Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1997Iraq
Political power in Iraq lies exclusively in a repressive one-party
apparatus dominated by Saddam Hussein and members of his extended
family. The provisional Constitution of 1968 stipulates that
the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (ABSP) governs Iraq through the
Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which exercises both executive
and legislative authority. President Saddam Hussein, who is also
Prime Minister, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of
the Regional Command of the ABSP, wields decisive power. Saddam
Hussein and his regime continued to refer to an October 1995,
nondemocratic "referendum" on his presidency in which
he received 99.96 percent of the vote. This "referendum"
included neither secret ballots nor opposing candidates, and many
credible reports indicated that voters feared possible reprisal
for a negative vote.
Ethnically and linguistically, the Iraqi population includes Arabs,
Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, Yazidis, and Armenians. Historically,
the religious mix is likewise varied: Shi'a and Sunni Muslims
(both Arab and Kurdish), Christians (including Chaldeans and Assyrians),
and Jews (most of whom have emigrated). Ethnic divisions have
resulted in civil uprisings in recent years, especially in the
north and the south. The Government has reacted against those
who revolt with extreme repression. The judiciary is not independent,
and the President can override any court decision.
The Government's security apparatus includes militias attached
to the President, the Ba'ath Party, and the Interior Ministry.
The security forces play a central role in maintaining the environment
of intimidation and fear on which government power rests. Security
forces committed widespread, serious, and systematic human rights
The Government owns all major industries and controls most of
the highly centralized economy, which is based largely on oil
production. The economy was damaged by the Gulf War, and Iraq
has been subjected to United Nations sanctions since its 1990
invasion of Kuwait. As a result, the economy has been stagnant.
Sanctions ban all exports, except for oil sales under U.N
Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 986, and allow imports only
of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods for essential
civilian needs. The Government's failure to comply with U.N.
Security Council resolutions has resulted in the maintenance of
the sanctions. In December 1996, after a nearly a year and a
half of obstruction and delay, the Government began to implement
UNSCR 986. A significant part of the UNSCR 986 "oil for
food" program was delayed during 1997 because the Government
refused to pump oil for extended periods. The Government interfered
with the international community's provision of humanitarian assistance
to the Iraqi people routinely by placing a higher priority on
importing industrial items than on food and medicine, diverting
goods to benefit the regime, and restricting the work of U.N.
personnel and relief workers. U.N. and European Union observers
attribute the country's poor economic conditions to the Government's
actions, not to the sanctions regime.
Human rights abuse remained difficult to document because the
Government's efforts to conceal the facts, including its persistent
refusal to permit visits by human rights monitors and continued
restrictions designed to prevent dissent. Max Van der Stoel,
the Special Rapporteur for Iraq of the U.N. Commission on Human
Rights, based reports on interviews with recent emigres from Iraq
and other sources, and opposition groups with contacts still in
Iraq published reports.
There was no improvement in the Government's extremely poor human
rights record. Citizens do not have the right to change their
government. The Government continued to summarily execute perceived
political opponents, and reports of such summary executions increased
significantly during the year. More than 2,000 killings were
reported. Several dozen of these reported executions followed
specific allegations of coup attempts in February and August.
However, reports suggest that far more people were executed merely
because of their association with an opposition group or in an
effort to clear out of the prisons anyone with a sentence of 15
to 20 years or more. The Government continued to kill and torture
persons accused of economic crimes, military desertion, and a
variety of other charges. Prison conditions are poor. The authorities
routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention. The judiciary
is not independent, and the President can override any court decision,
and the Government continues to deny citizens the right to due
process. The Government continues to deny citizens the right
to privacy. The Government made use of civilians, including small
children, as "human shields." The U.N. Special Rapporteur
for Iraq confirmed in his November report that freedom of speech,
the press, assembly, and association do not exist, except in some
parts of the north under the control of Kurdish factions. The
Government severely limits freedom of religion and movement,
and discriminates against women, children, religious minorities,
and ethnic groups. The Government also restricts worker rights.
Iraqi military operations continued to target Shi'a Arabs living
in the southern marshes. The Government maintained a partial
internal embargo against Iraq's northern provinces, blocking shipments
of food, medicine, and other goods, except those provided by the
U.N. "oil-for-food" program.
In northern Iraq, fighting continued between the two main Iraqi
Kurdish groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK). In addition, attacks on civilians by
the Turkish Kurd terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers'
Party (PKK), resulted in many deaths, particularly among the vulnerable
Assyrian minority and villagers who supported the KDP. Turkish
forces entered Iraq several times during the year to combat the
PKK. These separate conflicts converged in November, when Turkish
air and ground elements joined the KDP to force the PUK and the
PKK to return to the established intra-Kurdish ceasefire line.
The fighting left over a thousand persons dead and forced thousands
of civilians from their homes. A ceasefire established on November
24 ended the fighting for the remainder of the year, albeit with
a few sporadic clashes.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person,
Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
The Government has a long record of executing perceived opponents.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur, the international media, and other
groups all reported an increased number of extrajudicial killings
during the year. The Special Rapporteur has stated that "the
country is run through extrajudicial measures," In a 1996
report, Amnesty International (AI) noted that various decrees
expanding the use of the death penalty in 1994 and 1995 have not
been sufficiently clarified to ensure fair and just applicability,
a problem compounded by the lack of an independent judiciary.
The list of offenses requiring a mandatory death penalty has
grown substantially in recent years, and now includes forgery,
smuggling cars, and "sabotaging the national economy."
The Special Rapporteur noted that membership in certain political
parties is punishable by death, that there is a pervasive fear
of death for any act or expression of dissent, and that there
are recurrent reports of the use of the death penalty for such
offenses as "insulting" the President or the Ba'ath
Party. These killings occur with total impunity and without due
The Baghdad regime periodically eliminated large numbers of political
detainees en masse. In February and March, some 200 to 650 persons
were said to have been executed in Abu Ghuraib prison, near Baghdad.
The Special Rapporteur related in detail allegations that filtered
out of Iraq about the killings. According to these reports, by
order of Qusay Hussein, one of Saddam Hussein's sons and chief
of Special Security, a "judges committee" drew up a
timetable for killing all detainees sentenced to death. Executions
were carried out on Sundays and Wednesdays.
There were many other credible reports of mass executions; on
August 31, approximately 170 persons arrested by the Government
during its brief 1996 occupation of Irbil were executed on the
one-year anniversary of the Iraqi attack on that city; in September
600 prisoners were killed in Abu Ghuraib; on November 9, approximately
100 persons were executed at an undisclosed site; on November
12, 568 people were executed at Abu Ghuraib; on November 15, approximately
80 Iraqi officers and Iranian prisoners of war (POW's) were executed
at the Mosul prison.
