Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Iraq

The State Department released its 2014 Human Rights Report for Iraq, which noted that the majority of the country’s  human rights violations were committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Despite free and fair national parliamentary elections, which led to a peaceful transition in power, ISIL committed human rights violations such as; “large scale and frequent killings, attacks and offensive operations over large areas of the country; abuses against government officials, women, children, ethnic and religion minorities; and civilians. ” Other major human rights violations committed by the government include; “disappearances; life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest;  denial of fair public trial; ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures; limits on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.”

Civil liberties that have been violated in Iraq include: freedom of press and speech, internet freedom, academic freedom, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and protection of refugees. Journalists and other members of the media practice self-censorship in order to protect themselves from the government’s restrictions on “violating public order.” There were reports of journalists being arrested or harassed for covering “politically sensitive topics” related to “poor security, corruption, and weak governmental capacity. ” The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) reported that 65 journalists and advocates for free speech were abducted and killed by government security forces, terrorist organizations, and religious organizations. JFO also reported 103 arrests, 63 acts of violence, and four assaults by armed groups against journalists.

Corruption and lack of transparency in the government was also noted as a major human rights issue. Official corruption warrants criminal penalties under Iraqi law but the government failed to effectively implement the law because investigations of corruption were swayed by political influence. The most common practices of corruption include “bribery, money laundering, nepotism, and misappropriation of public funds.” The Commission of Integrity (COI) reported that in 2014, 244 directors general and seven officials with the rank of minister faced corruption charges. The COI also noted that levels of bribery rose among senior government employees and is most widespread in the Ministry of Interior and  the Ministries of Defense, Oil, and Electricity.

The government also failed to effectively enforce constitutional provisions pertaining to the prohibition of discrimination based on race, disability, or social status.  In terms of rape and domestic violence, the law does not “always adequately protect rape victims.” For example, rape cases may be dropped if the offender marries the victim. In many cases where the victims refused to marry the offender, the judge could intervene and require it. A major violation against women includes the mass abduction of more than 1,000 women during a span of two months by ISIL. The women were reportedly sold as sex slaves or “brides” to other ISIL members. Honor killings were also mentioned as a “serious problem throughout the country.” Children’s education rights were failed to be enforced. Equal access to education for girls was noted as a serious problem, while an estimated 30 percent of women aged 12-24 qualify as being illiterate. Only 65 percent of children complete primary school on time, which is only compulsory for citizen children.