Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1987

Iraq is governed by the Arab Ba ' ath Socialist Party (ABSP) of
Iraq through a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) which has
both executive and legislative authority under the provisional
Constitution of 1968. Saddam Hussein holds decisive power as
President of the Republic, Chairman of the Council, and
Secretary General of the Regional Command of the ABSP.
Iraq's security services are widely feared and reputedly
omnipresent. Though little is known of the various security
branches, their agents reportedly engage in extensive
surveillance of individual behavior and conversations. The
reluctance of Iraqis to speak to foreigners is attributable to
this monitoring.
Iraq's population comprises many disparate groups, most notably
Shi ' a and Sunni Arab Muslims, Kurds, Turcomans, and various
Christian sects, predominantly Assyrians and Chaldeans.
The Government exerts a high level of control over the
economy, which is dominated by the petroleum sector. The
State owns all major industries, including petroleum and
banking. However, the small private sector is important in
some industries. Expansion of the role of the private sector
was greater in 1987 than in previous years.
The human rights situation in Iraq remained essentially
unchanged in 1987. Political and individual rights are
sharply limited. The news media are largely government
controlled and subject to censorship. Antiregime activity is
dealt with harshly, often by extralegal means, including
torture and summary execution, employed by a large internal
security police force and the intelligence services. In
addition to the repressive domestic controls that predated the
7-year-old war with Iran, tight wartime controls imposed in
the name of national security remain in effect, including a
decree which prescribes the death penalty for anyone who
damages the country's military, political, or economic
position. Wartime travel restrictions, which prevent most
Iraqis from departing the country, also remain in force.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
     a. Political Killing
Execution has been an established method for dealing with
perceived political and military opponents of the Government,
particularly members of the outlawed Da'wa Party (Iransupported
fundamentalist Shi 'a Muslim) and the Communist
Party. Amnesty International (AI) charged in February 1987
that security forces tortured and murdered at least 29 Kurdish
youths arrested in 1985; AI said the Iraqi Ambassador in London
later confirmed 7 of the deaths.
The number of casualties are unknown in the Government's 1987
campaign to pacify parts of Kurdistan by razing a large number
of Kurdish villages, displacing their inhabitants. In its
1987 Report (covering 1986), AI referred to reports of the
killing and execution of hundreds of people in 1986, but said
it had insufficient information to ascertain the precise
number. Among those executed were said to be army deserters,
members of banned political parties, suspected government
opponents, and students. Over the past few years, Iraq has
expelled several terrorists who previously sheltered there.
Iraq officially forswears terrorism, and Iraqis themselves in
recent years have been the victims of several terrorist acts
supported by Syria and Iran.
During Iran's January-March 1987 offensive near Basra and in
late 1987, Iran renewed charges that Iraq used chemical
weapons, allegations denied by Iraq. Iraq also charged Iran
with chemical weapons use. In April 1987, a U.N. investigation
of both sides found convincing evidence only of Iraqi use.
There have also been reports of Iraqi use of chemical weapons
against rebel forces and Kurdish villages in Kurdistan. The
State Department has repeatedly condemned Iraq's use of
chemical weapons. Iraq is a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol
banning use, but not production, of lethal and incapacitating
chemical weapons. There are indications that Iraq continues
to stockpile lethal agents.
     b. Disappearance
Iraqi emigrants have reported that some suspects, particularly
those detained by the security police for subversion, disappear
following detention. It is difficult in such cases to confirm
whether the suspect was executed or died while incarcerated.
In its 1987 Report, AI expressed concern about disappearances
in Iraq. It said it had received a report of the arrest in
March and April 1986 of a large number of civilians, including
students, in the town of Arbil following an assassination
attempt on the governor of Arbil by Kurdish opposition forces,
and noted that 15 students were subsequently executed and that
the others "disappeared."
Antigovernment Kurds in northern Iraq occasionally kidnap
foreign workers and businessmen. The Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan claimed in late 1987 to be holding 12 foreigners
     c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture and prescribes stiff
punishment for it, and the Government rejects charges that it
practices torture. Nevertheless, reliable reports make clear
that both physical and psychological torture are used by the
authorities, especially the security police. Given the rigid
chain of command within the Government and security services,
it is unlikely that torture could be practiced without the
authorization of senior officials.
