[JURIST] Iraq’s human rights situation remains fragile [press release], the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) [official website] reported [text, PDF] Wednesday. Iraq is currently transitioning from a decade-long dictatorship and its underlying armed conflict and violence to a peaceful democratic system. UNAMI recognized some improvements towards such a system, but it discovered that there are still areas which seriously endanger human rights standards. One of the areas that has been identified is the weakness in rule of law and in administration of due process and fair trials. UNAMI discovered that most of the detainees who were accused of being members of the Ba’ath Party [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and being involved in terrorist activities are without legal representation. Moreover, it was reported that most of them were subject to threats, abuse and mistreatment. UNAMI pointed out that for a democratic system to work, Iraq has to ensure that the rule of law is respected:
Respect for the rule of law, due process and fair trial standards are among the foundations of a democratic State; without these, a democratic State cannot prosper, and public faith in the Government and its institutions will be undermined. The causes of the problems facing Iraq’s judicial and law enforcement systems are complex and diverse, not least of which is a culture of abuse stemming from years of dictatorship and conflict. Under-resourcing also leads to an environment where abuses can take place, including poor hygiene and low standards of detention facilities, lack of access to legal counsel, and lengthy pre trial detention.
UNAMI urged the Iraqi government to ensure that children and juveniles are protected from domestic violence and to prosecute those who use violence against them. Moreover, UNAMI said the government should increase its effort to provide an equal environment in which all citizens including minorities are protected under the law regardless of their social, religious, ethnic and other distinguishable status.
Human rights violations did not cease even after the dictatorship that marked persistent violence in Iraq ended. Earlier in May, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that mass arrests and incommunicado detentions continue in Baghdad’s prison that was planned to be closed. In 2011, UNAMI and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] reported [JURIST report] that human rights violations continue in several regions of Iraq. Law enforcement and the judiciary system has remained weak while torture and abuse of detainees persisted within prison walls. Similar findings were made several months earlier by Amnesty International [advocacy website] in its report [text, PDF] revealing [JURIST report] that governmental authorities shot and killed protesters while detaining and torturing political activists. In 2010, it also reported [JURIST report] on the government’s unlawful arrests and tortures against thousands of detainees.