25 Apr 2007
By Yara Bayoumy
BAGHDAD, April 25 (Reuters) - Journalists in Iraq's Kurdistan face arrest and harassment for reporting on government corruption and poor public services, the United Nations said in a report on the autonomous region.
The U.N. also criticised Kurdish officials for failing to tackle frequent cases of "honour killings" of women and said hundreds of detainees in Kurdish prisons were held without charge.
Kurds promote Kurdistan as one corner of Iraq that is relatively stable, in contrast to the rest of the country that is engulfed in sectarian violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunnis. Drawing on that image, Kurdistan plans to build a $400 million "media village" for international organisations.
While most journalists' deaths in Iraq took place in Baghdad, the human rights report on Iraq said most arrests of journalists it recorded between January and March were carried out by the Kurdish security forces.
"The (Kurdish) authorities continued to subject journalists to harassment, arrest and legal actions for their reporting on government corruption, poor public services or other issues of public interest," the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said.
The report welcomed a recent review by the Kurdish National Assembly of legislation on freedom of expression and the launch of investigations into several cases involving curbs on media freedom.
Women's rights to life and personal security remained a "serious concern" in the Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Dahuk and Sulaimaniya given the high incidence of "honour killings and other abuses against women", UNAMI said.
"Between January and March, UNAMI received information on some 40 cases of alleged honour crimes ... where young women reportedly died from 'accidental burns' at their homes or were killed by family members for suspected 'immoral' conduct."
It said it continually received reports about domestic and communal violence which were largely ignored by the Kurdish authorities.
The United Nations said it was also concerned about arbitrary detentions by Kurdish authorities. Hundreds of detainees have been held for long periods without charge or without being referred to an investigative judge, it said.
In some cases, detainees were arrested without judicial warrants and all were routinely denied the opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
The report said UNAMI had received allegations of torture or ill-treatment of detainees at government detention centres.
UN Assistance Mission for Iraq
بعثة الأمم المتحدة . 1
لتقديم المساعدة للعراق
Human Rights Report
1 January – 31 March 2007
Detentions in the Region of Kurdistan
72. UNAMI remained concerned about the practice of administrative detention of persons
held in the custody of the Asayish (security) forces in the Kurdistan region, the majority
having been arrested on suspicion of involvement in acts of terrorism and other serious
crimes. Many are said by officials to be members or supporters of proscribed Islamist
groups. Hundreds of detainees have been held for prolonged periods, some for several years,
without referral to an investigative judge or charges brought against them. In some cases,
detainees were arrested without judicial warrant and all are routinely denied the opportunity
to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
73. UNAMI also continues to receive allegations of the torture or ill-treatment of detainees in
Asayish detention facilities. In one heavily-publicized case, Ismail Ahmad Hassan, aged
thirty-five, died while in the custody of Asayish officials in Sulaimaniya three days after his
arrest on 22 April 2004. A Special Investigation Committee comprising three judges with
wide judicial powers and headed by Judge Rizgar Amin, concluded that he had died as a
result of torture. In 2004, the Committee ordered the arrest of three Asayish officers on
manslaughter charges in connection with this case, but to UNAMI’s knowledge none have
been brought to justice to date.
74. On 28 January and again on 27 February, families of detainees arrested by Asayish forces
demonstrated before the Kurdistan National Assembly in Erbil, demanding information on
the whereabouts of detained relatives and the reasons for their arrest, and urging that human
rights abuses and the ill-treatment of detainees in these facilities. Responding to complaint
letters from detainees, the Kurdistan National Assembly’s Legal and Human Rights
committees announced their intention to visit all detention facilities to assess conditions of
detention and to examine the cases of those whom the authorities had failed to refer to the
75. UNAMI continued to urge government officials to implement the provisions of Iraq’s
Code of Criminal Procedure with regard to detainees held in Asayish custody. In this regard,
UNAMI held a series of meetings in February with officials of the Ministry of Interior and
the Asayish Directorates requesting, among other things, that such cases be reviewed as a
matter of priority. UNAMI welcomed the willingness of KRG officials to give consideration
to adopting measures to process these long-standing cases. Officials stated that a review of
detainee cases was ongoing, and provided UNAMI with a list of names of 76 detainees held
in KDP custody, and 22 others in PUK custody, who they said had been released in recent
months following a review of their cases. UNAMI also discussed with officials its concerns
regarding the lack of effective mechanisms to bring to justice officials accused or suspected
of abusing detainees.