20 August 2014
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today completed its consideration of the combined fifteenth to twenty-first periodic report of Iraq on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Presenting the report, Abdulkareem Al-Janabi, Deputy Minister of Human Rights of Iraq, said since Iraq became one of the first countries to sign the Convention it had undergone great changes from dictatorial regime to republican, parliamentarian and democratic regime. Today Iraq was undergoing very serious circumstances at both the political and security levels. A number of cities in several provinces had been taken by force by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. Those terrorists groups had committed the most horrendous crimes, they were crimes against humanity. People had been raped and killed, property had been destroyed and violations had taken place that led humanity back to the Middle Ages, at the hands of terrorist groups in the name of Islam, while Islam was innocent. Iraq needed the international community to take a serious stance to help it face that dangerous movement which was supported, financed and facilitated by serious parties.
During the discussion, Committee Experts said the Government representing the State party was dysfunctional, and had lost control of two thirds of its territories, where the greatest violations of the Convention, and of human rights in general, were taking place that amounted to war crimes and even crimes against humanity. They said it was remarkable that in 2003 there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but today there were reportedly less than 300,000. Experts asked many questions about the current crisis, especially regarding the make-up of the Islamic State/ISIS organization. The Committee called for a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission to be established by the United Nations Security Council, and also for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the events. Other areas examined included violations against other minority ethnic and religious groups, and the situation of Syrian and other refugees in the country.
In concluding remarks Mr. Al-Janabi said the ongoing terrorist attacks in Iraq were not only a threat to the country but to humankind in general and that the great fears that minorities in Iraq were exposed to danger were founded. Iraq, with the support of the international community, was trying to end the insecurity and return to normalcy.
Marc Bossuyt, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Iraq, thanked the delegation for their frank and sincere responses. Iraq was going through a particularly difficult period with very serious consequences not only for Iraq but for humankind as a whole.
The delegation of Iraq included representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Legal Department, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Planning, Directorate of Endowment of Christian and Yazidi in Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, General Secretariat of the Council of Ministries of Iraq and the Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin its review of the combined seventh to ninth periodic report of Japan CERD/C/JPN/7-9
The Committee is considering the combined fifteenth to twenty-first periodic report of Iraq: CERD/C/IRQ/15-21
. Presentation of the Report
ABDULKAREEM AL-JANABI, Deputy Minister of Human Rights of Iraq
, said since Iraq became one of the first countries to sign the Convention it had undergone great changes from a dictatorial regime to a republican, parliamentarian and democratic regime. Today Iraq was undergoing very serious circumstances at both the political and security levels. A number of cities in several provinces had been taken by force by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. Those terrorists groups had committed the most horrendous crimes, they were crimes against humanity. Those bloody events had saddened humanity. People had been raped and killed, property had been destroyed and violations had taken place that led humanity back to the Middle Ages, at the hands of terrorist groups in the name of Islam, while Islam was innocent.
The terrorist groups had slaughtered women, children and the elderly. Their violence included burying people while they were still alive. The violence had led to the displacement of more than one million people, most of whom had fled to the Kurdistan region, others to the mountains where many had died from fear, or from thirst or hunger. They had destroyed religious shines, graves, mosques, churches and other places of worship. Those criminal gangs also used innocent women and children as human shields, or sold them in the largest demonstration of human trafficking ever seen.
The United Nations had lifted the humanitarian emergency status of Iraq to red, and Iraq was glad of the coordination of international efforts, including the Security Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to help Iraq combat the terrorism from which nobody was safe. Iraq needed the international community to take a serious stance to help it face that dangerous movement which was supported, financed and facilitated by serious parties.
The delegation was here to discuss its reports, said Mr. Al-Janabi, emphasizing that Iraq had serious political will to work with the Committee to strengthen and protect human rights. The report had been prepared through a collaborative methodology, with several Government ministries as well as the Government of the Kurdistan region. The first draft was published on the website of the Ministry of Human Rights to receive the comments of civil society, non-governmental organizations, academia and the public. The Ministry of Human Rights had also held workshops for the Government and civil society to raise awareness of the content of the Convention.
The constitution of Iraq stipulated that Iraqis were equal before the law without discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, origin, colour, religion, creed, belief or opinion, or economic and social status. Freedom of religion was also guaranteed under the constitution for all, including the Yazidis. The diverse origins of the population, which consisted of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Christians, Sabians, Yazidis and others were a source of richness and diversity that strengthened unity. Mr. Al-Janabi outlined measures to ensure the political participation of minorities in both the national and Kurdistan parliaments, as well as legislation which guaranteed equal rights for all. He spoke about new legislation and infrastructure, including the Ministry for Human Rights and Human Rights Courts.
