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by Stephen Lendman
On February 21, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) press release headlined, "Iraq: Vulnerable Citizens at Risk," announcing its new report titled, "At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-Led Invasion." Besides many others, two previous articles discuss more, accessed through the following links:
The top link explains that over the past two decades, America devastated Iraq by genocide, vast destruction, terror, occupation, and contamination - a monstrous combination of unspeakable ongoing crimes.
At issue is:
-- controlling the region's oil, gas and other strategic resources;
-- remaining permanently in the Middle East and Central Asia, besides all other parts of the world; and
-- achieving unchallengeable full spectrum global dominance over all land, sea, subsurface, space and information.
As a result, in the last decade alone, millions died from Washington's imperial wars, other violence, disease, depravation, torture, unimaginable human misery, and starvation. Hundreds more daily increase the numbers. Yet no one has been held accountable, despite outrageous crimes of war and against humanity - clear violations under international and US law. The regional people await justice so far not forthcoming.
Today, HRW said women, journalists, detainees, and marginalized groups are especially at risk in Iraq. During 2010, it conducted research in seven cities, interviewing activists, lawyers, journalists, religious leaders, former and current detainees, security officers, victims of violence, and others.
According to its Middle East director, Joe Stork:
"Today, Iraq is at a crossroads - either it embraces due process and human rights or it risks reverting to a police state."
Of course, it's been that throughout America's occupation, the puppet Iraqi government and local security forces taking orders from Washington.
As a result, "(b)eyond the continuing violence and crimes associated with it (for eight years), human rights abuses are commonplace," ones Iraqi satraps commit and/or ignore.
HRW says after years of US occupation, "the country's transition to a functioning and sustainable democracy built on the rule of law is far from accomplished." In fact, America tolerates democracy nowhere, including at home.
Nonetheless, HRW says Iraq's future as a human rights respecting society depends on its government defending them "and establish(ing) a credible national criminal justice system embodying international standards with respect to torture, free expression, and violence against women and other vulnerable sectors of society."
In fact, Washington won't tolerate all or most of these standards. Iraqi satraps get orders they must obey or be replaced. HRW also claims that "tens of thousands of Iraqi lives" have been lost in the past eight years when, in fact, it's been millions from war, violence, disease, starvation and other factors.
Gideon Polya's February 25 article titled, "Western Media Ignore Iraqi Freedom" can be accessed through the following link:
According to UN data, medical literature, and other authoritative sources, he cites the following "Iraqi Holocaust" data from 1990 - 2009:
-- "1.6 million violent deaths;
-- 2.8 million non-violent excess deaths;"
-- among them, "1.8 million avoidable under-5 year old infant deaths;" and
-- "five to six million" internally and externally displaced persons.
Overall, it's an "Iraqi Holocaust," according to the UN Genocide Convention definition.
In addition, a climate of pervasive fear exists, as well as mass impoverishment and few basic services, including enough food, clean water, sanitation, electricity, health care and education. In fact, pre-Gulf War Iraq no longer exists. America effectively destroyed it.
Though Washington and Iraq are parties to relevant international human rights treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, their principles have been ignored.
Focusing heavily on the rights of women and girls, HRW cites how lack of security adversely effects them, "both inside and outside" their homes. "For Iraq women, who enjoyed some of the highest levels of rights protections and social participation in the region before 1991," it's a heavy blow.
For example, misogyny promoting militias target women and girls for assassination, and intimidate them to stay out of public life. They're also victimized by family members, including fathers, brothers and husbands "for a wide variety of perceived transgressions that allegedly shame the family or tribe."
Outside homes, they're harassed and abused by the virtually all-male police and security forces. Moreover, Iraq's penal code protects perpetrators of violence against women for "honorable motives," including murder. Husbands are also empowered legally to discipline wives.
Other abuses include sexual trafficking of women and girls in and out of the country. Yet, "no reported convictions" are known, "and a long-awaited anti-trafficking bill is on hold in the parliament, awaiting revisions." Except for Kurdistan, no government-run shelters exist, and virtually no other aid is available.
Moreover, "victims of sexual (and other) violence and trafficking have well-grounded fears of reprisals, social ostracism, rejection or physical violence from their families, and (no) confidence that authorities have the will or capacity to provide the support or protection required." As a result, most abuses aren't reported and those that are meet stiff resistance.
