Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)

Human rights and democracy in the world: Iraq country report

Baghdad, 26/05/2019 - 12:28, UNIQUE ID: 190526_2
Press releases


1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Iraq held peaceful parliamentary elections in 2018, but continued to face challenges given the impact of several years of conflict. A year after the territorial defeat of Da´esh, 1.8 million people are still internally displaced. Human rights challenges concern the situation of ethnic and religious minorities, impeded or forced returns and destruction of property of internally displaced persons (IDPs), lack of basic services in camps hosting presumed Da´esh affiliated IDPs and their families, lack of due process and fair trial standards across the judiciary as well as gender-based violence. The death penalty continues to be applied under the law on counter-terrorism, targeting many suspected Da´esh-affiliated Iraqi men and women. There are reports of torture in police detention centres, interrogation cells and in formal and informal prisons. Despite some progress, including an enhanced legal framework to advance women’s empowerment, the political, economic and social participation of women remains poor. Female human rights activists and liberal high profile women are under threat and several of them were killed in 2018. While there are no restrictions on freedom of speech, journalists continue to face security concerns. Lack of governmental transparency and inadequate access to information made it difficult to fully assess the magnitude of many reported human rights problems. The Iraq High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), whose creation the EU supported, continues to show flaws in terms of political independence and effectiveness.

2. EU action - key focus areas: The EU´s human rights policy in Iraq remains focussed on: (a) the protection of civilians in areas of conflict and easing the return of IDPs; (b) the protection of ethnic/religious minorities, national and social reconciliation; (c) women's empowerment; (d) the independence of the IHCHR; (e) fair and transparent rule of law. The EU regularly advocates for Iraq to adhere to the core tenets of international human rights law and to sign the Rome Statute. The EU remains also vocal against the use of death penalty.
Two flagship projects on rule of law and gender/education are contributing towards an improved rights-based environment in the country.


  •  Protect the Future: Juvenile Justice Reform in Iraq: in partnership with Heartland Alliance International (HAI) aims at improving the service delivery of judicial institutions in Iraq supporting access of vulnerable groups to justice and improved detention conditions, including for those children and adolescents in conflict with the law. The two year project has already generated some valuable tangible results such as: a baseline assessment of the juvenile justice system; practical guidelines for judges and prosecutors; tailored guidelines and best practices for investigative judges, prosecutors and police officers outlining responsibilities, and requirements to protect juveniles in custody from abuse; legislative recommendations for the new draft Child Protection Law; and “Know-Your-Rights” packages for juveniles and their parents.
  • Enhancing Education, Developing Community, and Promoting Visibility to Effect Gender Equity in Iraq and the Greater MENA Region: the Centre for Gender and Development Studies at the American University of Sulaymanyiah, through an EU grant, works to include educational development in the field of gender studies in three MENA countries (Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon) and community capacity building in gender awareness and advocacy. Through its regional dimension and tri-lingual format it focusses on the review and translation of key texts, training of academics, the development of a gender studies network and the production of six gender-related short films in English, Arabic, and Kurdish.


3. EU bilateral political engagement: During 2018 the EU consistently advocated with the Iraqi government for comprehensive outreach to all components of Iraqi society and to advance on national reconciliation supporting reconciliation initiatives as well as the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) on mass graves. The EU emphasised the need for IDP returns to be safe, voluntary, informed and dignified. In addition, the EU supported reform programmes addressing wide-spread corruption, poor public financial management and deficient public service delivery. The EU maintained its strong stance against the death penalty. The EU continued to advocate through all available channels for improved standards regarding prolonged detention and lack of due process.
As a result of the 2018 legislative elections, which respected the constitutional female quota of 25%, 83 female MPs were elected. The EU supports the female MPs' caucus, gathering some 30 women MPs among the most committed to the advancement of women's rights.
The EU is regularly conveying messages in support of women's empowerment to the Iraqi authorities, among others, regarding the inclusion of female Ministers in the new government.

4. EU financial engagement: In 2018, the EU continued to provide financial support (around EUR 200 million) to human rights-related projects through various EU financial instruments. The four core-areas supported by EU interventions were:

  • Reconciliation/governance through support to dialogue, conflict reduction between IDPs and host communities, concerns related to missing persons and sectarian violence, protection of cultural heritage and diversity;
  • Education/vocational training: capacity-building for primary, secondary and vocational education;
  • Capacity building of civil society and freedom of media; and
  • Security: rule of law, developing human-rights compliant counter-terrorism legislation.


5. Multilateral context: Iraq is party to a number of international human rights conventions but many of them have not yet been ratified. Iraq has not yet acceded to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention on the non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes. In addition, Iraq has not signed the Optional Protocols relating to complaint procedures for the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Neither has Iraq acceded to the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
On 29 October 2018, the United Nations Investigative Team to promote accountability for crimes committed by Da’esh in Iraq and the Levant (based on UN Security Council Resolution 2379) was deployed to Baghdad. The Investigative Team will collect and compile evidence, conduct field-based investigations, preserve and store evidence.

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