The total number killed at Abu Ghuraib prison and the Radwaniyah
detention center in late November and early December may have
reached 800 to 1,500 persons. Opposition groups alleged that
all political prisoners with sentences of more than 15 to 20 years
were summarily executed. Qusay Hussein again was named as instrumental
in this program of executions, allegedly ordering that the prisons
be "cleaned out."
As in previous years, there also were numerous credible reports
that the regime executed persons allegedly involved in plotting
against Saddam or the Ba'ath party, including high-ranking civilian,
military, and tribal leaders. In February, eleven members of
the Al-Nadha movement were killed by the Special Security forces.
Fourteen intelligence and special forces officers were executed
in September, allegedly for plotting to assassinate Saddam Hussein.
Also in September, 10 members of the Bani-Hujaym tribe were executed
after they attacked the Ba'ath party headquarters in Al-Samawah.
On November 12, six or seven Wahabis (members of the conservative
Sunni Islamic sect centered in Saudi Arabia) were executed at
al-Anbar in the Rumadi area. Also on November 12, 11 people who
allegedly attacked a Ba'athist political office were executed
Economic crimes may also be punishable by death. For example,
on December 7, two Iranian Kurdish refugees attempting to smuggle
fuel from Kirkuk to Suleymaniyah province were arrested by Iraqi
security forces at Chamchamal. While in custody--in the presence
of the chief of eastern sector military security--they allegedly
were killed by being doused with gasoline and set on fire. On
December 8, four Jordanian students who allegedly had smuggled
about $850 worth of spare auto parts from Jordan to Iraq were
executed. On December 13, a group of officers and men of the
4th corps were executed on charges of smuggling weapons into Iraqi
Reports of deaths due to poor conditions in prisons and detention
facilities also increased during the year. According to the U.N.
Special Rapporteur, many prisoners in Amarah province were reported
as near death because of lack of adequate food and health care.
Ten refugees returning from Saudi Arabia in May allegedly were
poisoned while in jail in Baghdad. All of them reportedly died
after their release in June, after suffering from paralysis and
severe bleeding. In November the opposition Iraqi National Congress
alleged that the regime had plotted to murder U.N. Special Commission
(UNSCOM) executive commissioner Rolf Ekeus by poisoning him with
thallium. Sixty Iranian Kurds at the Bazan refugee camp near
Suleymaniyah reported that they had been poisoned with thallium
in their drinking water; however, they attributed the poisoning
to Iranian agents.
There are persistent reports that, even as he recovers from wounds
suffered in a 1996 assassination attempt, Uday Hussein, Saddam
Hussein's eldest son, has remained active in extrajudicial killings.
In a July incident, he allegedly killed one of his bodyguards,
for reasons that remain unclear.
Indications persist that the Government has offered "bounties"
to anyone who kills United Nations or other international relief
workers in northern Iraq. The Government has repeatedly charged
that foreign relief organizations working in northern Iraq are
engaged in espionage, making their employees liable to the death
As in previous years, the regime continued to deny totally the
widespread killings of Kurds in northern Iraq during the "Anfal"
Campaign of 1988 (see Sections 1.b. and 1.g.). Both the Special
Rapporteur and Human Rights Watch have concluded that the Government's
policies against the Kurds raise issues of crimes against humanity
and violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Political killings and terrorist actions continued in northern
Iraq. Throughout the year, elements of the PKK remained active
in northern Iraq, reportedly killing local residents in an effort
to control a territorial base. Assyrian groups reported several
instances of mob violence by Muslims against Christians in the
north, allegedly resulting in several deaths. Intra-Kurdish fighting
in October and November resulted in the deaths of over 1200 fighters
and an undisclosed number of civilians. On December 8, five members
of an Iranian Kurdish group were killed in PUK-held territory.
During the year, the Special Rapporteur continued to receive reports
of widespread disappearances. The Government continued to ignore
the more than 15,000 cases conveyed to it in 1994 and 1995 by
the U.N. Working Group on Enforcement on Involuntary Disappearances,
as well as requests from the Governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
on the whereabouts of those missing from the 1990-1991 occupation
of Kuwait and from Iran on the whereabouts of POW's Iraq captured
in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
The United Nations has documented over 16,000 cases of persons
who had disappeared. According to the Special Rapporteur, most
of these cases occurred during the Anfal Campaign. He estimates
that the total number of Kurds who disappeared during Anfal could
reach the tens of thousands. Human Rights Watch estimates that
the total at between 70,000 and 150,000, and Amnesty International
(AI) at more than 100,000. Many individuals who disappeared in
the wake of the 1996 Government attack on Irbil may have been
killed late in the year, in the alleged government campaign to
"cleanse the prisons" (see Section 1.a.).
In an October report, Amnesty International documented the repeated
failure of the Government to respond to requests for information
about persons who had disappeared. The report details unresolved
cases dating from the early 1980's through the mid-1990's, particularly
the disappearances of Aziz al-Sayyid Jassem, Sayyid Muhammad
Sadeq Muhammad Ridha al-Qazwini, Mazin Abd al-Munim al-Samarra'i,
the six al-Hashimi brothers, the four al-Sheibani brothers, and
numerous persons of Iranian descent or Shi'a religious belief.
The report concludes that few of these victims became targets
of the regime for anything they had allegedly done. Rather, they
were arrested as "hostages" in order to force a relative
who may have escaped abroad to surrender, because of their family
link to a political opponent, or simply for their ethnic origin.
In other cases, individuals arrested or taken prisoner in specific
circumstances have disappeared while in government custody. For
example, the status of six members of the Assyrian community of
Baghdad, arrested in October 1996, is unknown. Hundreds are still
missing in the aftermath of the brief Iraqi military occupation
of Irbil in August 1996. Many of these persons may have been
killed surreptitiously late in 1997, in the reported regime campaign
to "cleanse the prisons" (see Section 1.a.). Thirty-three
members of the Yazidi community of Mosul, who were arrested in
July 1996, are still unaccounted for.
