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Human rights conditions in Iraq continued to deteriorate in 2013. Security dramatically declined as sectarian tensions deepened. Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups emboldened by the Syrian conflict and Iraq’s political crisis carried out nearly daily attacks against civilians, making 2013 the bloodiest of the last five years. Suicide attacks, car bombs, and assassinations became more frequent and lethal, killing more than 3,000 people and injuring more than 7,000 between May and August alone.
The government responded to largely peaceful demonstrations with violence and to worsening security with draconian counterterrorism measures. Borders controlled by Iraq’s central government remained closed to Syrians fleeing civil war, while as of November, nearly 206,600 Syrians fled to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled area.
In December 2012, thousands of Iraqis took part in demonstrations in mostly Sunni areas, demanding reform of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the release of illegally held detainees. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced in January 2013 that he had created special committees to oversee reforms, including freeing prisoners and limiting courts’ use of secret informant testimony. At time of writing, there was little indication that the government had implemented reforms. Security forces instead used violence against protesters, culminating in an attack on a demonstration in Hawija in April, which killed 51 protesters. Authorities failed to hold anyone accountable.
The government responded to increasing unrest with mass arrest campaigns in Sunni regions, targeting ordinary civilians and prominent activists and politicians under the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law. Security forces and government supporters harassed journalists and media organizations critical of the authorities.
Detention, Torture, and Executions
Iraq’s security forces abused detainees with impunity. Throughout the year, detainees reported prolonged detentions without a judicial hearing and torture during interrogation. In February, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told Human Rights Watch that security forces frequently carried out mass arrests without arrest warrants. Courts continued to rely on secret informant testimony and coerced confessions to issue arrest warrants and convictions.
On May 11, villagers south of Mosul found the bodies of four men and a 15-year-old boy, which bore multiple gunshot wounds. Witnesses had last seen them alive on May 3 in the custody of the federal police 3rd Division, but at time of writing, the government had not announced any investigation into the deaths.
Iraq executed at least 151 people as of November 22, up from 129 in 2012 and 68 in 2011. In mid-March,after Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari announced that the ministry was about to execute 150 people, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay likened Iraq’s justice system to “processing animals in a slaughterhouse.” The Justice Ministry rarely provides information about the identities of those executed, the charges against them, or the evidence presented against them at trial.
Freedom of Assembly
Security forces responded to peaceful protests with threats, violence, and arrests. In April, army and police forces used lethal force on demonstrators who had been gathering largely peacefully for five months. In Fallujah and Mosul in February and March, respectively, security forces fired on demonstrators, killing at least seven people in both incidents.
On April 23 in Hawija, soldiers, federal police, and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) forces fired on a crowd of about 1,000 demonstrators. A ministerial committee tasked with investigating the attack has so far failed to interview any witnesses or participants or hold any members of the security forces accountable. Security forces from the police, army, and SWAT responded to protests against corruption and lack of services in August in Baghdad and Nasiriya with force, arresting, and in some instances, beating protesters, then prosecuting them on specious charges of “failure to obey orders.” The Interior Ministry invoked broad and restrictive regulations on protests to refuse permits for peaceful demonstrations, in contravention of Iraq’s constitutional guarantee of free assembly.
Freedom of Expression
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Iraq the “worst nation” on its 2013 Impunity Index of unsolved journalist murders. There have been no convictions in more