Arabic and Kurdish were the national languages of Iraq, but the right of Iraqis to educate their children in their mother tongue was guaranteed. Mr. Al-Janabi highlighted ways in which minority languages were promoted, in school curriculums and teaching, and through the media, including radio channels. He gave statistics on the number of schools which taught minority groups, and in minority languages, including Kurdish, Turkmen, Armenian and Syriac. He also spoke about how Iraq had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013, and since launched a national plan to prohibit discrimination and to protect minorities.
Questions by Country Rapporteur
MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Iraq, said today marked 11 years exactly since the attack on the United Nations building in Baghdad, which killed the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, who was also High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with 21 of his colleagues. Today, they paid tribute to them. Those people gave their lives to peace and human rights in Iraq, and as they all knew, very much remained to be done.
The Government representing the State party was dysfunctional, said Mr. Bossuyt. The current Government had lost control of two thirds of its territories. The greatest human rights violations, and violations of the Convention, were taking place in the Tigre and Euphrate regions. It had been announced that the current Government would soon be replaced by a National Unity Government, probably led by Mr. Al-Abadi. The Committee hoped that the next Government would be better placed to deal with the enormous challenges faced by Iraq. Iraq’s plurality was its wealth, and that contributed to the whole of humanity. For centuries people of different cultures, ethnicities and religions had lived together in that region. Today it was under brutal attack by a group calling itself “the Islamic State”.
Many sources reported barbaric attacks taking place. Just last Friday 80 Yazidi men were massacred in the village of Kojo, 45 kilometres from Sinjar. In the first six months of the year, an estimated 5,576 people had been killed. Some 1.2 million people had been displaced in the month of June alone. The number of displaced people was now said to be 1.5 million.
The acts of violence included the execution of civilians, rape and sexual violence, detentions and kidnapping, and attacks on hospitals, schools, infrastructure and other buildings, including cultural monuments and religious buildings. Many of those acts were war crimes, even crimes against humanity, said Mr. Bossuyt. They concerned a large range of minorities characterized by both religion and ethnic origin; above all the Shabak, Turkmen, Yezidis and Christians, and notably Assyrians, Chaldeens and Syriacs. It was remarkable that in 2003 there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but today there were reportedly less than 300,000.
Thousands of Yezidis had taken refuge on Mount Sinjar. There were reports of particularly odious crimes for people who would not give allegiance to the Islamic State. There were reports of people being buried alive, and the sale of women, as confirmed by the delegation today. Such barbarism, such atrocities could not be explained simply because someone’s culture, ethnicity or religion was different. The Islamic State manifestly had long-term objectives, namely the establishment of a new monolithic State, and to that aim it was killing anybody who was different from themselves and chasing people away from their ancestral lands.
It was particularly disgusting that in the twenty-first century such barbaric acts were being committed in the name of religion, when such acts were contrary to the founding precepts of that religion, said Mr. Bossuyt. The Convention specifically forbid such discrimination, on the basis of race, colour or national or ethnic origin, particularly in the freedom of the right to thought, conscience or religion, he recalled.
The severity and scope of the acts and the imminent danger faced by hundreds and thousands of people in Iraq justified urgent action by the Committee and even more so by the international community. But the protection of all persons in Iraq fell first of all to the Government of Iraq. However, it appeared that the Government was not managing the situation, and the stakes were so high that the international community could not avoid its responsibilities, he said. The Committee called for the Human Rights Council to urgently hold a Special Session to establish a Commission of Inquiry, particularly to answer the questions on what was the cause of the rapid violence and who was supporting the Islamic State, financially and with arms?
Secondly, the Committee said it was plain to see that the displaced people from minority groups, particularly those on the Nineveh plain, would not be able to return to their homes without the intervention of a United Nations Peacekeeping mission. The Committee said the establishment of a United Nations Peacekeeping Force which could maintain a demilitarized zone, for example in the Nineveh Plain, should be given serious consideration by the United Nations Security Council. Otherwise the displaced would forever remain a persecuted minority, victims who continued to suffer from grave violations of human rights.
Mr. Bossuyt then turned to the State party’s implementation of the Convention in general. He said that Black Iraqis, estimated to number two million, were subject to prejudiced treatment and systematic discrimination. Some 80 per cent of Black Iraqis were said to be illiterate and 80 per cent were unemployed. There were reports of a high suicide rate among Yazidi females. He also asked about reports that Turkmen were prohibited from teaching their language, noting that Assyrian and Aramaic were listed by UNESCO as “definitely endangered languages”. The State party was commended for actions to curb polygamy and female genital mutilation, including among minority communities, which was very positive news for the Committee.
