina for approximately 4,000 National Gaurd members (30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team brigade). One not deploying Barbara Barrett (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "Army Sgt. 1st Class Chad Stephens, who earned a Silver Star for valor during a Baqubah firefight in 2004, isn’t going back this time" due to a PTSD diagnosis.

Fort Bliss will be sending troops to Iraq but one scheduled to depart will not. Lilliam Irizarry (Prensa Asociada) reports police authorities and military investigators said yesterday that US Army Spc Nokware Rosado Munoz took his own life (hanging) following arguments with his wife, Dalises Rosado. Nokware had already served two years in Iraq and reportedly did not wish to do another tour but was scheduled to report to Fort Bliss this week for the redeployment. Edilberto Rivera Santiago, director of the Division of Homicides, states, "They had a discussion, were having problems because he had been activated again." Here's an excerpt of Lilliam Irizarry's report:

Las autoridades policiales y militares investigan el lunes el suicidio de un militar tras una discusión con su esposa sobre su regreso a Medio Oriente.
Nokware Rosado Muñoz, de 28 años, se privó de la vida en una cabaña de un motel en Toa Baja donde presuntamente había discutido con su esposa, Dalises Rosado, quien se quejaba de que la dejaría de nuevo sola debido al servicio militar.
Rosado Muñoz ya había estado en Irak dos años y debía regresar a su base en Fort Bliss en Texas esta misma semana, según el teniente Edilberto Rivera Santiago, director de la División de Homicidios de Bayamón.
"Ellos tuvieron una discusión, estaban teniendo problemas porque él había sido activado de nuevo", expresó Rivera Santiago.
El agente Félix Santiago, encargado de investigaciones criminales del Ejército estadounidense en Puerto Rico, confirmó que investigan el suicidio.

Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) have reports on Iraq this morning; however, we aren't keen on SITE and are aware that when someone lies to the press about their identity, the press is never supposed to take them at their word again (we don't highlight Rita or her crazy ass group). We may pick through either or both reports for the snapshot but aren't interested in the anti-Arab SITE or its translations.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.