The Special Rapporteur and several human rights groups continued
to request that the Government provide information about the arrest
in 1991 of the late Grand Ayatollah Abdul Qasim Al-Khoei and 108
of his associates. The Ayatollah died while under house arrest
in Al-Najaf. Others arrested with him have not been accounted
for, and the Government refuses to respond to queries regarding
The Government failed to return, or account for, a large number
of Kuwaiti citizens and citizens of other countries detained during
the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Government officials, including
military leaders known to have been among the last to see the
disappeared during the occupation, have refused to respond to
the hundreds of outstanding inquiries about the missing. Of 609
cases of missing Kuwaiti citizens under review by the Quadrilateral
Commission on Gulf War Missing, only two have been resolved.
The Iraqi Government denies having any knowledge of the others
and claims that any relevant records were lost in the aftermath
of the Gulf War.
Iran reports that 5,000 Iranian POWs from the Iran-Iraq War (1981-88)
are unaccounted for by Iraq. On November 26, Iran unilaterally
released 500 Iraqi POWs from that war. Possibly in response,
on December 4, Iraq released two Iranians who had been arrested
in Iraq in 1991.
In May an Iraqi engineer seeking refuge in Western Europe reported
that many Iraqi chemical and biological warfare workers had disappeared
or died under mysterious circumstances, some after contracting
In addition to the tens of thousands of reported disappearances,
human rights groups reported in 1997 that the Government continued
to hold thousands of other Iraqis in incommunicado detention (see
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture, however, the security services
routinely tortured detainees. According to former detainees,
torture techniques included branding, electric shocks administered
to the genitals and other areas, beating, burning with hot irons,
suspension from rotating ceiling fans, dripping acid on the skin,
rape, breaking of limbs, denial of food and water, and threats
to rape or otherwise harm relatives. The security forces killed
many of their torture victims and mutilated their bodies before
returning them to the victims' families. There are persistent
reports that the families are made to pay for the costs of the
execution, before the bodies are returned to them. Iraqi refugees
arriving in Europe often reported instances of torture to the
receiving governments and--as was the case with a group of refugees
arriving in Italy in June--displayed scars and mutilations to
substantiate their claims. Amnesty International notes that Iraqi
authorities have failed to investigate these reports. There were
no reports of amputations or brandings during the year.
The Special Rapporteur, human rights organizations, and opposition
groups continued to receive numerous reports of women suffering
severe psychological trauma after they were raped while in custody.
The security forces allegedly raped women captured during the
Anfal Campaign and during the occupation of Kuwait. The Government
has never acknowledged these reports of rape or conducted any
investigation. Although the Government made a variety of pronouncements
against rape and other violent crimes during the year, it took
no action against those who committed this abuse.
Prison conditions are poor. Certain prisons are notorious for
routine mistreatment of prisoners. Abu Ghuraib prison west of
Baghdad may hold as many as 15,000 persons, many of whom are reportedly
subjected to torture. Al-Rashidiya prison, on the Tigris River
north of Taji, reportedly has torture chambers. The Al-Shamma'iya
prison, located in east Baghdad, holds the mentally ill and is
reportedly the site of both torture and disappearances. The Radwaniyah
detention center is a former prisoner-of-war facility near Baghdad
and reportedly the site of torture as well as mass executions.
This prison was the principal detention center for persons arrested
following the civil uprisings of 1991. Human Rights Watch and
others have estimated that Radwaniyah holds more than 5,000 detainees;
Iraqi opposition groups say it is located within a "presidential"
compound, from which the regime precludes inspections by the U.N.
Special Commission charged with eliminated Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction. Radwaniyah is where Uday Hussein is alleged to have
had the Iraqi national soccer team caned on the soles of their
feet after a World Cup qualifying loss to Khazakstan, a charge
being investigated by the International Football Association (FIFA).
There were no details on the condition of prisoners in northern
The Government does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Although the Constitution and the Legal Code explicitly prohibit
arbitrary arrest and detention, the authorities routinely engaged
in these practices. The Special Rapporteur stated that arbitrary
arrests are still common throughout the country, and many times
lead to detention for often long periods of time without access
to a lawyer or being brought before a court.
The military and security services, rather than the ordinary police,
carried out most cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. During
the year, security forces reportedly arrested hundreds of persons
perceived as security threats, mainly on the basis of an individual's
personal association or family connection with opponents of the
Government. On July 15, in Baghdad dozens of Shi'a youths were
reported to have been arrested and held incommunicado, and 84
merchants were arrested in an "anti-fraud" sweep in
February. Sometimes, those arrested were reportedly killed while
in custody (see Section 1.a.).
According to international human rights groups, numerous foreigners
arrested arbitrarily in previous years remain in detention.
It has also been reported that there is a widespread practice
of holding family members and close associates responsible for
the alleged actions of others. The Special Rapporteur notes that
"guilt by association" is facilitated by administrative
requirements on relatives of deserters or other perceived opponents
of the regime. For example, relatives who did not report deserters
could lose their ration cards for purchasing government-controlled
food supplies or be evicted from their residences. . Amnesty
International reported in October that relatives often do not
inquire about the whereabouts of arrested family members for fear
of being arrested themselves.
Mass arrests are also reportedly commonplace; the Special Rapporteur
learned of at least 3 such instances in southern Iraq in 1997.
Twenty-five families are reported to have been interred in Al-Fajir
prison in Nassariyah province; 30 persons (women, children, and
old men) from Al-Ghizlah reportedly were arrested and taken to
Baghdad; on April 3, a large number of persons reportedly were
arrested in the Bani Said area and have yet to be released.
The Government reportedly continued to target Shi'a Muslim clergy
and their supporters for arbitrary arrest and other abuses. It
also reportedly continued forcibly to move Shi'a populations from
the south to the north, and other minority groups such as Assyrians
and Turkomen from the north to government-controlled territory.
There was no substantive evidence that the Government was implementing
two "amnesty" decrees issued in 1995. Human rights
monitors remain concerned that Iraqi authorities may be attempting
to bring deserters and government opponents out of hiding in order
to penalize them.
Although no statistics are available, observers estimate the number
of political detainees in the tens of thousands.
The Government is not known to practice forced exile. However,
1 to 2 million self-exiled Iraqis are fearful of returning to
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is not independent, and there is no check on the
President's power to override any court decision. The Special
Rapporteur and international human rights groups all observed
during the year that the repressive nature of the political and
legal systems precludes any concept of rule of law. Numerous
laws lend themselves to continued repression, and the Government
uses extrajudicial methods to extract confessions or coerce cooperation
with the regime.
There are two parallel judicial systems: the regular courts,
which try common criminal offenses; and special security courts,
which generally try national security cases, but may also try
criminal cases. There is a Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation,
which is the highest court.