As far as political representation was concerned, there were calls for a more fair allocation of seats for Yazidi and Mandean communities; according to the Federal Supreme Court in 2010, one per cent was not proportional for those communities.
On persons in need of international protection – Mr. Bossuyt said Iraq was not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention – there was a need for a new refugee law. In 1980, between 220,000 and 300,000 Faili Kurds became stateless; nationality was restored for 100,000 since 2013, but 100,000 still had no nationality and experienced difficulties in proving that they were registered during the 1957 national census; the funds that were confiscated had not yet been paid back despite promises made to that effect. Internally displaced persons were said to number 1,131,000 back in January 2013, before the current crisis, said Mr. Bossuyt, asking about reports that Arabs fleeing conflict zones faced difficulties in accessing Kurdistan region.
Syrian refugees in Iraq were discussed. Some 222,500 Syrians had taken refuge in the country, mostly in the Kurdistan region, but had not yet been granted refugee status. Could the delegation please comment? Mr. Bossuyt also asked about Iranian refugees, and in particular the former Ashraf Camp which was the site of a massacre in September 2013. Could the delegation provide information on what the situation was of the people who were living in Ashraf Camp?
Did the Convention have priority over national legislation, and was discrimination prohibited in the Criminal Code? What was the status of the draft bill prohibiting racism, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, and the draft law on the implementation of Article 125 of the constitution guaranteeing the rights of various nationalities such as Turkmen, Chaldans and Assyrians? Mr. Bossuyt also asked about reports of unequal application of the nationality law, for instance Jews were excluded and Palestinians made to maintain statelessness indefinitely.
Concerning institutional and policy framework for the implementation of the Convention, Mr. Bossuyt asked the delegation whether it had an action plan specifically on the fight against racial discrimination. There were reports that the High Commission for Human Rights was not functioning properly and had been unable to elect a President, and the same was said about the Kurdistan region Independent Board of Human Rights – could the delegation please comment? The report did not contain any information about complaints or court cases relating to racial discrimination. There were reports of negative prejudices and stereotypes in school curricula and in literature, in particular with respect to Black or dark-skinned Iraqis and Yazidis.
On the situation of ethno-linguistic religious groups, Mr. Bossuyt said the report contained no information on the ethno-religious composition of the populations. It seemed that minorities were not effectively protected against violence. There were reports of attacks on members of the Sunni, Shabak, Yazidi and Turkmen communities, on Christians, and on Shi’a pilgrims, which were rarely investigated or punished and which created a climate of impunity. There were reports of an increase of sectarian discourse after the parliamentary elections of 2010 and the failure to form a consensus government. Bahais were discriminated against with respect to citizenship and identity documents. Loyalties within the military were divided along sectarian and ethnic lines, even more so within the federal police. Could the delegation please comment on those issues.
Questions by the Experts
Experts took the floor to thank the delegation for the great efforts they had made in being here today given the extraordinary and terrible events taking place in Iraq. In the 15 years since the last review, in 1999, the situation in Iraq had changed fundamentally and several times, and it was very important to understand what was happening in Iraq and why. Experts also acknowledged that it was not the ideal time to ask the State party questions in the context of the serious events going on in the country, but it had a specific mandate and its questions had to concern the State’s compliance with the Convention on its territory.
The difficulty was that the worst violations of this very Convention were taking place in the State party right now, but in territories over which the Government had lost control, said an Expert. The Committee appreciated that, but said they must also consider what the State party could do once it regained control of its territory.
Several Experts said they refused to name the insurgent armed group “a State” by using the “Islamic State” name, and similarly to call it an Islamic group, as the atrocities it was perpetrating were not in the name of Islam. The name of the armed group ‘Islamic State’ was a strange name, said an Expert. Islam used to be a tolerant religion, and Christian and other minority religious groups lived together in Iraq.
Christians were described in the report not just as a religious group but also an ethnic group. The Christians were not homogenous and included Assyrian Christians, Armenian Christians, some Christian Arabs, as seen in other neighbouring countries, and others – could the delegation clarify whether Christians in Iraq varied in both religious doctrine and ethnic origin?
Several Experts said not only should the Human Rights Council carry out a Commission of Inquiry, but also the Security Council. Was a de-militarized zone in the Nineveh plain enough or did there need to be more stringent measures, he asked. Finally, how was the Government cooperating with the Kurds; now they had one shared enemy.
Response by the Delegate Representing the Regional Government of Kurdistan
DINDAR FIRZENDA ZEBARI, representative of the autonomous Regional Government of Kurdistan, took the floor to answer questions on the Kurdistan region, as he had to leave the meeting early to return to Erbil. He said the Regional Government had taken positive steps to amend the Iraqi penal code, to improve the gender balance in the region and eradicate discrimination against women, and to reform and establish institutions, including an independent board of human rights, under the auspices of the national assembly, not the Government.
