Delegation of the European Union to Iraq

Human rights and democracy in Iraq

28/06/2018 - 00:00
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Human rights are at the heart of the European Union's external action and the EU reaffirms its role as a leading global proponent of the promotion and protection of human rights. On 28 May 2018, the Council adopted the EU's annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in 2017.

Overall human rights situation

In 2017 the overall human rights situation in the country remained severely challenging. The military offensive against Da´esh concluded on 10 December 2017 and the humanitarian emergency continues with 2.6 million people still internally displaced. The situation for ethnic and religious minorities is still of grave concern.

Critical human rights problems persist especially in the fields of forced disappearances, impeded or forced returns and property destructions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), lack of due process and fair trial standards as well as sexual conflict-related violence. Use of the death penalty continues, and the EU led a demarche in December 2017 to reiterate the EU's strong stance on this issue. Torture remains widespread in police detention centres, interrogation cells and prisons. Journalists have been harassed and killed particularly in Da'esh controlled areas. Accusations of corruption are frequent and impunity is prevalent. Government forces have been seriously stretched and depleted, particularly senior and elite ranks. There remain concerns about inconsistencies in the command and control of the state-sponsored popular mobilisation forces (comprised of over 60 militias).  Lack of governmental transparency, information and access made it difficult to assess the magnitude of many reported human rights problems.

EU Action

The EU´s human rights policy in Iraq remains focussed on the protection of civilians in areas of conflict, the protection of ethnic/religious minorities, national and social reconciliation, the independence of the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), fair and transparent application of law and elimination of gender-based violence. The EU regularly renews its calls on Iraq to adhere to the core tenets of international law on human rights and sign the Rome Statute.

EU bilateral political engagements  

Throughout the year, the EU continued to support Prime Minister Al-Abadi in implementing his reform programmes addressing wide-spread corruption and deficient public service delivery. It called on the government to reach out to all components of Iraqi society and to make progress on national reconciliation. EU  Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of 19 June 2017 condemned the brutality of Da´esh and its flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate attacks, killings and conflict-related sexual violence.

The Iraqi Government has strongly supported the protection of civilians in the military campaign to retake areas from Da´esh, and the Prime Minister continues to emphasise the need for IDP returns to be safe, voluntary, informed and dignified. Government engagement with civil society organisations and local NGOs on drafting laws such as on Family Violence Protection can be seen as steps in the right direction, as are rejecting changes to the personal status law that would have lowered the marital age for women following lobbying from the EU and partners. The EU funded activities to strengthen the IHCHR, which finally voted in a new board of commissioners including a president and deputy on 9 December 2017, though concerns remain on the organisation's effectiveness.

EU financial engagements  

In 2017, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the EU Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis ("Madad"), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO-LA). The EU also funded local NGOs to build their capacity in legislative work.

Human rights-related projects focussed i.a. on:

(a) Reconciliation: support to dialogue, conflict reduction between internally displaced persons and host communities, concerns related to missing persons and sectarian violence, protect cultural heritage and diversity;

(b) Education: capacity-building for primary and secondary education;

(c) Capacity building of civil society and freedom of media

(d) Security: rule of law, developing human-rights compliant counter terrorism legislation.

The EU supported humanitarian partners in Iraq with EUR 82.5 million in 2017, targeting its principled, strategic, multi-sector humanitarian support to all populations most affected by the conflict, solely on the basis of needs.

Multilateral context

Iraq is party to a number of international human rights conventions and many of them have not been yet ratified. The following fundamental treaties have yet not been acceded to: the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention on the non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes. In addition, Iraq has not signed the Optional Protocols to CAT and CEDAW, regarding the complaint procedures, neither Iraq has acceded to the Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In September 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2379, creating an independent investigating body to support Iraq-led investigations into Da'esh war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Apart from promoting accountability, the resolution aims at supporting evidence-gathering.

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