Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Amnesty warns of the worsening conditions in Iraq

Today Amnesty International issued the following on the situation in Iraq:

Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the Iraqi authorities to urgently step up the protection of civilians amid the recent surge of deadly violence in the country.

A new Amnesty International report, Iraq: Civilians Under Fire, documents how hundreds of civilians are being killed or injured each month.

Many are specifically targeted by armed groups because of their religious, ethnic or sexual identity or because they speak out against human rights abuses.

Ongoing uncertainty over when a new Iraqi government will be formed has led to a recent spike in attacks, with more than 100 civilian deaths in the first week of April alone.

"Iraqis are still living in a climate of fear, seven years after the US-led invasion. The Iraqi authorities could do much more to keep them safe, but over and over they are failing to help the most vulnerable in society," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to do more to protect those who are particularly at risk and bring those responsible for violent crimes to justice, without recourse to the death penalty.

While Iraqi security forces, foreign troops or family members are responsible for some human rights abuses, most killings of civilians are carried out by armed groups, including al-Qa'ida in Iraq. The organization remains a significant presence in the country despite the recent reported deaths of three senior leaders.

Human rights defenders, journalists and political activists are among those who have been killed or maimed in Iraq because of their work.

Omar Ibrahim Al-Jabouri, the head of public relations at Rasheed TV station, only just escaped with his life in an attack on 13 April 2010. He lost his legs after being caught in an explosion of a bomb attached to his vehicle as he was driving to his office in Baghdad.

Religious and ethnic minorities also continue to be targeted for attack, with at least eight Christians killed in Mosul in February 2010 in apparent sectarian attacks.

Christian students Zia Toma, 22, and Ramsin Shmael, 21, were stopped by unidentified gunmen on 17 February 2010 at a bus stop in Mosul who demanded to see their identity cards. When the gunmen opened fire, Toma was killed and Shmael was injured but survived.

Women and girls are particularly at risk of violence from both armed groups and their relatives. Few men are known to have been convicted of rape in Iraq. Women frequently suffer at the hands of relatives, in so-called honour crimes, if their behaviour is seen to go against traditional moral codes, for instance by refusing to marry men who have been selected for them. Activists have also been targeted for speaking out in favour of women's rights.

Members of the gay community in Iraq, where homosexuality is not tolerated, live under constant threat of violence, with some Muslim clerics urging their followers to attack suspected homosexuals.

Authorities frequently fail to carry out thorough and impartial investigations into attacks on civilians, arrest suspects or bring perpetrators to justice. In some cases, they are even accused of being implicated in violent attacks.

As a result of the ongoing insecurity, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including a disproportionately high number of minority communities, have been forced to flee their homes. Internally displaced people and refugees are even more vulnerable to violence, as well as economic hardship.

Amnesty International called on the Iraqi authorities to immediately introduce measures to improve the safety of civilians. They should consult with members of at-risk groups to see how best they can protect them.

In the meantime, the organization said the authorities must begin properly investigating attacks on civilians and to hold perpetrators, whoever they are, responsible for their crimes in accordance with international law. They should immediately disarm all militias and end the identification of religious affiliation on identity cards.

All armed groups in Iraq should immediately end human rights abuses, including attacks against civilians, abductions and torture.

Amnesty International also called for an end to all forcible returns of refugees to Iraq as long as the country remains unstable. Several European governments are forcibly returning people to Iraq – including to the most dangerous parts of the country – in direct violation of guidelines set out by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

Amnesty International has spoken to several Iraqis who were forcibly returned by the Netherlands government on 30 March 2010. Among the 35 refugees was a 22-year-old Shi'a Turkoman man from Tal Afar, a city north of Mosul, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in sectarian or other politically motivated violence in recent years, and where the violence continues unabated. As of mid-April, he remained stranded in Baghdad.

"The continuing uncertainty as to when a new government will be formed following last month's election could well contribute to a further increase of violent incidents of which civilians are the main victims. The uncertainty is threatening to make a bad situation even worse. Both the Iraqi authorities and the international community must act now to prevent more unnecessary deaths," said Malcolm Smart.

To read the [PDF format warning] report "Iraq: Civilians under fire," click here. The same groups remain targeted. The same groups who have been targeted all along. Nouri al-Maliki's been prime minister since April 2006, what has he accomplished? What has any party in the illegal war accomplished?