The Regional Government was carrying the utmost burden and immense pressure, 1.5 million recently moved to Kurdistan region, to a small governate in the north housing hundreds of thousands of refugees. It could not bear that responsibility by itself. It needed national and international support.
The National Assembly of Kurdistan had 11 seats for minorities, including Yazidis, Assyrian and other minority communities. The draft constitution of the Kurdistan Regional Government, furthermore, named minorities as components of society.
Regarding refugees from Syria, 270,000 entered the region in the last two years, 30,000 had gone back of their own accord, and the Kurdistan Regional Government had paid for most of it from their own budget.
In terms of questions about a United Nations Peacekeeping force and a demilitarized zone, Mr. Zebari said international action was needed. In the last 11 years there were many outstanding issues, and serious military protection and serious measures by the international community were crucial. The country needed reconciliation but could not do it alone.
This was a critical time in the history of Iraq, said Mr. Zebari. Areas had been completely emptied of Christians and of other minorities. ISIS had taken action which had completely changed the demographics of Iraq. Iraq was under threat. Democracy was under threat. Iraq needed help, it could not do it by itself.
Follow-Up Question by the Experts
MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Iraq, thanked the representative for the information received on the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, and asked about the relationship between that Government and the national Iraqi Government. What about the groups living in the Nineveh Plain, particularly the Chaldeens and Syriacs, as there were reports they had been victims of violence from people coming from Kurdistan.
Response by the Delegation
DINDAR FIRZENDA ZEBARI, representative of the autonomous Regional Government of Kurdistan, said yes, there were outstanding issues between Baghdad and Erbil, but they were institutional issues, which were being solved with assistance from the United Nations mission there. The most important reason for disagreement was Article 140 of the constitution, which had not been implemented. That would clarify the internal boundaries of Kurdistan region in terms of its responsibilities. National reconciliation was a key issue, as were natural resources, including oil and gas.
The Head of the Delegation took the floor to say that he did not believe Iraq’s internal matters, at the political or legislative level, were outside of the mandate of the Committee, especially regarding Article 140 of the constitution.
Mr. Zebari underlined accommodating hundreds of thousands of minorities, exercise of their linguistic rights, fair participation on political affairs and social life, and of course freedom of religion. The exercise of all of those in Kurdistan region was a reflection of the international treaties Iraq had ratified and Kurdistan had taken serious steps forward to implement them.
Questions by the Experts
Who were the armed groups, an Expert asked. He said he refused to refer to them as ‘Islamic State’ as they were not a State. But he wanted to know who they were, where did they come from and what was their ideology?
Did the State party consider that there was a risk of genocide in Iraq? It was a difficult but very important question, said an Expert. Genocide was surely the worst form of racial discrimination, and the Committee needed an answer to that.
How had the Iraqi Government so seriously failed to protect the ethnic minority groups who had belonged to Iraq itself for so many thousands of years? Was it due to the fact that certain communities lost their confidence in the Government and so stopped supporting it or expecting anything from it? How could a serious armed force – the Iraqi army – so easily crumble in front of such an armed insurgent group, in such a short period of time?
An Expert turned to the Turkmen minority group, and said judging from the violence they had been subjected to, especially since 2012 when a large number of political and intellectuals were killed or banished, what was the effect, especially in Kirkuk?
Another Expert said he did not realize there were so many Black Iraqis, people of African descent, who numbered two million. Could the delegation give more information on their situation and discrimination they faced? Most Black Iraqis and members of the Roma community were illiterate, she added, asking what specific measures were being taken to address the historical and systemic nature of that discrimination.
An Expert commended the 15-strong delegation for including three women, but expressed serious concern about the situation of women from minority groups, particularly in the northern part of the country, and wondered if their struggle was not necessarily a new one. Recalling the concluding recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which reviewed Iraq earlier this year, she asked whether the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women, including for the Kurdistan region, had been adopted, and whether it included specific measures to address the very direct inequalities experienced by women from minorities.
Other Experts asked about the distribution of public sector jobs to minorities, and about the Personal Status Code and how it referred to the rights to marriage for non-Muslims. Were marriages between different ethnic minorities really commonplace in Iraq, as set out in the report? If true, that was a real source of hope.
Response by the Delegation
Iraq was facing the attack of the century by groups who had no religion, no humanity and no compassion, said the Head of the Delegation. All Iraqis were targets, all ethnic groups. Iraqis were, and had been for thousands of years, one people. They could not become otherwise overnight. The situation was extremely difficult for Iraq and for the international community. The international community’s response was delayed, it had been awaited since 9 June 2014, but now its support was appreciated, he said.
