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Iraq

    July 02, 2014
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International from Mosul, Iraq

    Long lines of cars full of terrified families jammed the road as I left Mosul on 25 June. The mass exodus is testament to the impact on civilians since fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) took control of the city.

    As we headed east towards Erbil militants from ISIS were indiscriminately shelling Hamdanyah, home to some of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities.

    July 02, 2014

    Thousands of exhausted Iraqi civilians fleeing the conflict in north-west Iraq are stranded at checkpoints separating the autonomous Kurdish provinces controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the rest of Iraq, said Amnesty International today.  

    Almost all the families interviewed by Amnesty International’s research team in Iraq today and last night are Shi’a Turkmen who fled Tal ‘Afar when fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured the city two weeks ago. They have since been sheltering in the Sinjar area, further west towards the Iraq-Syria border, but do not feel safe there as ISIS recently took control of parts of the border area.

    “Thousands of frightened civilians have left their homes and their lives behind only to find themselves stranded on the streets. The Kurdish regional authorities have an obligation to allow Iraqi civilians seeking to flee the fighting to enter or transit through KRG areas,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

    July 01, 2014

    Amnesty International has spoken to recently released detainees from the Yezidi community who were captured by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq, as well as to family members of those still held by the group.

    At least 24 Iraqi border guards and soldiers were captured by ISIS last month in north western Iraq. Some were later released; the rest are being held by ISIS across the border in north eastern Syria. The captives are among scores of minorities who have been targeted in a spree of sectarian detentions and abductions carried out by ISIS in recent weeks. In a video issued by the group on 29 June entitled “The End of Sykes-Picot” the men are referred to as “devil worshippers.”

    “A clear pattern is emerging whereby ISIS is deliberately targeting Iraq’s minorities as well as others suspected of opposing the group, singling them out for detention and abduction,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern Iraq.  

    June 27, 2014

    Amnesty International has gathered evidence pointing to a pattern of extrajudicial executions of detainees by government forces and Shi’a militias in the Iraqi cities of Tal ‘Afar, Mosul and Ba’quba. 

    Surviving detainees and relatives of those killed gave graphic accounts that suggest Iraqi forces had carried out a series of vengeful attacks against Sunni detainees before withdrawing from Tal ‘Afar and Mosulf in northern Iraq. Both are now controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). In Ba’quba, central Iraq, government forces and Shi’a militias have been fending off attempts by ISIS to capture the city. 

    “Reports of multiple incidents where Sunni detainees have been killed in cold blood while in the custody of Iraqi forces are deeply alarming. The killings suggest a worrying pattern of reprisal attacks against Sunnis in retaliation for ISIS gains,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who is currently in northern Iraq. 

    June 21, 2014

    Evidence has emerged which suggests that several hundred Indian nationals may be stranded in the Najaf province of Iraq, unable to return home because their employer refuses to return their passports.

    All the workers are reportedly employed by an infrastructure and construction company. Amnesty International India spoke with some of these workers, who said they have not been paid salaries for the past five months.

    Baljinder Singh (name changed), one of the migrant workers, told Amnesty International India over the phone: "The employer holds all our passports and refuses to return them. We have been restricting ourselves to the company premises since the conflict began because we are scared. Without our passports we can't leave this country, and every passing day makes us feel more and more unsafe. We just want to go home."

    Baljinder Singh said that the workers had raised this concern with the Indian Embassy in Baghdad, which asked them to provide their passport details via text message. The workers sent the details on the morning of 19 June and are now awaiting a response.

    June 11, 2014

    Civilians caught up in fighting in the Iraqi city of Mosul must be protected at all costs and allowed to safely leave the conflict zone, Amnesty International said after an estimated 500,000 people were forced to flee their homes in the area.

    "The takeover of Mosul by armed opposition groups is a deeply concerning development with grave consequences for human rights in Iraq,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director.

    “Both sides in the conflict must ensure that civilians do not bear the brunt of the violence as they battle for control of the city.”

    The Iraqi authorities announced yesterday that its security forces had lost control of Mosul, the country’s second largest city, to armed opposition groups belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) following armed clashes over the weekend.

    The recent violence has already forced about half a million people to flee Mosul and its surroundings to neighbouring areas, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures issued on 10 June.

    April 29, 2014

    Failure of the Iraqi authorities to tackle an alarming spike in violence is exposing voters who wish to cast their ballots in the country’s parliamentary elections on 30 April to high risk of attack, said Amnesty International.

    In the latest attack on Friday, at least 31 people were killed and several more injured after a series of blasts targeted a political party’s election rally in Baghdad. These are the third parliamentary elections to be held since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but will be the first since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011.

    “Iraq has been plagued by spiraling violence over the past year resulting in the highest numbers of casualties in years,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “People should be able vote without fear of being deliberately targeted. It is the Iraqi authorities’ duty to ensure that people are able to participate in elections free from attacks by armed groups, intimidation by the security forces and any actions which will interfere with exercising their constitutional right to vote.”

    January 22, 2014

    Reports have emerged today of 12 secret executions carried out by the Iraqi authorities, bringing the number of prisoners put to death since Sunday to 38, Amnesty International said.

