Iraq: Review of the sixth Periodic Report by the Human Rights Committee

Published on 25 Mar 2022, 06:00 PM

In March the Human Rights Committee held a meeting with Iraqi delegation on ICCPR implementation

Review of Iraq by the Human Rights Committee

On the 7th and 8th of March 2022, the Human Rights Committee reviewed Iraq’s sixth Periodic Report regarding ICCPR implementation. The Committee commended the State Party for creating the ISIL Crime Investigation Unit, mandated to investigate the crime of genocide. Amongst the topics discussed, the issues on death penalty, the rights of internally displaced persons, counter-terrorism measures, application of the death penalty, enforced disappearances and the issue of arbitrary detentions played a central role in the dialogue.

Moreover, the Human Rights Committee asked the delegation whether Iraq intends to ratify both the Optional Protocols of the ICCPR. To this, the delegation said that Iraq was not planning to accede to the Second Optional Protocol, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and that Iraq already applies all the safeguards envisaged under international human rights law and domestic legislation on death penalty. No reply was giveng concerning the First Optional Protocol.

At the end of the session, the Iraqi Delegation noted that the review was a good opportunity to re-examine the human rights framework in Iraq.

The rights of Internally Displaced Persons and the issue of Violence against Women

Several of the questions posed by members of the Committee to the delegation concerned the rights of Internally Displaced Persons and the measures taken by Iraq to combat alleged human rights violations towards women and children living in camps for IDPs, in particular regarding those who suffered discrimination for perceived ties to ISIL that were subject to sexual violence.

In response to the Committee concerns, the State party said that it has not received reports of violence against IDPs. The delegation noted that Iraq was the first Arab country to implement a national plan on women, peace, and security. It further informed that there is a committee within the Ministry of Interior working on the protection of rights of displaced children and providing them with essential services.

Regarding gender-based violence and addressing the Committee’s concerns on the practice of female genital mutilation, the Iraqi Delegation said the latter is considered by law as one of the worst forms of violence against women and that they are conducting awareness campaigns against female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Counter-Terrorism legislation and the application of the death penalty

The Committee starting by acknowledging the campaign of terror carried out by ISIL and the hardship Iraq has faced as a result of that. Nevertheless, it was pointed that several trials for terrorism had breached the due process of law and attention was drawn to the fact that accused persons lacked legal representation, were not given adequate time to prepare their defense and that convictions and proof of guilt were too often result of disputed confessions. The Committee asked to be informed on protection mechanism in place for foreign nationals who face prosecution. Adding to this, members of the Committee shared their concerns regarding the broad definition of terrorism in Iraqi laws and questioned whether a revision of the latter was being considered.

Addressing the concerns raised by the Committee, the delegation stated that the Iraqi definition of terrorism complied with international standards and that it did not extend to acts of protesters. Although, it was clarified that the Anti-Terrorism Law covers damage of property. The delegation stated that because it targets peace, terrorism is considered a most serious crime and can be sanctioned with death penalty. With regards to this matter, the Committee showed its concern and requested the Iraqi delegation for disaggregated data on cases of death penalty and pardons. Answering the Committee’s question, the State Party said that all persons sentenced with death penalty in 2021 had their sentences changed to life imprisonment after appeal and added that the accused are provided legal protection during investigation, trial, and imprisonment. However, the content of the said protection was not explained during the discussion.

Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations

The Concluding Observations on Iraq's 6th periodic report were released on 30 March 2022. The State party is requested to provide, by 25 March 2025, information on the implementation of the following recommendations:

Counter terrorism measures

  • The State party should take the necessary steps to ensure that its anti-terrorism legislation, including the draft amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Act, and the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy are in line with international human rights standards, particularly by defining terrorism more precisely, limiting the use of anonymous statements, ensuring full victim and witness participation in trials and ensuring the full observance of fair trial guarantees.
  • The State party is also encouraged to refrain from mandatory imposition of the death penalty for offences under the Counter-Terrorism Act.

Transitional Justice

  • Take the measures necessary to investigate and prosecute in a timely manner all reported cases of human rights violations, including in cases involving sexual offences committed by ISIL members during the armed conflict against Yazidi women and girls, and those in the context of the 2019 and 2020 demonstrations, particularly allegations of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and other violence;
  • Ensure that perpetrators are punished and that penalties imposed are commensurate to the severity of the offence but do not include the death penalty, and that the victims or members of their families receive full reparation;
  • Ensure the swift adoption of the bill on the protection of persons from enforced disappearance and take all necessary measures to ensure the cessation of this practice.

Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

  • Take the necessary steps to expedite the adoption of the anti-torture bill, ensuring at the same time that its definition of torture is fully in line with article 7 of the Covenant and other internationally established norms and that it clearly prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under any circumstances;
  • Take concrete measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment, including through training programmes for police, the judiciary, including the prosecution and penitentiary staff as well as awareness raising programmes for detainees, and to ensure that all such allegations are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are brought to justice and adequately sanctioned and that victims receive full reparation;
  • Ensure that confessions obtained in violation of article 7 of the Covenant are not accepted by courts under any circumstances and that the burden of proving that the confession was made voluntarily falls on the prosecution;
  • Ensure that unannounced visits to prisons and detention centres can be carried out by inspection bodies and that any recommendations or reports emanating from such visits are followed up on.

You can find here all the recommendations given by the Human Rights Committee in the Concluding Observations.

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