Iraq had requested that the Human Rights Council convene a Special Session on the protection of vulnerable citizens in Iraq, said the Head of the Delegation, and was asking the international community to help it rise to that challenge. A number of senior Iraqi Ministers, members of a High-Level Committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, would travel to Geneva in the near future to examine the reports of the Human Rights Council. He asked the Committee to look at the draft resolution that was currently being prepared by the Council.
The entire State apparatus had been galvanized to try to stem the inhumane attacks and to support the displaced persons, and 500 million Iraqi dinars had been invested to meet their needs. Iraq counted on the contributions of humanitarian organizations, civil society and the Kurdistan region government, and the situation was truly critical, said the Head of the Delegation.
The delegation spoke about the Islamic State group, saying that the organization, which the Iraqi Government generally referred to as “ISIS” had come from outside Iraq’s borders. It did not originate in Iraq, and it was not working alone. ISIS started in Syria, then took advantage of the poor regional security situation and weak border points to move through the Syrian border into Iraq, where it first took over the city of Mosul. ISIS wanted to proclaim an Islamic Caliphate, which was contrary to the concepts of Islam, as were all of ISIS’s actions. The Head of the Delegation said that the international community should have presented a united front from the first moment that the Iraqi cities began to be violated.
The ISIS group of terrorists were extremely dangerous, continued the Head of the Delegation, who said they had resources which were often superior to those of the Iraqi army, as well as those of the Kurdish Peshmerga, and included training resources.
The Islamic State organization, formerly known as ISIS and ISIL, was led by an Iraqi known commonly as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was born in 1971. Around 2003 al-Baghdadi was detained by the American forces in Iraq for four years. In 2011 he was declared to be an international terrorist, and the Americans offered a US$10 million award for anybody who could provide information about him, including whether he was alive or dead. Last month al-Baghdadi was filmed in a Mosul mosque. The Iraqi Government did not know who was supporting him, nor how he got to where he was. Al-Baghdadi was very heavily armed, and had highly-developed communication networks.
From 10 June to 20 August, Iraq had kept a register of victims and actions led by ISIS and al-Baghdadi in the region. The abuses carried out against minorities included killings, rapes and kidnapping. Women were being taken as slaves, hostages were being sold in the markets, there was expropriation of possessions, refusal to allow sick people to be treated in medical centres, and generally the removal of all services. The statistics presented by the Rapporteur on violations by the terrorist ISIS group in Nineveh and surrounding areas were confirmed, said a delegate.
Muslims were not protected either, continued the Head of the Delegation, as they were forced to proclaim they had adopted ISIS’s views about Islam. Anybody who expressed a contrary opinion to ISIS or who opposed them was immediately killed. Children were being forcibly recruited to ISIS. Young people were being kidnapped from all minority groups and all religions. Even the archives of the Ministry for Human Rights’ Mosul office had been fully destroyed by the ISIS forces as soon as they took control. Female doctors were being asked to hide their faces during surgical examinations. Men and women were made to wear specific clothes. All leisure activities were prohibited. Many families had been pushed to leave Erbil and the Nineveh Plain for Basra and other governorates. People were suffering in an unimaginable way.
Regarding comments that the Government had failed to protect its citizens, a delegate responded that the Iraqi people faced terrorism. Terrorism did not need a reason, it could never be justified. Iraq, like all other countries had political, economic and human rights problems. It was in a transitional stage and was still building its institutional framework. ISIS was a group with a large capacity that was better armed and better funded than the Iraqi army, which was still under construction. The violence surpassed the capacities of the Iraqi army, said the Head of the Delegation.
The Iraqi army was composed of all components of the Iraqi people without discrimination. There were no ethnic divisions in the security or military, for example around 400 police officers were Christians: 100 in southern Iraq from the Sabbawa, including many officers. Some 400 Christians were in the army, one of whom was a General. There were 150 Yazidis also in the army, she added.
If Iraq fell, then the Middle East would fall, and then the whole world would fall, said the Head of the Delegation. Genocide was taking place in Iraq today at the hands of terrorists. The genocide touched all components of Iraqi society.
A delegate spoke about practical steps to implement the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution 12/70, which clearly showed the threat in Iraq was a threat to international peace and security, as the Committee well knew that the Security Council only intervened when there was a threat to international peace and security. The first priority was to return displaced persons to their homes and to provide necessary assistance to the displaced in their current locations, which were hopefully only temporary.
The Government would soon be able to present evidence under that Security Council resolution with regard to the sources of funding of the terrorism in Iraq, added the Head of the Delegation.