Procedures in the regular courts theoretically provide for many
protections. However, the regime often assigns to the security
courts cases which, on their merits, would appear to fall under
the jurisdiction of the regular courts. Trials in the regular
courts are public, and defendants are entitled to counsel, at
government expense in the case of indigents. Defense lawyers
have the right to review the charges and evidence brought against
their clients. There is no jury system; panels of three judges
try cases. Defendants have the right to appeal to the Court of
Appeal and then to the Court of Cassation.
The Government shields certain groups from prosecution for alleged
crimes. A 1992 decree grants immunity from prosecution to members
of the Ba'ath Party and the security forces who kill anyone while
in pursuit of army deserters. Unconfirmed but widespread reports
indicate that this decree was applied in 1997 to prevent trials
or punishment of government officials. Nevertheless, Saddam Hussein's
personal decree clearly supersedes any legal proceedings--including
those designed to shield his family. For example, in May the
President reportedly seized the assets of his half brother Sabawi
Ibrahim Al-Hassan. A 1990 decree grants immunity to men who commit
"honor crimes," i.e., kill their female family members
for a perceived lack of chastity.
Special security courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving
espionage and treason, peaceful political dissent, smuggling,
currency exchange violations, and drug trafficking. According
to the Special Rapporteur and other sources, military officers
or civil servants with no legal training head these tribunals,
which hear cases in secret. Authorities often hold defendants
incommunicado and do not permit contact with lawyers. The courts
admit confessions extracted by torture, which often serve as the
basis for conviction. There are reports that individuals who
have cooperated with U.N. weapons inspectors have been subjected
to secret trials.
Many cases appear to end in summary execution, although defendants
may appeal to the President for clemency. Saddam Hussein may
grant clemency in any case that apparently suits his political
goals. There are no Shari'a, or Islamic law, courts as such.
Regular courts are empowered to administer Islamic law in cases
involving personal status, such as divorce and inheritance.
Because the Government rarely acknowledges arrests or imprisonments
and families are afraid to talk about arrests, it is difficult
to estimate the number of political prisoners. Many of the tens
of thousands of persons who have disappeared or been killed in
recent years were originally held as political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family,
Home, or Correspondence
The Government frequently disregarded the constitutional right
to privacy, particularly in cases allegedly involving national
security. The law defines security offenses so broadly that authorities
are virtually exempt from the legal requirement to obtain search
warrants. The authorities frequently conduct searches without
warrants. The regime routinely ignored constitutional provisions
safeguarding the confidentiality of mail, telegraphic correspondence,
and telephone conversations. The Government periodically jammed
news broadcasts, including those of opposition groups, from outside
In Kirkuk the regime periodically sealed off whole districts and
conducted day-long, house to house searches, evidently as part
of its campaign to harass and expel ethnic Kurds and Turkomen
from the city (see Section 2.d.).
The security services and the Ba'ath Party maintain pervasive
networks of informers to deter dissident activity and instill
fear in the public. For example, the Special Rapporteur reported
that an operator was arrested and executed in 1993 for having
warned a person not to use a wiretapped telephone line. The authorities
also hold family members and close associates responsible for
the alleged actions of others (see Section 1.d.).
In September Iraqi expatriates in Amman reported a new government
effort for surveillance of university students. Worried about
antigovernment pamphlets that appeared at Basrah and Qadisiyah
Universities in 1996, the regime used the Ministry of Education
to move undercover military intelligence and Special Security
officers onto campuses around the country.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations
of Humanitarian Law In Internal Conflicts
As in previous years, the armed forces conducted deliberate artillery
attacks against Shi'a civilians in the southern marshes and against
minority groups in northern Iraq. In 1992 the Gulf War allies
imposed "no-fly zones" over both northern and southern
Iraq. The no-fly zones continued to deter aerial attacks on the
marsh dwellers in southern Iraq and residents of northern Iraq,
but they did not prevent artillery attacks on villages in either
area, nor the military's large-scale burning operations in the
For example, in April heavy artillery attacks on the towns of
Al-Ghizlan in Nasseriyah province and Al-Eliwa, Abu Ashra, Al-Adil,
and Al-Salam in Amarah province reportedly resulted in substantial
civilian casualties, including women and children. In May the
same sort of attack occurred at Al-Tar and Al-Shiukh in Nasariyah
province. On November 1, a week-long operation in the marshes
conducted by the Third Corps was led off by similar heavy artillery
assaults. Several civilians were reportedly wounded in another
shelling incident in the Al Zoor area of Naseriyah province on
November 18 and 19.
During the year, Government also continued its water-diversion
and other projects in the south, accelerating the process of large-scale
environmental destruction. The Government claimed that the drainage
is part of a land reclamation plan to increase the acreage of
arable land, spur agricultural production, and reduce salt pollution
in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. However, the evidence of
large-scale human and ecological destruction appears to belie
this claim, and other credible reports confirmed the ongoing destruction
of the marshes. The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution
in Iraq (SCIRI) claimed to have obtained government documents
describing its long-range plans to drain the marshes completely.
The army continued to construct canals, causeways, and earthen
berms to divert water from the wetlands. Hundreds of square kilometers
have been burned in military operations. Moreover, the regime's
diversion of supplies in the south limited the population's access
to food, medicine, drinking water, and transportation.
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur and opposition sources,
thousands of persons in Nasseriyah and Basrah provinces were denied
rations under UNSCR 986. In these provinces and in Amarah province,
access to food is allegedly used to reward regime supporters and
silence opponents. Shi'a opposition groups report that, due to
the continuing fighting, the condition of the Shi'a in the south
has continued to deteriorate even after the institution of the
U.N.'s "oil for food" program.
The Government maintained a partial internal embargo against the
three provinces in northern Iraq for most of the year. These
provinces are populated primarily by Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomen,
and other ethnic minorities. The embargo prevented the free movement
of food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies to that area.
Beginning in 1993, the embargo also included the cutoff of electric
power in specific areas, causing the disruption of water and sanitation
systems, and interfering with the delivery of food and fuel. Indications
of loosened restrictions for the territory controlled by the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan appeared to be tied to political concessions,
such as accepting school textbooks praising Saddam Hussein and
the Iraqi regime.