    “The increasing use of the death penalty in Iraq will only fuel more violence as many of those executed are often convicted after grossly unfair trials,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “The only way to deal effectively with the security threats faced by the country is for the Iraqi authorities to address their deeply flawed justice system, in which ‘confessions’ extracted under torture are used as evidence in court and the execution of prisoners is routine.”

    On 21 January the Iraqi Ministry of Justice issued a statement confirming that the authorities had executed 26 men on Sunday, two days earlier. One of these was Adel al-Mashehadani, known to have carried out a number of sectarian attacks, according to the Justice Ministry.  

    Amnesty International has confirmed through independent sources that at least 12 further men were also executed.

    November 08, 2013

    A sharp increase in the use of the death penalty in Iraq has brought the number of known executions to the highest in the decade since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with at least seven prisoners sent to the gallows yesterday, sparking fears that many more death row prisoners are at risk, Amnesty International said.

    “Iraq’s increased use of the death penalty, often after unfair trials in which many prisoners report having been tortured into confessing crimes, is a futile attempt to resolve the country’s serious security and justice problems,” said Phillip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “In order to actually protect civilians better from violent attacks by armed groups, authorities in Iraq must effectively investigate abuses and bring those responsible to justice in a system that is fair, without recourse to the death penalty.”

    October 10, 2013

    The Iraqi authorities must immediately halt all executions, Amnesty International said after 42 people were executed in the last two days.

    “The escalation in the number of executions in recent days is an extremely alarming development,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    ”Death sentences continue to be imposed after grossly unfair trials. ‘Confessions’ obtained under torture on which convictions are based make it very likely that innocent people have been put to death in Iraq.”

    According to a statement by the Ministry of Justice, the 41 men and one woman executed were all convicted under the country’s draconian Anti Terrorism Law, adopted in 2005.

    Hundreds of civilians continue to be killed every month in violent attacks by armed groups. School children and Shi’a pilgrims were targeted in the latest wave of bombing attacks.

    October 07, 2013

    A wave of suicide bombings targeting school children and Shi’a pilgrims over the weekend marks a deplorable turn in the current surge in violence, said Amnesty International.

    In the latest attacks at least 22 people were killed today in a fresh wave of explosions in Baghdad.

    "Deliberately killing civilians can never be justified. These latest attacks are war crimes and are part of a widespread attack against civilians in Iraq that amounts to crimes against humanity,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director.

    The attacks, which included suicide bombings in a school playground in northern Iraq and on Shi’a pilgrims in the capital, left scores of people dead, including at least 12 children.

    The violence in various parts of the country has been surging to levels not seen in several years. No armed group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest series of attacks, but they bear the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qa'ida affiliate.

    September 25, 2013

    All executions in Iraq must be halted immediately, Amnesty International urged today after 13 men were executed in Baghdad.

    Today, the organization has been able to confirm the names of nine of the men, who were executed on 22 September following death sentences imposed after unfair trials and based on “confessions” allegedly extracted under torture. Four others were also executed that day, bringing the total number of executions in Iraq so far this year to at least 73.

    “The Iraqi authorities have chosen to defy repeated calls not to execute prisoners and to rely on tainted ‘confessions’ obtained under torture. That a death sentence could be imposed after obviously grossly unfair trials beggars belief,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.  

    September 02, 2013

    Amnesty International urges the Iraqi authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into violence at Camp Ashraf that reportedly left at least 47 dead on 1 September.

    “On previous occasions the Iraqi authorities have failed to conduct effective investigations into attacks on camps housing Iranian exiles. This has meant that no one has been held accountable for these incidents, and that residents live in constant fear for their safety,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “The authorities must ensure that an inquiry into yesterday’s violence is promptly carried out and that it is independent, transparent and in full conformity with international standards.”  

    The circumstances of the event are disputed. Residents claim that Iraqi security forces attacked the camp and killed several residents. Several victims were allegedly arrested and hand-cuffed before being shot dead. However, Iraqi officials have provided different accounts of what happened, including blaming infighting among camp residents.

    August 30, 2013

    A day ahead of planned country-wide protests in Baghdad and across Iraq, Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi authorities to respect and protect protesters’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

    The Iraqi authorities have appeared determined to stop large demonstrations taking place in central Baghdad since anti-government protests erupted across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.

    “People in Iraq have the right to express their views freely and to protest peacefully without the threat of violence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “Rather than preventing peaceful assemblies, the government should be taking steps to ensure people can exercise their right to protest in safety and security.”

    March 11, 2013

    Ten years after the US-led invasion that toppled the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains enmeshed in a grim cycle of human rights abuses, including attacks on civilians, torture of detainees and unfair trials, said Amnesty International in a new report out today.

    A decade of abuses exposes a chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces and by foreign troops in the wake of the 2003 invasion. 

    It highlights the Iraqi authorities’ continuing failure to observe their obligations to uphold human rights and respect the rule of law in the face of persistent deadly attacks by armed groups, who show callous disregard for civilian life.

    “Ten years after the end of Saddam Hussein’s repressive rule, many Iraqis today enjoy greater freedoms than they did under his Ba’athist regime, but the fundamental human rights gains that should have been achieved during the past decade have signally failed to materialize,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

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