A delegate took the floor to speak about anti-discrimination legislation in Iraq. Discrimination against any minority group, including religious minorities, was criminalized. The prohibition was included in the Penal Code and other texts. Additionally, the Supreme Penal Code, which had a transitional nature, was able to examine crimes committed until 2003 which included all crimes indicated under the International Criminal Court including genocide, the gravest of all crimes.
Turning to the issue of displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers, a delegate confirmed that Iraq had not joined the 1951 Refugee Convention, partly because of concerns about how the treaty would impact upon national sovereignty. However, national law 51, adopted in 1970, took the spirit of the Convention into account when dealing with the non-forced return of refugees. No asylum seeker was returned to his country by force, and in reality the Refugee Convention had become a form of customary law. Iraq cooperated closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as it had thousands of refugees on its territory including Kurds, Syrians, Turks and others.
There were currently no asylum seekers in Iraq, said a delegate. Instead the Government categorized all such people as ‘displaced’, and worked to ensure their return. A Committee in the Ministry of the Interior was responsible for reviewing asylum requests, said the delegate, noting that parliament currently had a draft law before it which would complement other legislative measures.
Syrian refugees came to Iraq because of violence and terrorism in Syria, and when they entered Iraq they did not request refugee status, but were instead categorized as displaced persons. In cooperation with the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, and the International Organization of Migration, the Iraqi Government was supervising displaced persons camps, such as Donetsk in the Kurdistan region, which also welcomed Kurdish displaced persons, and another in Anbar, which was welcoming people from the Arab region.
The Iranians who were in Ashraf Camp had a different status, said the delegate. They were former members of the People’s Mujahidin of Iran organization, which had a military history of violence and were opponents of the Iranian regime. They had perpetrated violent acts in Iraq and Iran, in cooperation with the former dictatorship of Iraq in its war against Iran. When the United States came into Iraq in 2003 they deprived them of their weapons and gave them securities as civilians under the Geneva Convention. Consequently Iraq and the United Nations agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding which allowed for their transfer from Ashraf Camp to another camp in the suburbs of Baghdad. That was a provisional step while the United Nations Refugee Agency reviewed their asylum requests. The High Commissioner for Refugees issued a monthly report on the progress which would be provided to the Committee. Those persons were not refugees and did not have any residence in Iraq but existed in the context of a very rare and exceptional law. Their refugee status was prohibited under Article 7 of the constitution, because they were categorized as being members of terrorist groups on the international list.
There was no information of complaints raised by Bahai individuals a delegate said, adding that if the Committee could provide the information then the Government would deal with it as soon as possible. A delegate spoke about national mechanisms for implementation of the Convention, and said there were mechanisms in place for follow-up as well.
The Government had recognized electoral laws for all social and political components to take part. Today the Iraqi Government wanted all governments to have the largest possible participation from all components of society. National unity was encouraged through conferences, especially tribal conferences, particularly through the National Reconciliation Committee which worked to promote social cohesion.
The situation of the Faili Kurds was discussed by a member of the delegation who was herself a Faili Kurd. The Faili Kurds faced genocide, she said. She spoke about legislation to restore their nationality following the fall of the regime in 2003, and said their children were also considered martyrs and could obtain all benefits from the Institution for Martyrs. If they had been sent abroad or imprisoned they were cared for by the Institution for Prisoners. The statistics were not very accurate, but the delegate said the majority of Faili Kurds had now obtained Iraqi nationality.
The problem was that a small group of Faili Kurds could still not obtain nationality because they were children when they left Iraq and so were not documented, or that they had a ‘white card’ in Iran which was not registered in Iraq. Furthermore, most of the papers had been destroyed. That led to the establishment of a special Committee which proposed to establish an Iranian-Iraqi Committee to consider the cases of those who could not prove their Iraqi identity. The Iraqi law on nationality was afraid of giving the nationality to somebody who had no link to Iraq and who may be a foreigner, she said. The delegate also said that the majority of properties were restored to the Shia Kurds after the fall of the regime in 2003, and if the property had been sold, then compensation was paid. The Commission on the Restoration of Property had now finished its work and any outstanding cases had been transferred to the courts.
There were currently no Jewish citizens in Iraq, confirmed a delegate. If there were any, they would have full rights just like any Iraqi. The Palestinians were our brothers, he added, and Iraq sympathized with their plight of being under occupation since 1948. Iraq gave Palestinians full rights. As a member of the Arab League Iraq abided by the decisions of the League, which decided not to grant Palestinians nationality in order to preserve their right of return to their homeland. However, they could obtain ID cards and Iraqi passports.
In April 2014 a new strategy on affirmative action for women was adopted. The law aimed to achieve their equal participation, and contained a five-year strategy to 2018. It aimed to amend discriminatory national legislation, to improve women’s capacity, to improve healthcare including reproductive health, to ensure job opportunities for women, and to strengthen women’s capacity as decision makers, as well as to increase financial facilities of the State. Parliament, the Government and civil society all participated in the implementation of the strategy. There was a 25 per cent quota for women members of parliament. Since 2003 women had held several leading posts, including in the Government and in the police, she added.