A multinational coalition continued enforcement of a "no-fly
zone" to inhibit government aerial activity to repress citizens
in northern Iraq. The Government continued to Arabize certain
areas, such as the urban centers of Kirkuk and Mosul, through
the forced movement of local residents from their homes and villages
and their replacement by Arabs from outside the area (see Section
The PKK also committed numerous abuses against civilians in northern
Iraq throughout the year. For example, on August 4, five persons
were reportedly kidnaped from the village of Gunda Jour by a PKK
band. Iraqi Kurds reported that on October 23, a PKK unit killed
14 civilians (10 of them children) and wounded 9 others in attacks
on the villages of Korka, Chema, Dizo, and Selki. On December
13, seven Assyrian civilians reportedly were ambushed and killed
near the village of Mangeesh. Many villagers in Dohuk and Irbil
provinces, particularly those from isolated areas, were reported
to have abandoned their homes and temporarily relocated to cities
and lager towns to escape PKK attacks.
On several occasions in 1997, Turkish armed forces entered northern
Iraq in pursuit of PKK terrorists and bases. In November Turkish
and KDP forces fought pitched battles against the PUK and the
PKK. These operations resulted in some civilian deaths and destruction
of residences. The Government of Turkey denied allegations that
Turkish forces used air-delivered incendiary bombs and intentionally
targeted civilian populations in their operations; independent
observers on the scene found no evidence of such actions. Turkish
government authorities stressed that the operations sought to
avoid civilian casualties and that much of the fighting took place
in unpopulated areas.
Land mines in northern Iraq, mostly planted by the Government
before 1991, continued to kill and maim civilians. Many of the
mines were laid during the Iran-Iraq War, but the army failed
to clear them before it abandoned the area. The mines appear
to have been haphazardly planted in civilian areas. Land mines
are also a problem all along the Iraq-Iran border throughout central
and southern Iraq, but there is no information on civilian casualties
or the efforts, if any, to clear old minefields in areas under
the central Government's control. The Special Rapporteur repeatedly
has reminded the Government of its obligation under the Land Mines
Protocol to protect civilians from the effects of mines. Various
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) continued efforts to remove
mines from the area and increase mine awareness among local residents.
After the 1991 Gulf War, victims and eyewitnesses described war
crimes perpetrated by the Iraqi regime--deliberate killing, torture,
rape, pillage, hostage-taking, and associated acts--directly related
to the Gulf War. Many governments continue to urge the U.N. Security
Council to establish an international commission to study evidence
of a broader range of war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity
and possible genocide. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other organizations
have worked with various governments to bring a genocide case
at the International Court of Justice against the Government for
its conduct of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988.
In September the Iranian Air Force attacked two camps of the Iranian
terrorist group Mujahedin Al-Khalq (MEK) in Iraq. There were
reports of casualties among Iraqi civilians.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press,
but also stipulates that " the State ensures the considerations
necessary to exercise these liberties, in compliance with the
revolutionary, national and progressive trend." In practice,
freedom of speech and of the press do not exist, and political
dissent is not tolerated in areas under the Government's control.
The Special Rapporteur noted that "the people live in a
climate of fear in which whatever they or their family members
may say or do, particularly in the area of politics, involves
the risk of arrest and interrogation by the police or military
The Government and the Ba'ath Party own all print and broadcast
media and operate them as propaganda outlets. They generally
do not report opposing points of view that are expressed either
domestically or abroad. According to the Special Rapporteur,
journalists are under regular pressure to join the Ba'ath party
and must follow the recommendations of the Iraqi Union of Journalists,
headed by Uday Hussein. The Special Rapporteur reported that
one journalist was sentenced to life imprisonment for telling
a joke about Saddam Hussein, while another was arrested on charges
of "collaboration with foreign countries," possibly
a reference to a negative report on the economic situation.
The Special Rapporteur reported that the Ministry of Culture and
Information periodically holds meetings at which general guidelines
for the press are provided. Foreign journalists must work from
offices located within the ministry building and be accompanied
everywhere they go by ministry officers, who reportedly restrict
the reporters' movements and make it impossible for them to interact
freely with the populace. Since Western news services have not
been permitted to establish permanent bureaus in Iraq, they are
represented in Baghdad by Iraqi staffers who are based in the
Ministry of Information and Culture.
Several statutes and decrees suppress freedom of speech and the
press. These include Revolutionary Command Council decree no.
840 of November 1986, which penalizes free expression and stipulates
the death penalty for anyone insulting the President or other
high government officials; Section 214 of the Penal Code, which
prohibits singing a song likely to cause civil strife; and the
Press Act of 1968, which prohibits the writing of articles on
12 specific subjects, including those detrimental to the President,
the Revolutionary Command Council, and the Ba'ath Party.
Books can be published only with the authorization of the Ministry
of Culture and Information. The Ministry of Education often sends
textbooks with pro-regime propaganda to Kurdish regions; the Kurds
routinely remove propaganda items from the books. In October
the Minister of Education "warned these cliques that we hold
them responsible" for altering the books.
The Government regularly jammed foreign news broadcasts (see Section
1.f.). In an effort to interdict further any foreign reports
on Iraq, the Government also banned satellite dishes. The penalty
for possessing a satellite dish reportedly is an indefinite term
of imprisonment in solitary confinement and confiscation of all
In northern Iraq, several newspapers have appeared over the past
five years, as have opposition radio and television broadcasts.
The absence of central authority permits some freedom of expression,
although most journalists are influenced or controlled by various
The Government has no respect for academic freedom, exercising
strict control over academic publications. University staff is
hired or fired depending on their support for the Government.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but, except
in Kurdish-controlled northern areas, citizens may not assemble
legally other than to express support for the regime. The Government
regularly orchestrates crowds to demonstrate support for the regime
and its policies through financial incentives for those who participate
and threats of violence against those who do not.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, but the
Government controls the establishment of political parties, regulates
their internal affairs, and monitors their activities. Several
parties are specifically outlawed, and membership in them is a
capital offense. A 1974 law prescribes the death penalty for
anyone "infiltrating" the Ba'ath Party.
In Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, the situation is mixed.
For example, 120,000 people reportedly participated in a protest
march in Irbil in October, demanding that the PUK restore electrical
power to the city. . On the other hand, both the KDP and the PUK
intimidated, seized the property of, and forcibly expelled members
and alleged supporters of the rival organization from the territory
they control (see Section 2.d.).
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, but also notes
that "Islam is the religion of the State." In practice,
the Government severely limits freedom of religion. The Ministry
of Endowments and Religious Affairs monitors places of worship,
appoints the clergy, and approves the publication of religious
Although Shi'a Muslim Arabs, who compose between 60 and 65 percent
of the population, are the largest religious group, Sunni Arabs
(composing only about 12 to 15 percent of the population) traditionally
have dominated economic and political life. Despite legal protection
of sectarian equality, the regime has in recent years repressed
the Shi'a clergy and followers of the Shi'a faith. Security forces
have desecrated Shi'a mosques and holy sites, particularly in
the aftermath of the 1991 civil uprisings.
