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Iraq homosexuals being targeted by militias: HRW

[JURIST] Iraqi Shiite militia are systematically torturing and killing gay men [press release] without government repercussions, according to report [text, PDF] released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to the report, violence against men perceived as gay or too "feminine" has recently been on the rise, with death tolls possibly in the hundreds. Although consensual homosexual conduct is not criminalized in Iraq, there are several provisions of the criminal code that are used to target homosexuals and to reduce punishments for those who commit crimes against homosexuals. HRW claims that these crimes violate both shari'a and international human rights laws:

They also strike at the principles of human rights. International human rights law safeguards the right to privacy, including the right to an intimate life undisturbed by surveillance or violence. It protects the right to free expression, including the right to express one's personhood through dress and behavior. It absolutely prohibits, in all circumstances, all forms of torture and inhuman treatment. It guarantees the right to life, including the right to effective state protection.

According to the report, much of the recent violence is going unreported and unpunished. HRW called on the Iraqi government to act immediately to put a stop to the violence and punish the perpetrators.

Discrimination against gays remains widespread in many parts of the world, with several countries criminalizing homosexual conduct. Last month, an Indian court decriminalized homosexual conduct [JURIST report] by declaring India's anti-sodomy law unconstitutional. An appeal [JURIST report] is currently pending before the country's Supreme Court. Burundi recently criminalized homosexuality, a decision that has been condemned [JURIST reports] by human rights groups. In December, 66 members of the UN General Assembly [official website] signed a statement [JURIST report] calling for it to be decriminalized where it is illegal, but nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement. In March, the administration of US President Barack Obama has said that it would also sign [JURIST report] the statement, reversing a Bush administration position. The US Congress is currently considering legislation [JURIST report] that would extend hate crimes protection to homosexuals.

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