Amnesty: Human rights in Iraq ‘disastrous’

LONDON – Amnesty International on Monday said the rights situation in Iraq five years after the US-led invasion was “disastrous” and that the country had turned into one of the world`s most dangerous zones.

“Five years after the US-led invasion that toppled (former president) Saddam Hussein, Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world,” it said in a 24-page report, entitled “Carnage and Despair. Iraq Five Years On”.

Against a backdrop of insecurity, law and order and economic recovery were a “distant prospect” while most Iraqis were living in poverty, with food shortages, lack of access to safe drinking water and high unemployment.

More than four in 10 Iraqis lived on less than one US dollar a day — the UN standard for measuring poverty — while the health and education systems were at near collapse and women and girls at risk of violence from extremists.

“Saddam Hussein`s administration was a byword for human rights abuse,” said Amnesty`s director for Middle East and North Africa, Malcolm Smart. “But its replacement has brought no respite at all for its people.”

The failure to investigate alleged abuses “is one of the most worrying aspects for the future”, he added.

“Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of torture under their watch, the Iraqi authorities have failed to hold the perpetrators to account — and the US and its allies have failed to demand that they do so,” he said.

Amnesty also criticised the extensive use of the death penalty, the international community`s failure to cater for Iraqi refugees and despite the more stable situation, the lack of free speech in the Kurdistan region.

“Despite claims that the security situation has improved in recent months, the human rights situation is disastrous,” the London-based group said, highlighting the kidnap, torture and murder of civilians by armed groups.

“All sides have committed gross human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity,” it added, referring to militia groups, Iraqi security forces, US-led troops plus private and military security guards.

Amnesty pointed to the detention of about 60,000 people by the Iraqis and multi-national forces, most of them without charge, saying torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and miscarriages of justice were “routine”.

But it said no-one, including the divided Iraqi government, appeared serious about investigating claims of abuse, torture, rape and murder of civilians and bringing those reponsible to justice.

A recent World Health Organisation and Iraqi health ministry report estimated that 151,000 people were killed between the start of the invasion on March 20, 2003 and June 2006.

Other estimates have put the number of civilian deaths as a result of the conflict between nearly 48,000 and 601,000.