The following government restrictions on religious rights remained
in effect throughout 1997: a ban on the Muslim call to prayer
in certain cities; a ban on the broadcast of Shi'a programs on
government radio or television; a ban on the publication of Shi'a
books, including prayer books; a ban on funeral processions; and
the prohibition of certain processions and public meetings commemorating
Shi'a holy days. In June serious clashes were reported between
Shi'a pilgrims traveling to Karbala for the Arba'in commemoration
and security forces and government-backed Sunni civilians. Reports
of casualties varied widely, indicating that between 40 to 500
pilgrims were killed. The Government cut off food, water, and
electricity to the city of Karbala. Some pilgrims were allegedly
kidnaped and their families were forced to pay a ransom to the
Government to effect their release.
The Government continues to insist that its own appointee replace
the late Grand Ayatollah Abul Qasim Al-Khoei, formerly the highest
ranking Iraqi Shi'a clergyman, who died in government custody
in 1992 (see Section 1.b.). The Shi'a religious establishment
refuses to accept the Government's choice. The Government also
continued to harass and threaten members of the late Ayatollah
Al-Khoei's family (see Sections 1.a. and 1.b.). In Najaf on November
25, government agents allegedly attacked the house of Mohammed
Rida Sistani, the son of Ayatollah Syed Ali Sistani, one of the
most senior Shi'a leaders in Iraq. Sistani was wounded, a colleague
was killed, and Sistani's home was ransacked, according to a SCIRI
As far as is known, the security forces still were encamped in
the shrine to Imam Ali at Al-Najaf, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest
sites, and the former Shi'a theological school in Al-Najaf.
The Special Rapporteur and others reported that the Government
has engaged in various abuses against the country's 350,000 Assyrian
Christians. Most Assyrians traditionally live in the northern
governorates, and the Government often has suspected them of "collaborating"
with Kurds. Military forces destroyed numerous Assyrian churches
during the Anfal Campaign and reportedly tortured and executed
many Assyrians (see Section 4). According to Human Rights Watch
and Assyrian sources, the Government continues to harass and kill
Assyrians throughout the country by forced relocations, terror,
and artillery shelling.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country,
Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government controls the movement within the country of citizens
and foreigners. Persons who enter sensitive border areas and
numerous designated security zones are subject to arrest. Police
checkpoints are common on major roads and highways.
In November, at the height of the Government's defiance of U.N.
resolutions requiring inspections for weapons of mass destruction,
the Government announced that hundreds of patriotic citizens had
volunteered to serve as "human shields" in the event
of a coalition air strike on Saddam Hussein's palaces and military-industrial
sites. However, reports from opposition sources in Iraq claimed
that Ba'ath Party functionaries had been issued quotas of "volunteers"
to recruit to serve in this capacity. When bribes of increased
food rations failed to generate the required number of persons,
the Ba'ath Party, in conjunction with the security services, reportedly
coerced civilians to serve as "human shields."
The Government requires citizens to obtain specific government
authorization and expensive exit visas for foreign travel. Citizens
may not make more than two trips abroad annually. Before traveling
abroad, citizens are required to post collateral with the Government,
which is refundable only upon their return to Iraq. There are
restrictions on the amount of currency that may be taken out of
the country. Women are not permitted to travel outside Iraq alone;
male relatives must escort them. Each student wishing to travel
abroad must provide a guarantor who is liable if the student fails
to return. Students abroad who refuse to return to Iraq are required
to reimburse any of their expenses that were paid by the Government.
The Government prohibits foreign travel by journalists, authors,
and all the employees of the Information Ministry. Security authorities
interrogate all media employees, journalists, and writers who
travel outside Iraq.
Foreign spouses of citizens who have resided in Iraq for 5 years
(1 year for spouses of government employees) are required to apply
for naturalization as Iraqi citizens. Many foreigners thus become
subject to travel restrictions. The penalties for noncompliance
include, but are not limited to, loss of the spouse's job, a substantial
financial penalty, and repayment for any governmental educational
expenses. The Government prevents many citizens who also hold
citizenship in another country--especially the children of Iraqi
fathers and foreign-born mothers--from visiting the country of
their other nationality.
The Government continued to pursue its discriminatory resettlement
policies, including demolition of villages and forced relocation
of ethnic Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, and other minorities. Human
rights monitors reported that the Government continued to force
Kurdish and Turkomen residents of Kirkuk to move to other areas
in the north or to the south. In their place, ethnic Arab families
were moved in, evidently in an effort to "Arabize" this
oil-rich city. Another motive may have been simple theft; the
Special Rapporteur described the alleged expropriation of Turkomen
agricultural land near Kirkuk by high-level regime officials and
members of Saddam Hussein's family. Typically the displaced persons
reported that they were given at most 1 week to leave, and that
they often were not allowed to bring their belongings with them.
In many cases, Iraqi security officials reportedly seized food
coupons issued to displaced persons under the U.N. "oil-for-food"
program. Amnesty International reported that, according to some
sources, family members, including children, are sometimes taken
hostage by the Government to ensure that families do not resist
the order to move.
The U.N. Secretary General estimates that there are more than
half a million internally displaced persons in the three northern
provinces (Irbil, Dohuk, and Suleymaniyah). Well over 100,000
were added in 1997, due to expulsion by government forces, expulsion
by competing Kurdish groups, and intra-Kurdish fighting. There
were constant reports of forced expulsions of Kurds and Turkomen
from Kirkuk and Khanaquin: 1,500 persons in April; 1,300 families
in May; 440 families in July; 1,000 families in September; and
1,750 families in December. The Kurdish factions added greatly
to this problem by expelling each other's political supporters
from areas that they control and by their renewed fighting. The
KDP estimated that 58,000 KDP supporters were expelled from Suleymaniyah
and other PUK-controlled areas from October 1996 to October 1997;
the PUK says that more than 49,000 of its supporters were expelled
from Irbil and other KDP-controlled areas from August 1996 through
December 1997. The U.N. reports that more than 10,000 persons
were forced from their homes when fighting broke out between the
Kurdish factions along their cease-fire line in October 1997.
According to the Special Rapporteur, security forces continued
to relocate Shi'a inhabitants of the southern marshes to major
southern cities. Many have been transferred to detention centers
and prisons in central Iraq, primarily in Baghdad, or even to
northern cities like Kirkuk as part of the Government's attempt
to "Arabize" traditionally non-Arab areas.
