[JURIST] US Secretary of State Colin Powell highlighted human rights abuses in Iraq during his Monday presentation [briefing transcript] of the State Department's 2002 Human Rights Reports: "Saddam Hussein's regime is a classic illustration of the fact that such regimes which ruthlessly violate the rights of their citizens tend to pose the greatest threats to international peace and stability." According to the 2002 report on Iraq:
The [Iraqi] regime's human rights record remained extremely poor [in 2002], and it continued to commit numerous, serious human rights abuses. Citizens did not have the right to change the regime. The regime continued summarily to execute alleged political opponents and leaders of the Shi'a religious community. Reports suggested that persons were executed merely because of their association with an opposition group. The regime continued to be responsible for disappearances and to kill and torture persons suspected of or related to persons suspected of oppositionist politics, economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other activities.Read the complete 2002 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Iraq.
Security forces routinely tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused detainees. Prison conditions were extremely poor and frequently life threatening. The regime reportedly conducted "prison cleansing" campaigns to kill inmates in order to relieve overcrowding in the prisons. The authorities routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged detention, and incommunicado detention, and continued to deny citizens the basic right to due process. The regime granted a much-publicized amnesty in October to all prisoners except those accused of spying for the United States or Israel, but by all accounts prisoner release was not as universal as claimed. This public relations event served mainly to corroborate previous reporting of summary executions, disappearances, torture, and inhuman living conditions within the regime's prison system. Many prisoners remained unaccounted for after the amnesty.
Saddam Hussein and his inner circle of supporters continued to impose arbitrary rule. The regime continued to infringe on citizens' privacy rights. The regime severely restricted freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country issued a report in March detailing ongoing, grievous violations of human rights by the regime. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution in November criticizing the regime's suppression of these freedoms. In April the European Parliament published a report condemning the regime's human rights abuses. Nevertheless, human rights abuses remained difficult to document because of the regime's concealment of facts, including its prohibition on the establishment of independent human rights organizations, its persistent refusal to allow visits of human rights monitors, and its continued restrictions designed to prevent dissent. Although in February, the Special Rapporteur was allowed a single, 4-day visit to research abuses in the country for the first time since 1992, time and access were severely limited and strongly controlled by the regime. It has refused to allow a followup visit. Past U.N. reporting on the regime's human rights abuses was based almost entirely on interviews with recent emigrants, opposition groups and others that had contacts inside the country, and on published reports from outside the country. Violence and discrimination against women occurred.
The regime has enacted laws affording a variety of protections to women; however, it has been difficult to determine the practical effects of such protections. The regime neglected the health and nutritional needs of children and discriminated against religious minorities and ethnic groups. The regime restricted severely trade union rights, and there were instances of forced labor.