Ref. :  000008990
Date :  2003-09-25
Language :  English
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Iraq: The rights of Iraqi people must not be sidelined on the altar of political agendas


While Iraq is the focus of world attention at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York the Iraqi population continues to live in a state of utter insecurity with mounting casualties among the civilian population.

"World leaders gathering in New York must urgently address the continuing spiralling violence in Iraq. Human rights protection must not be sidelined because of disagreements over the political arrangements in Iraq," Amnesty International stressed.

"Whatever the outcome of the ongoing debate on the future of Iraq, the aspirations of the Iraqi people to security, justice and dignity must remain a top priority. Failing to urgently address these legitimate aspirations amounts to a betrayal of all Iraqis."

Five months have now elapsed since the end of the major military operations, but no one feels safe in Iraq now and not a day goes by without more civilians being killed or injured by US soldiers or by armed groups amidst total impunity.

"What is most shocking is that there is no evidence of serious commitment to carry out independent, thorough and impartial investigations into these cases," said Amnesty International.

"US forces are facing direct attacks and a serious law and order emergency, but that can not be justification for a virtual licence to kill."

The organization raised its concerns on human rights violations in Iraq, including civilian deaths, in the report Memorandum on concerns relating to law and order and during meetings with Coalition Provisional Authority ( CPA) officials in July in Baghdad. Among the concerns raised by the organization , continuing use of excessive force by US soldiers, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment in detention centres, and impunity for past and current human rights violations.

"It is unacceptable that the Coalition forces appear to continue to use excessive force on a wide-scale resulting in civilian deaths. The Iraqi people deserve security and peace not more bloodshed, " said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International calls again on the CPA to ensure that proper mechanisms are in place to carry out competent, impartial and independent investigations into allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Coalition forces. Moreover, the outcome of any investigation must be made public and those found responsible brought to justice. The victims or their families must receive full reparation, including compensation.


Background

* On 24 September one Iraqi was killed and 21 injured in a roadside bomb which hit a commuter bus in central Baghdad. The target was reportedly a US military convoy that had passed through minutes earlier.

*'Aqila al-Hashimi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, was shot and seriously wounded when her car came under fire on 20 September. She died on 25 September. Her body-guards were also wounded.

* On 22 September a suicide car bomber blew himself up near the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing himself, an Iraqi security guard and injuring 19 people.

* On 23 September early in the morning, three farmers, 'Ali Khalaf, Sa'adi Faqri and Salem Khalil were killed and three others injured when US troops opened a barrage of gunfire reportedly lasting for at least an hour in the village of al-Jisr near Fallujah. A US military official stated that the troops came under attack but this was vehemently denied by relatives of the dead who said that they did not have any weapons. Later during the day, US military officials reportedly went to the farmhouse, took photographs and apologized to the family.

* On 23 September a US military official commenting on the killing by a US soldier of Reuters television cameraman, Mazen Dana, stated that "Although this is a regrettable incident, the investigation has concluded U.S. forces personnel acted in accordance with the rules of engagement." He said the U.S. military was not publicly releasing the report of the investigation and refused to give any other details of the findings. Mazen Dana, an award winning cameraman, was killed by a US soldier on a tank on 17 August 2003 near Abu Ghraib prison. He was video-filming the prison. The soldier allegedly mistook the video camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

* On 18 September, Sa'ad Muhammad Sultan, a 35-year-old interpreter and father of two children, was killed with a single shot through the heart when a US soldier fired at the car in which he was travelling between Tikrit and Mosul. Sa'ad was accompanying Italian diplomat Pietro Cordone, cultural adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Their car was shot at from a US military vehicle travelling in the same direction – the soldier who fired apparently did not want to be overtaken. Asked about US soldiers' reaction Mr Cordone commented " ...they continued driving as if nothing had happened..".

* On 17 September a 14-year-old boy was killed and six people were injured when US troops opened fire at a wedding party in Fallujah. The soldiers reportedly believed they were under attack when shots were fired in the air in celebration.

* In the same town, on 12 September, a four-year-old boy, a seven-year-old girl and a man were said to have been injured when US troops reportedly fired at a crowd of people after a US military convoy had ran over two mines.

* Early in September, Farah Fadhil, an 18-year-old girl and high school student, was killed in the town of Mahmudiya when US soldiers raided her family's apartment at 12.30am. As they kicked the apartment door without warning her younger brother reportedly took a gun and started firing, thinking that thieves had attacked the building. The soldiers responded by overwhelming fire: firing and throwing grenades at the apartment. Outside the apartment block an unarmed man, Marwan, was shot dead as he went out to look for his brother. One eye witness told a journalist of the Observer newspaper "…I looked over the roof and saw a line of soldiers on the path firing weapons wildly towards the building as a helicopter arrived above us." Following the incident, the Observer journalist who attempted to seek clarification from military officials was told that no record of the incident could be located.


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