The human rights situation in Iraq remained of grave concern during 2015. Daesh still controlled large areas in northern and western Iraq and continued to commit atrocities against all communities. Reports suggested an increase in sectarian tensions and in allegations of abuses and violations committed by government security forces (including the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Kurdish Security Forces (KSF), Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and militias) as areas were liberated from Daesh. The UN estimate that there are now over 3.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq, and that as many as 10 million people may be in need of humanitarian support (see Chapter II).
The government of Iraq (GoI) has taken steps to address the human rights situation. This includes agreeing the Emergency National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Prime Minister Abadi also reiterated commitments to holding to account all those responsible for human rights abuses and violations. Women and children, and religious and ethnic minorities do, however, remain at increased risk of persecution. The abolition of the positions of Minister of Human Rights and Minister of Women’s Affairs as part of Prime Minister Abadi’s efforts to streamline the Iraqi government has created further challenges, including the ongoing absence of a senior governmental lead for women’s affairs. Iraqi citizens continue to face challenges accessing justice, and the rule of law remains weak.
During 2015 we continued to engage with the GoI on human rights issues, particularly combating violence against women and girls, preventing sexual violence in conflict, and freedom of religion or belief. Progress in all areas remains slow. The GoI is still struggling with a legacy of sectarian policies, but Prime Minister Abadi is working to promote reconciliation and recognition of the rights of all communities. The UK is supporting the GoI as part of the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh. Through the Department for International Development (DFID) we have provided £79.5 million to support the international humanitarian effort. DFID has deployed two technical experts to the UN to improve co-ordination of the humanitarian response and information picture on sexual and gender-based violence. We are also funding a project to support victims of sexual violence by providing medical and psychosocial support and documenting crimes of sexual violence. We are providing £750,000 to support the implementation of the Iraqi National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and have funded a project to promote freedom of religion or belief, by empowering community and religious leaders to defend the religious freedoms of all communities.
Meaningful political reconciliation and reform remain critical to uniting all Iraq’s communities against extremism and achieving long-term security, stability and prosperity. We will continue to support the GoI as they work to deliver inclusive governance for all Iraqis and realise their commitments to improved human rights. We will focus on areas where the UK has particular expertise and can add value. These include: addressing weaknesses within the judicial system and building judicial capacity; promoting legislative reform; preventing sexual violence in conflict; promoting freedom of religion or belief and minority rights; and working to build a sense of Iraqi nationhood through cultural projects.