The at-risk population remains at-risk. Nothing's changed. One at-risk population in Iraq is journalists. Alsumaria TV notes, "The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Pentagon on Monday to probe the death of journalists in Iraq by US forces." We noted that in yesterday's snapshot. There's been more than enough time for it to make into the news cycle . . . but try to find it. France's AFP does and notes, "The New York-based media rights group published its 2010 'Impunity Index' earlier this month, a list of a dozen countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes - topping the list was Iraq with 88 unsolved journalist murders." There's Reuters' article. Excuse me, where's the US outlet covering it? And not a wire service. Where's the newspaper covering it or all the 'reporters' working on the style section today? Where's NPR covering it or are they too busy covering Billy Carter 2010? (That joke will make the most sense mid-day.)

Amnesty's also notes how the continued election confusion isn't helping either. It's not surprising that Iraq has yet to form a government. No one's surprised by that, not even Chris Hill. What's surprising is that roadblocks keep being tossed out there to prevent talks to forming a coalition -- such as yesterday's disqualifying of candidates -- including two who won seats in the Parliament. We'll again note Jane Arraf and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers):

"We have an election that took place on March 7. We are now approaching the two-month period [of waiting for final results] and we are concerned that the process is lagging," Ambassador Chris Hill said Monday in the first public indication of concern by the US government over elections seen as crucial to stability.

"We have not gone on to government formation as of yet and we share the concern of those who believe that its time that the politicians got down to business and started forming a government," he said at a briefing for Western journalists.

Forming the last government took months. The difference was that the election took place, the results were announced and the process of forming a government began. That has not been the case this time. First Nouri pushed the elections back from December 2009 to January 2010. Then they didn't pass the laws so the elections had to be moved back to March. March 7th people went to the polls (sooner if they did early voting) and the results have been known for some time. But Nouri, who delayed the actual elections, now delays the process yet again by refusing to accept the results. That's where the confusion comes in.

Another targeted group are academics. Again, the Brussels Tribunal also publishes a newsletter and newsletter four is online. We'll note the following from it:

While the anniversary of the war waged on Iraq is approaching, I think of what I wrote seven years ago: that this illegal invasion had nothing to do with the war on terror but was planned well in advance and was not about democracy but about the destruction of Iraq. I was openly taunted for it. At best, I was considered endearing or pathetic in my anger, but not on the level when it came to world politics.

In preparation for an evening on the occasion of this seventh anniversary on March 20, I am reading a book:
Cultural Cleansing in Iraq. Why museums were looted, burned libraries and academics murdered. The basic thesis is, believe it or not, that the purpose of the war was from the onset the destruction of the Iraqi state. But there is more: cultural cleansing, tolerating the looting of museums, the burning of libraries and the murder of academics was part of the war strategy, the authors argue. State ending will certainly become established as a concept, alongside genocide and its derivatives, such as urbicide (destruction of cities), sociocide (destruction of the social fabric) mnemocide (destruction of the collective memory). We do hope so, because unfortunately these concepts and their intertwinement do not only apply to Iraq.

In Iraq today, Reuters notes 2 college students were shot (one dead, one wounded) in Kirkuk, a Mosul shooting claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded and police exchanged fire injuring "a child and a man" while two Mosul roadside bombings left two people injured.

Also on Iraq, we'll note this from Hannah Allam's "At Iraqi border outpost, a U.S.-Iran game of 'spy vs. spy'" (McClatchy Newspapers):

JOINT SECURITY STATION WAHAB, Iraq -- This windswept U.S. garrison on Iraq's border with Iran has no running water and sporadic mail service, and it's so easily overlooked that the military accidentally canceled its contract for portable toilets last month, forcing the 60 soldiers who live here to resort to disposable waste bags for a while.
Yet Joint Security Station Wahab, which service members recently voted "the most austere base" in southern Iraq, is expected to remain after most of the American super bases in the country close. That's because the soldiers here are on the front line of the U.S. military's efforts to track and counter Iranian influence, a mission that's going to get harder as the area's al Sheeb border station opens to thousands of Iranian tourists in the next few months.

In the US, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances in a number of videos this week. Click here to be taken to the DPC video page. I don't think we've highlighted Senator Mark Warner in a video yet so we'll note him and remember he was one of the most effective speakers at the DNC convention in Denver.

And the previous entry, "Guns drawn on Chomsky"? I was on the phone with Elaine during the last of it and we're carrying that over to Third. We're not ending with just that. There's so much more to say. Especially about the 'brave' who were cowards -- including the coward who passed. They want to try to intimidate Noam Chomsky? We'll rip apart their highly invented hero. Lance thinks he did a drive-by, he actually started a war.

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