The Government does not provide first asylum or respect the rights
of refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees
remain abroad. Apart from those suspected of sympathizing with
Iran, most fled after the Government's suppression of the civil
uprising of 1991; others are Kurds who fled the Anfal Campaign
Of the 1.5 million refugees who fled following the 1991 uprisings,
the great majority, particularly Kurds, have repatriated themselves
to northern Iraq in areas where the allied coalition has prohibited
overflights by Iraqi aircraft. Several hundred thousand Kurds
remain unsettled in northern Iraq because political circumstances
do not permit them to return to their former homes in government-controlled
territory. According to the Special Rapporteur, many of these
families still live in tent camps under extremely harsh conditions,
which result in many deaths, particularly among the elderly and
Approximately 12,000 Turkish Kurds remain in the north who have
fled civil strife in southeastern Turkey. The UNHCR is treating
these displaced persons as refugees until it reaches an official
determination of their status. The Atrush refugee camp was closed
in early 1997 and about 1,000 of its residents returned to Turkey.
A total of 6,000 refugees from Atrush reportedly have moved to
the Ayn Sifni facility, with most of the remainder relocating
to KDP-controlled areas of northern Iraq.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right
of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Although
the Government has taken steps to increase the perception of democracy,
the political process still was controlled firmly by the State.
The 1995 "referendum" on Saddam Hussein's presidency
was not free and was dismissed as a sham by most international
observers. It included neither voter privacy nor opposing candidates,
and many credible reports indicated that voters feared possible
reprisal for a negative vote. A total of 500 people reportedly
were arrested in Karbala, Baghdad, and Ramadi provinces for casting
negative ballots, and a member of the intelligence services reportedly
was executed for refusing to vote for the President.
There are strict qualifications for electoral candidates; the
candidates for the National Assembly, by law, must be over 25
years old and "believe in God, the principles of the July
17-30 revolution, and socialism." Out of the 250 seats, 160
deputies reportedly belong to the Ba'ath Party, 60 are independent,
and Saddam Hussein appointed 30 deputies to represent the northern
provinces. According to the Special Rapporteur, the Ba'ath Party
allegedly instructed a number of its members to run as nominally
Full political participation at the national level is confined
to members of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, estimated at about
8 percent of the population. The political system is dominated
by the Party, which governs through the Revolutionary Command
Council, headed by President Saddam Hussein. However, the RCC
exercises both executive and legislative authority. It overshadows
the National Assembly, which is completely subordinate to it and
the executive branch.
The President wields decisive power over all instruments of government.
Almost all powerful officials are either members of his family
or are family allies from his home town of Tikrit.
Opposition political organizations are illegal and severely suppressed.
Membership in certain political parties is punishable by death
(see Section 2.b.). In 1991 the RCC adopted a law that theoretically
authorized the creation of political parties other than the Ba'ath
Party; in practice the law is used to prohibit parties that do
not support Saddam Hussein and the Government. New parties must
be based in Baghdad and are prohibited from having any ethnic
or religious character.
The Government does not recognize the various political groupings
and parties that have been formed by Shi'a Muslims, as well as
Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkomen, and other Iraqi communities. These
political groups continued to attract support despite their illegal
Women and minorities are underrepresented in government and politics.
The law provides for the election of women and minorities to
the National Assembly, but they have only token representation.
In northern Iraq, all central government functions have been performed
by local administrators, mainly Kurds, since the Government withdrew
its military forces and civilian administrative personnel from
the area after the 1991 uprising. A regional parliament and local
government administrators were elected in 1992. This parliament
last met in May 1995. Discussions among Kurdish and other northern
Iraqi political groups continue on the reconvening of parliament,
but fighting between the PUK and KDP continue to prevent normal
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
The Government does not permit the establishment of independent
human rights organizations. It operates an official human rights
group that routinely denies allegations of abuses. Citizens have
established several human rights groups abroad and in northern
areas not under government control. Monitors from foreign and
international human rights groups are not allowed in Iraq.
As in previous years, the Government did not allow the U.N. Special
Rapporteur to visit Iraq, nor did it respond to his requests for
information. The Government continued to defy various calls from
U.N. bodies to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit the southern
marshes and other regions.
For the fifth consecutive year, the United Nations Human Rights
Commission (UNHRC) called on the U.N. Secretary General to send
human rights monitors to "help in the independent verification
of reports on the human rights situation in Iraq." The U.N.
Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
Minorities made a similar request. The Government has continued
to ignore these calls for the entry of monitors.
The Special Rapporteur nonetheless was able to gather more evidence,
in part due to interviews with current and past government officials,
which shed new light on the systemic nature of human rights violations.
He dispatched members of his staff to Kuwait, Jordan, and other
locations to interview victims of government human rights abuses.
The Govern harassed and intimidated relief workers and U.N. personnel
throughout the country, maintained a threat to arrest or kill
relief workers in the north, staged protests against U.N. offices
in the capital, and may have arranged for the bombing of a U.N.
headquarters in Baghdad (see Sections 1.g. and 2.a.).
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution and the legal system provides for some rights
for women, children, and minorities. However, in practice, the
Government systematically violates these rights.
Domestic violence against women occurs but little is known about
its extent. Such abuse is customarily addressed within the tightly
knit family structure. There is no public discussion of the subject,
and the Government issues no statistics. Spousal violence constitutes
grounds for divorce and criminal charges, but suits brought on
these charges are believed to be rare. Men who kill female family
members for "immoral deeds" may receive immunity from
prosecution under a 1990 law (see Section 1.d.).
The Special Rapporteur has noted that there is an unusually high
percentage of women in the Kurdish areas, purportedly caused by
the disappearances of tens of thousands of Kurdish men during
the Anfal Campaign. The Special Rapporteur has reported that
the widows, daughters, and mothers of the Anfal Campaign victims
are economically dependent on their relatives or villages because
they may not inherit the property or assets of their missing family
Evidence concerning the Anfal Campaign indicates that the Government
killed many women and children, including infants, by firing squads
and in chemical attacks.
The Government claims that it is committed to equality for women,
who make up about 20 percent of the work force. It has enacted
laws to protect women from exploitation in the workplace and from
sexual harassment; to permit women to join the regular army, Popular
Army, and police forces; to require education for girls; and to
equalize women's rights in divorce, land ownership, taxation,
and suffrage. It is difficult to determine to what extent these
protections are afforded in practice. However, reports indicate
that the application of these laws has declined as Iraq's political
and economic crisis persists. Women are not allowed to travel
outside Iraq alone (see Section 2.d.).
