Twenty years have passed since the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime in Iraq. Unfortunately, the nation continues to grapple with a distressing cycle of human rights violations. Leading human rights organizations latest reports sheds light on the pervasive torture, unfair trials, and attacks on civilians that still haunt Iraq today.While some progress has been made in terms of individual freedoms, the fundamental human rights gains that were supposed to accompany Hussein’s removal have failed to materialize.
Torture and Ill-Treatment of Detainees:
Credible reporting exposed a long history of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, both by Iraqi security forces and foreign troops following the 2003 invasion. Shockingly, the Iraqi authorities have consistently overlooked their obligation to uphold human rights and the rule of law in the face of relentless armed group attacks that display a disregard for innocent civilians’ lives. Detainees, often arrested under anti-terrorism measures, have reported being tortured to extract false confessions or implicate others. Many have later recanted their statements during trial, only for the courts to disregard their torture allegations and sentence them to lengthy imprisonment or even death.
Unfair Trials and Death Penalty:
In a grave miscarriage of justice, authorities have paraded detainees before press conferences and televised their forced “confessions” ahead of their trials or sentencing, violating the principles of presumption of innocence and fair trial. The death penalty, suspended after the invasion, was quickly reinstated by the first Iraqi government in power, leading to hundreds of executions, including that of Saddam Hussein. Moreover, countless prisoners remain on death row, making Iraq one of the world’s most prolific executioners. The use of the death penalty, often based on coerced confessions obtained through torture, is a grave violation of human rights and calls for an end to such practices.
Protests and Violence:
Thousands of demonstrators, mainly in areas where the Iraqi population is the majority, have taken to the streets to protest against arbitrary detentions, detainee abuses, the misuse of anti-terrorism laws, and perceived discrimination against the certain population. Meanwhile, armed groups continue to target government institutions as well as civilians. Even in the relatively peaceful semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, reports of detainee abuse have emerged, highlighting the continued lack of respect for basic human rights.
Accountability and Lack of Justice:
Although individual cases of human rights violations committed by the US and UK forces have been investigated, there has been a systemic failure to address the widespread abuses by these occupying forces. Iraqi victims of US human rights violations have been denied access to justice in US courts. While the Iraqi authorities have occasionally acknowledged instances of torture and abuse, they have often dismissed them as isolated incidents or initiated inquiries whose outcomes have never been made public. This consistent denial and lack of accountability perpetuate the culture of torture and impunity in Iraq.
Iraq remains trapped in a harrowing cycle of torture and impunity, which should have been broken long ago. It is high time for the Iraqi authorities to take concrete steps towards the protection and promotion of human rights. Immediate actions must include the declaration of a moratorium on executions, putting an end to torture and ill-treatment of detainees, ensuring fair trials, and holding those responsible for human rights abuses accountable. Iraq’s citizens deserve a future defined by justice, dignity, and respect for human rights.