The reason for the high rate of suicides of Yazidi women was economic, said a delegate, they had a lack of social and economic opportunities. Workshops were held in Sinjar and other regions by civil society organizations to raise awareness among the communities and combat the suicides.
There were large numbers of ‘mixed marriages’ among the various communities, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and others, as well as between Sunni and Shia Muslims, said a delegate. Islam allowed Christian women to remain Christian if they married a Muslim, confirmed a delegate in answer to questions about the marriage law in Iraq. The law had also been changed to allow Iraqi women to transmit their nationality to their children, she added.
A delegate spoke about the inclusion of minorities in political life in Iraq. A draft law would guarantee the rights of minorities, including the Turkmen and Assyrians, she said. The Council of Representatives, in accordance with the Elections Act of 2005, oversaw the allocation of quotas for the following groups: five seats for Christians, divided between the governates of Baghdad, Arbil, Ninawaa, Dahuk and Kirkuk; one seat for Yazidis in the governate of Ninawa; one seat for Sabaks in the governate of Ninawa; and one seat for the Sabians in the governate of Baghdad. The Governate Councils also had quotas which included one seat in Baghdad for Christians and one seat for Sabians; one seat in Ninewa for Christians, one seat for Yazidis and one seat for Sabaks; and one seat in Al-Basrah for Christians. Article 50 of the constitution also guaranteed minority representation on councils, the delegate added.
Regarding the question of increasing the quotas for the Yazidis in parliaments, a delegate said the Yazidis were already allocated two seats, and geographically the distribution did not allow for an increase in seats. Concerning education, a delegate spoke about provisions to include minorities in schools, curriculum, language and teaching.
There was a law to regulate religious property, including that of Christians in Iraq, said the delegate, which worked to enhance links with the Islamic world in particular and the world in general, and worked to protect those in charge of religious properties in order to invest funds into them.
Turning to hate speech, including religious hate speech, a delegate said freedom of expression was guaranteed under the law. However, if someone expressed an opinion which amounted to hate speech, it could be prosecuted by the court.
A delegate spoke about the regional dispersion of minorities. He said that Kurds could be found in Nineveh Plain, Turkmen could also be found in that region where they were an ethnic majority. The Christians were divided among a number of churches. There were certain Christian villages within one of the regions of Iraq, as well as in Basra in the south. but most Christians were located in Baghdad. The Shabak community could be found in the Nineveh Plain. The Assyrians were Christian minorities.
According to 2013 Government statistics there were 718 members of the Roma community living in one village in Iraq, including 125 children of school age, said a delegate. The basic needs of some of the people in that village were not being met, and complaints were received regarding the living conditions, and a Government delegation was sent to the village to collect testimonies. There was an administrative difficulty in providing services as the village was cut off from other inhabited areas, and the Roma people did not want to relocate. Consequently the Ministry of Health established a temporary health clinic near the village, and resources had been provided in the 2015 budget to build a school, a permanent health clinic and a community centre for the village. Efforts had been made to eradicate illiteracy among Roma populations, and a 1992 law on a campaign against illiteracy had had some success, as well as a 2011 law which led to the opening of literacy centres, particularly in remote areas, said a delegate.
There were two Black Iraqi communities, said a delegate. The population was largely concentrated in Basra governorate, and official statistics said there were some 2.6 million Black Iraqis, some four per cent of the total population. They enjoyed all of their human rights, and their unemployment and illiteracy rates were similar to the average rates in Iraq – 11 per cent unemployed and 18 per cent illiterate, added the delegate.
Attacks against Turkmen and other minorities had been carried out in the Kirkuk region of Kurdistan region, said a delegate. Victims of terrorist attacks in Kirkuk, which had a Turkmen majority, were compensated, he added.
Follow-Up Questions by the Experts
The Chairperson of the Committee expressed the Committee’s utmost solidarity with the delegation for the suffering they were experiencing in Iraq. Experts also emphasized their deep empathy for what was happening in Iraq, and extended their condolences. Some said it was a genocide in the making, but it would be remiss of the Committee not to recognize that some of the problems were rooted in the past.
The Committee shared the emotion the Head of the Delegation showed today over the ongoing horrors in Iraq, said another Expert. It was important that he had confirmed the horrors that had taken place and shared the statistics available, he added. The delegation was also thanked for their very comprehensive efforts to respond to the plethora of questions posed.
An Expert said the acts being witnessed in Iraq were savage, and he hoped the international community could act together to end it, without another war starting. Another Expert asked for more information on the background of the Islamic State group.