No information is available on whether the Government has enacted
specific legislation to promote the welfare of children. However,
the Special Rapporteur and several human rights groups have collected
a substantial body of evidence pointing to the Government's continuing
disregard for the rights and welfare of children. This may include
government officials taking children from minority groups hostage
in order to intimidate their families to leave cities and regions
where the regime wishes to create a Sunni Arab majority (see Section
The Government's failure to comply with relevant U.N. Security
Council resolutions has led to a continuation of economic sanctions.
Exacerbating this situation, the regime's implementation of the
"oil-for-food" arrangement under UNSCR 986 ensures that
those who accede to the regime's policies benefit, while the need
of vulnerable demographic groups are ignored. During the year,
more than 3 million tons of food reached Iraq under UNSCR 986,
but the quantity and nutritional content of the "food basket"
that the Government sells to needy families actually was decreased
by government decree. There are widespread reports that food
that should have been made available for the general public was
in fact stockpiled in warehouses to replenish stocks held by the
military. The Government management of the program did not take
into account the special requirements of children ages 1 to 5,
despite the U.N. Secretary General's specific injunction that
the Government modify its implementation procedures to address
this vulnerable group. The Government twice refused to pump oil
during 1997 (for a total of 3 months), causing major disruptions
in the smooth flow of goods to Iraq. In November there were credible
press reports that pharmaceutical supplies that should have been
directed to sick Iraqi children instead were exported or reexported
for sale in Jordan, and that $300 million in medicine and medical
supplies that the Government said was needed desperately by children
had been delayed because of regime members' demands for bribes
from suppliers. As a result, health conditions have deteriorated
and children have been particularly susceptible, except the children
of regime supporters.
In August the Government announced for the fourth year a 3-week
training course in weapons use, hand-to-hand fighting, rappelling
from helicopters and infantry tactics for children 10 to 15 years
of age. Camps for these "Saddam Cubs" operated throughout
the country, with 8,000 children participating in Baghdad alone.
Senior military officers who supervised the course noted that
the children held up under the "physical and psychological
strain" of tough training for as long as 14 hours each day.
People with Disabilities
No information is available on the Government's policy towards
people with disabilities.
Iraq's cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity are not reflected
in the country's political and economic structure. Various segments
of the Sunni Arab community, which itself constitutes a small
minority of the population, have effectively controlled the Government
since independence in 1932. Shi'a Arabs, the majority of the
population, have long been economically, politically, and socially
disadvantaged. Like the Sunni Kurds and other ethnic and religious
groups in the north, the Shi'a Arabs of the south have been targeted
for particular discrimination and abuse, ostensibly because of
their opposition to the Government.
Kurds, who make up approximately 20 percent of the population,
historically have suffered political and economic discrimination,
despite the token presence of a small number of Kurds in the national
Government (see Sections 1.a., 1.b., and 1.g.).
Assyrians are an ethnic group as well as a Christian community
(see Section 2.c.). They speak a distinct language--Syriac.
Public instruction in Syriac, which was to have been allowed under
a 1972 decree, has never been implemented. Numerous reports indicated
continued systemic discrimination against Assyrians throughout
1997, especially in terms of forced movements from northern areas
and repression of political rights there.
Turkomen and Assyrian volunteers form the backbone of the Peace
Monitoring Force (PMF) which patroled the cease-fire line between
the Kurdish factions. On January 23, the semi-official Baghdad
newspaper Babel, owned by Uday Hussein, warned that the Turkomen
and Assyrian communities could "suffer harm" if PMF
activities continued. The PUK reported in November that families
and relatives of PMF members living in government-controlled areas
have been threatened directly by the regime, causing many PMF
members to desert from the force. Other sources reported that
PKK terrorists also had threatened members of the PMF and conducted
attacks on the offices of Turkomen organizations.
Citizens considered by the Government to be of Iranian origin
must carry special identification and are often precluded from
desirable employment. Over the years, the Government has deported
hundreds of thousands of citizens of Iranian origin.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Trade unions independent of government control do not exist.
The Trade Union Organization Law of 1987 established the Iraqi
General Federation of Trade Unions (IGFTU), a government-dominated
trade union structure, as the sole legal trade federation. The
IGFTU is linked to the Ba'ath Party, which uses it to promote
party principles and policies among union members.
Workers in private and mixed enterprises--but not public employees
or workers in state enterprises--have the right to join local
union committees. The committees are affiliated with individual
trade unions, which in turn belong to the IGFTU.
The Labor Law of 1987 restricts the right to strike. No strike
has been reported over the past two decades. According to the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the severe restrictions
on the right to strike include penal sanctions.
The IGFTU is affiliated with the International Confederation of
Arab Trade Unions and the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation
of Trade Unions.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to bargain collectively is not recognized. Salaries
for public sector workers (the majority of the employed) are set
by the Government. Wages in the much smaller private sector are
set by employers or negotiated individually with workers. Government
workers frequently are shifted from one job and work location
to another to prevent them from forming close associations with
other workers. The Labor Code does not protect workers from antiunion
discrimination, a failure that has been criticized repeatedly
by the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of Experts.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Compulsory labor theoretically is prohibited by law. However,
the Penal Code mandates prison sentences, including compulsory
labor, for civil servants and employees of state enterprises accused
of breaches of labor "discipline," including resigning
from a job. According to the ILO, foreign workers in Iraq have
been prevented from terminating their employment to return to
their native countries because of government-imposed penal sanctions
on persons who do so. There is no information available on forced
and bonded labor by children.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum
Age for Employment
The employment of children under age 14 is prohibited except in
small-scale family enterprises. Children reportedly increasingly
are encouraged to work in order to support their families, in
view of the country's harsh economic conditions. The law stipulates
that employees between the ages of 14 and 18 work fewer hours
per week than adults. Each year the Government enrolls children
as young as 10 years of age in a paramilitary training program
(see Section 5). There is no information available on forced
and bonded labor by children (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Theoretically, most workers in urban areas work a 6-day, 48-hour
workweek. Hours for government employees are set by the head
of each ministry. Working hours for agricultural workers vary
according to individual employer-employee agreements. Occupational
safety programs are in effect in state-run enterprises. Inspectors
theoretically inspect private establishments, but enforcement
varies widely. There is no information on workers' ability to
remove themselves from work situation that endanger their health
or safety, or on those who complain about such conditions.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices
for 1997. Note: The United States does not have diplomatic representation in Iraq. This report draws to a large extent on non-U.S. Government sources.