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UN Group: Terror Fight No Excuse for Rights Violations

  • Lisa Schlein

A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard as worshippers conduct open-air Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City, Iraq, Oct. 30, 2015.

A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard as worshippers conduct open-air Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City, Iraq, Oct. 30, 2015.

A U.N. watchdog group has accused Iraq of violating the human rights of its citizens in the name of combating acts of terrorism. Iraq is one of seven countries examined by the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which monitors state-parties implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The committee of 18 independent experts acknowledged Iraq’s need to adopt measures to combat acts of terrorism. This, especially in light of the grave crimes being committed by the so-called Islamic State (IS), including killings, abductions, enslavement, rape, and torture.

But, it said these horrific acts do not justify the human rights violations reportedly being committed against civilians by Iraqi security forces and allied armed groups in their efforts to defeat IS.

The vice-chair of the committee, Yuji Iwasawa, said the experts are concerned by allegations that police often use torture to extract confessions from people suspected of terrorism and other crimes.

“Confessions obtained under duress have been used as evidence in court, that many women deprived of liberty have been subjected to rape and sexual assault and that the number of deaths in custody were the result of torture,” Iwasawa said.

Death penalty

The U.N. body called on Iraq to consider abolishing the death penalty, which it says is used excessively and fails to meet international standards that capital punishment be used only for the “most serious crimes.”

The committee notes 240 people have been executed in Iraq in the last two years and more than 1,700 people are on death row.

A review of Greece’s civil and political rights record occurred under the twin shadows of an economic crisis and the huge influx of migrants and refugees into its territory.

Five Syrian babies, three of them triplets (L to C), lie in blankets among their relatives as they arrive with other refugees and migrants aboard the passenger ferries Blue Star Patmos and Eleftherios Venizelos from the islands of Lesbos and Chios.

Five Syrian babies, three of them triplets (L to C), lie in blankets among their relatives as they arrive with other refugees and migrants aboard the passenger ferries Blue Star Patmos and Eleftherios Venizelos from the islands of Lesbos and Chios.

Refugee crisis

Independent expert Yuval Shany said the committee was impressed with how the Greek government is handling the refugee crisis, and welcomes the relaxation of rules of detention of migrants.

The words of praise did come with one caveat.

“We did, however, still express concern in the dialogue and in the concluding observation about the length of detention of migrants, about the conditions of detention in many of the facilities, about the need to better cater for the needs of unaccompanied minors,” Shany said.

The committee also expressed concern that some migrants have been pushed across national borders outside of any legal framework. The U.N. body called on the Greek government to consider opening safe routes of passage into its territory so as to minimize loss of life on the high seas.

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