Ten years ago there were at least 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but they had heard that today there was a maximum of 300,000. How could the drastic reduction in the numbers of Christians be explained? It was deeply worrying, said the Expert.
The Refugee Convention of 1951 was not very complex, said an Expert, and regarding the question of how it impacted upon national sovereignty, all treaties did that and the State had to exercise its sovereignty in its implementation. The main duty under it was not to repatriate an individual to their home country if they had reasonable grounds to expect they would be persecuted upon their return. That did not necessarily impact upon sovereignty, he said. Also, could the delegation say clearly whether international treaties had supremacy over domestic law?
On quotas for the political representation of minorities, an Expert said it was absurd to demand that 14 communities – the number of Christian minorities – be represented in the army, but they could be better represented politically.
Clarification on the number of Black Iraqis, and their unemployment rate was requested by an Expert, who said if the rate was indeed 11 per cent, then that was not bad, and certainly better than in many parts of Europe today.
An Expert asked what the State was doing to engage the women of vulnerable ethnic groups to solve the conflict and build a united Government and State, from security and human rights perspectives, as well as dealing with extreme poverty and the systematic nature of discrimination. She commented that the average Iraqi woman had six children, 40 per cent of girls and 70 per cent of women in villages were illiterate, and the literacy rates in Iraq had decreased over the last decades. That fed into the high child marriage and adolescent fertility statistics. Iraq had the lowest numbers of women working outside of the home in the region, yet more than one million households in Iraq were headed by women. There had been a decrease in literacy levels in Iraq. There was a need to protect the families of the diverse Iraqis, said the Expert.
An Expert said he felt that during the dialogue the term “Sunni” had been taboo, and was pleased other Experts had raised that. This atrocious period would be considered another stain on the history of Iraq, he said.
Response by the Delegation
There were indeed 1,400,000 Christians in Iraq 10 years ago, and today between 300,000 and 400,000. These statistics were from the Council for Religious Affairs, said the delegate, reading out the numbers of Christians in Iraqi cities which she said totalled approximately 640,000. The reduction was due to migration because of security problems and the violent attacks on Christians in the northern regions. In the last 10 days 370,000 Christians moved to Sinjar, 200,000 to Kurdistan region, and 100,000 moved to Irbil. France recently said it was ready to accept all Christians who migrated from Iraq, and the Pope and a senior Cardinal had commented upon that, added a delegate. There were 14 Christian communities in Iraq, supervised by the Office for Minority Affairs, said the delegate.
There were 14 Christian confessions in Iraq, those communities were still in Iraq with their 359 churches and 145 convents. Their leaders and representatives were still in Iraq. There were large numbers of Christians in the army and the police, and no discrimination or obstacles were faced by them in joining those institutions.
Clarifying the percentage of Black Iraqis, the Head of the Delegation said the numbers given were accurate, but once the next census took place they would have clearer data.
A delegate said Iraq was grateful its women had a high level of fertility, and the Government was trying to set a new population policy for the country which would encompass fertility issues. Illiteracy levels were high, on average 20 per cent of people were illiterate in Iraq, primarily in rural areas, said a delegate. A special unit had been established to combat illiteracy and reduce it to six per cent by 2020.
In general it was considered that an international treaty was a commitment, said a delegate.
Iraq faced tremendous challenges, not least the blind terrorism and the call to encourage migration to other countries. Between 2010 and 2013 there had been 74,020 Iraqis killed in the violence in the country. Iraq underwent a phase of totalitarian regime. It was a tribal society with a heritage of wars and economic sanctions, which had led to problems such as poverty – 23 per cent – and illiteracy. Today the poverty rate was approximately 18 per cent.
The Head of the Delegation said any unanswered questions, especially regarding legislative amendments and draft bills, would be answered in writing.
ABDULKAREEM AL-JANABI, Deputy Minister of Human Rights of Iraq, thanked the Committee and all involved for the successful meeting and for their constructive suggestions on implementing the provisions of the Convention. The ongoing terrorist attacks in Iraq were not only a threat to the country but to humankind in general. The great fears that minorities in Iraq were exposed to danger were founded. Iraq, with the support of the international community, was trying to end the insecurity and return to normalcy. Mr. Al-Janabi hoped that his delegation would be able to return to the Committee in future with a new report which reflected a better reality.
MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Iraq, thanked the delegation, particularly the Head of the Delegation, for their frank and sincere responses. Every effort had been made to provide complete answers, which was valued by the Committee. Unfortunately the results achieved did not reflect the efforts undertaken by the State party. Iraq was going through a particularly difficult period with very serious consequences not only for Iraq but for humankind as a whole.
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