Monday, August 08, 2011

UN on Iraq's LGBT community

Today the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released [PDF format warning] "2010 Report on Human Rights in Iraq." The report finds that at least 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence in 2010. There are many important findings in the report including the high rate of torture and how the over reliance on "confessions" in the Iraqi courts feeds into the rate of torture. We'll go over the report in today's snapshot in greater detail. But the most important section of the report follows:

Article 17 of the ICCPR mandates the right of privacy. This provision, specifically Article 17(1), protects private adult consensual sexual activity, including homosexual behaviour.
In 1994 the Human Rights Committee considered the case of Toonan v Australia. The committee concluded that the criminalisation of sexual acts between consenting adults was a breach of a right to privacy and that the right to be free from
discrimination on grounds of sex included sexual orientation. Since then, the committee has developed and consolidated its own jurisprudence. During the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in February 2010, Iraq expressly and officially rejected calls by UN member States to act to protect persons on account of their sexual preferences, and to investigate homophobic hate crimes and to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.
UNAMI continued to receive reports during 2010 of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq and seen as incompatible with the country’s culture and religion.
Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social ostracism, and violence. The Iraqi Penal Code does not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults. However, a variety of less specific, flexible provisions in the Iraqi Penal Code leave room for active discrimination and prosecution of LGBT persons and feeds societal intolerance. Police and courts regularly take into account the alleged homosexuality of the victim as a mitigating factor in relation to crimes committed against persons on account of their perceived or real sexual orientation.
Reports published by Ali Hilli, the pseudonym of the sole publicly known representative of the Londonbased Iraqi LGBT, state that on 16 June, 12 police officers burst into a “safe house” in Karbala’ and violently beat up and blindfolded the six occupants before taking them away in three vans. The same report states that the police confiscated computer equipment found in the house before burning it down. The six people arrested reportedly included three men, one woman and two transgender people. Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound claiming he had been tortured. UNAMI has not been able to ascertain the whereabouts of the other five individuals.
UNAMI continued to follow the cases of ten men who were persecuted in Baghdad because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation. As previously reported, the men had suffered extreme forms of violence and abuse at the hands of members of the Mahdi Army, police officers, religious leaders and local criminal gangs, which had forced them to flee to a neighbouring country in May 2009 from where they hoped to seek protection in third countries. While one of these cases was subsequently resettled through UNHCR, some of these men subsequently returned to Iraq because they claimed they lacked funds and adequate means of support. One of them contacted UNAMI stating that he was homeless and alleging that he was being subjected to further acts of violence. He reported that he could not return to his family who had threatened to kill him because of his sexual orientation.

Why is that important? For a number of reasons including the reason that it was time for a new special envoy to Iraq. 'Addressing' the issue in private is not addressing it. Helping Muhammed in private and telling everyone to be silent may assist Muhammed (largely in leaving Iraq) but does nothing to improve or truly address the situation in Iraq for other LGBT-ers (or those suspected of being LGBT). As the assaults on the LGBT community became one of the biggest issues in Iraq, not only was the UN repeatedly practicing a position of silence but, in their silence, encouraged the continued discrimination. The UN's recent decision to treat LGBT rights as they do other human rights is part of a continued examination within the UN of this issue. The report, as is, would not have been published with the special envoy remaining. Specifically, the section we quoted would not have made it into the report. As noted in Friday's snapshot, Martin Kobler will be UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's new special envoy to Iraq.

Meanwhile in another update to Friday's prison break in Hilla, Al Sabaah reports that plastic 'weapons' were used in the clash between guards and prisoners ("riots" is the term used by the paper). Plastic 'weapons'? Toys brought into the prison. That's what the Minister of Justice wants Iraqis to believe now. The ever-changing story gets more and more interesting with each day. Al Rafidayn reports Baghdad is now the illegal drug destination in Iraq. What a proud moment for Nouri.

Al Rafidayn also notes
that the consensus among the political blocs is that Nouri should be the chief negotiator with the US government on extending the presence of US troops in Iraq beyond 2011.

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Middle-Aged Men, not boys" went up yesterday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Failed Match Up." Law and Disorder Radio begins airing this morning on WBAI at 9:00 am and all around the country throughout the week. Attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) host the program and, this week, put the weekly developments discussion (one of my favorite parts of the program) because they've got so many guests today. Chief among the guests, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark discussing the illegal Libyan War. NLG attorneys Larry Hildes and Devin Theriot-Orr are featured in a segment on activism and online privacy. And Rami El-Amine and Mostafa Henaway discuss the groundwork laid for the revolution in Egypt.

And we'll close with this from Noam Chomsky's "America In Decline" (ICH):

Not even discussed is that the deficit would be eliminated if, as economist Dean Baker has shown, the dysfunctional privatized health care system in the U.S. were replaced by one similar to other industrial societies’, which have half the per capita costs and health outcomes that are comparable or better.

The financial institutions and Big Pharma are far too powerful for such options even to be considered, though the thought seems hardly Utopian. Off the agenda for similar reasons are other economically sensible options, such as a small financial transactions tax.

Meanwhile new gifts are regularly lavished on Wall Street. The House Appropriations Committee cut the budget request for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the prime barrier against financial fraud. The Consumer Protection Agency is unlikely to survive intact.

Congress wields other weapons in its battle against future generations. Faced with Republican opposition to environmental protection, American Electric Power, a major utility, shelved “the nation’s most prominent effort to capture carbon dioxide from an existing coal-burning power plant, dealing a severe blow to efforts to rein in emissions responsible for global warming,” The New York Times reported.

The self-inflicted blows, while increasingly powerful, are not a recent innovation. They trace back to the 1970s, when the national political economy underwent major transformations, ending what is commonly called “the Golden Age” of (state) capitalism.

Two major elements were financialization (the shift of investor preference from industrial production to so-called FIRE: finance, insurance, real estate) and the offshoring of production. The ideological triumph of “free market doctrines,” highly selective as always, administered further blows, as they were translated into deregulation, rules of corporate governance linking huge CEO rewards to short-term profit, and other such policy decisions.

The resulting concentration of wealth yielded greater political power, accelerating a vicious cycle that has led to extraordinary wealth for a fraction of 1 percent of the population, mainly CEOs of major corporations, hedge fund managers and the like, while for the large majority real incomes have virtually stagnated.

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