In addition, many religious minorities and other "marginalized communities" have been forced from homes and communities for lack of security and religious extremism. An ongoing unaddressed eight-year long humanitarian crisis exists, exacting an unspeakable toll, including on men and boys.
Free expression and media freedom are also absent because of legislative measures, other restrictive barriers, and a climate making Iraq one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. Assailants bomb their bureaus and kill them. Media workers also have to contend with "emboldened Iraqi and Kurdish security forces and their respective image-conscious central and regional political leaders."
As a result, they're harassed, intimidated, threatened, arrested, physically assaulted and killed by security forces attached to government institutions and political parties. Moreover, senior politicians often sue journalists and their publications for unflattering articles or whatever else they dislike.
Widespread use of torture also rages out-of-control, first by America, now mostly transferred to Iraqi authorities, controlling thousands of detainees. Interrogations routinely include torture and abuse to coerce confessions. Dozens of detainees confirm sodomizing, whippings, cigarette burns, as well as fingernails and teeth pulled out and other abusive practices.
Investigations, however, aren't conducted. Confronted with HRW evidence, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki called it fictitious, suspended prison inspections, and US authorities haven't intervened to stop abusive torture and other abuse even after Washington-based advocacy groups, including Refugees International, called on the Obama administration to pressure local officials to "meet (their) responsibilities to (their) own people."
Abuse of marginalized communities is also severe, despite laws in place to protect them. As a result, Iraq's most vulnerable are especially at risk, including minorities, disabled persons, and millions internally displaced, living in squatter slums, under bridges, alongside railroad tracks, and near garbage dumps with no access to essential services.
In addition, armed groups assault minority communities, "decimating Iraq's indigenous populations, and forcing thousands to flee abroad with no plans to return." Local authorities and Washington have done nothing to intervene, and a climate of impunity prevails.
Further, many thousands of disabled persons have been stigmatized. As a result, they've been relegated to the margins of society, can't find work or receive healthcare, rehabilitation, prostheses, wheelchairs, or other needed help.
A Final Comment
In 1990, Iraq ranked 50th on the UN Development Program's Human Development Index. In 2003, it was 126th. Currently it's unrated because accurate data is unavailable on four of the nine Index components.
Ranked or not, eight years under US occupation made the once cradle of civilization a dystopian nightmare. An April 2010 Amnesty International report titled, "Iraq: Human Rights Briefing" revealed many outrageous human rights abuses, including:
-- thousands detained without charge or trial, some for years in overcrowded conditions, gravely affecting their health and safety;
-- torture, ill-treatment and other abuses against men, women and children, including beatings with cables and hosepipes, prolonged suspension by their limbs, electric shocks to sensitive parts of their bodies, breaking of limbs, removal of toenails with pliers, and rapes, among others;
-- unfair trials, with low quality court appointed lawyers, using torture extracted confessions to convict;
-- the death penalty, increasingly imposed in the last five years; currently, at least 1,100 detainees have been sentenced to death; over 900, including 17 women, have exhausted all means of appeal or clemency; government supplied information on executions is suppressed; many are carried out secretly;
-- killings and other human rights abuses by armed groups include kidnappings, torture, bombings, and other attacks;
-- impunity for prison guards, US and Iraqi security forces, and security contractors because no investigations of their crimes occur;
-- violence against women (domestically and on streets), given little or no protection by authorities as explained above;
-- refugees and internally displaced people endure severe hardships as also explained; and
-- similar human rights abuses occur in Kurdistan as in other parts of the country.
Moreover, democracy is non-existant. Rampant corruption is out-of-control. Paul Bremer's 100 orders turned the country into a cutthroat capitalist laboratory. GMO crops infest the country, and the combination of war, pollution and drought wrecked Iraq's ecosystem, drying up fertile farmland and marshes, turning arable land into desert, killing trees and plants, and making a Garden of Eden a wasteland, much perhaps never to be reclaimed.
Last August 31, however, Obama declared an "end to the combat mission in Iraq," outrageously adding: "Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility." In so doing, he exposed his culpability as a war criminal, matching the worst of George Bush and others preceding him.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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