According to former prisoners, persons detained by the security
police for political or security-related matters are frequently
tortured and mistreated. Treatment is reported to be worst
immediately following arrest and during the period of
interrogation and investigation, which can last for months.
Torture and brutal treatment are not limited to political
cases. Security-related offenses include such routine criminal
matters as currency violations.
The security forces' methods of torture, often to extract
confessions or information about the suspect and his
colleagues, reportedly include beatings with fists and rubber
truncheons, electrical shocks to the genitals and other parts
of the body, and the extraction of fingernails and toenails.
In its 1987 Report, AI expressed its concern about the "routine
torture and ill-treatment" of detainees in the custody of the
security forces and noted that some detainees reportedly died
as a result of torture. It said that over the years the
Government had denied allegations of torture even when the
allegations were supported by detailed medical evidence, and
that the Government had also failed to show that such
allegations were ever investigated or that any perpetrators
were brought to justice.
     d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile or Forced Labor
The Constitution and legal code provide for the rights of
citizens and place checks on police powers in such areas as
arrest, detention, imprisonment, and search. These provisions
are generally respected in ordinary criminal cases but have
little weight in political or national security cases.
Security police not only make arbitrary arrests but also
secretly detain suspects, whose fate sometimes becomes known
only after execution. Security charges have included
espionage, treason, and conspiracy against Iraq or the party
and revolution, often in collaboration with unnamed foreign
foes .
In the past, Iraq expelled to Iran large numbers of Iranians
and Iraqis of supposed Iranian descent. These deportations
ceased in the early 1980's; however, most of the few remaining
Iranians have been imprisoned or live under the fear of
deportation or incarceration. Spouses of Iraqis of Iranian
origin are required to obtain divorce or suffer the same
consequences. Moreover, other Iraqis whose grandparents are
not shown to be of Iraqi origin are subject to arbitrary
detention and deportation. Assyrian religious groups in the
United States alleged in 1987 that many Iraqi Assyrians were
expelled to Turkey under this rule.
As fighting continued in 1987 between the Iraqi army and
Kurdish guerrillas supported by Iran, Iraq embarked on a
tougher campaign to control Kurdistan. This campaign involved
widespread destruction and bulldozing of Kurdish and Turcoman
villages, mass forced movement of Kurds, and exile of Kurdish
families into non-Kurdish parts of Iraq.
Apart from the expulsion of thousands of residents of Iranian
descent in 1980 and earlier, exile is not resorted to as a
means of punishment. The mass forced migrations of Kurds to
non-Kurdish parts of Iraq constitute internal exile on a large
scale. There is no indication that Iraq uses forced labor.
     e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Iraq's legal system provides for investigation by police and
then by an inquiry judge who may refer a case to the criminal
court. A judge tries criminal cases; there is no jury.
Convictions may be appealed to a court of cassation or, in
case of major crimes, the High Court of Appeals.
Trials of nonsecurity cases are held in civil, criminal, and
religious courts and are open. Defendants are entitled to
counsel. A lawyer is provided if a defendant cannot afford
one. Charges and evidence are available for review.
Appellate courts hear cases not under the jurisdiction of the
revolutionary courts. The revolutionary courts, which usually
hold closed trials, deal with espionage, treason, smuggling,
and drug trafficking. The right of defense in such courts is
reportedly severely restricted.
The "special courts" constituted by the Revolutionary Command
Council for specific incidents, such as the reported conspiracy
against the regime in 1979, are also closed. These special
tribunals are apparently exempt from constitutional safeguards
of defendants' rights. The right of defense is suspended;
defendants are held incommunicado, and confessions extracted
by torture are used against defendants. Appeals can be taken
only to the Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council
(RCC) . However, the availability of this appeal is open to
question, since there are reports that executions take place
shortly after trial.
Political dissidence in Iraq is taken by the authorities to
encompass a wide range of activities and, in an environment
where public acknowledgment of arrest or imprisonment is rare,
it is extremely difficult to gauge the number of political
prisoners. In its 1987 Report, AI expressed its continued
concern about the "widespread arbitrary arrest and detention
of hundreds of political prisoners."
     f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence
The Constitution provides protections for the inviolability of
the home, and strong cultural values reinforce these
protections. Police must obtain a search warrant before
entering the home of a criminal suspect. Warrants are not
required for the arrest of security suspects. Although most
arrests occur outside the home, there have been reports of
forced entry and arrest by the security police, particularly
of suspected members of the outlawed Da'wa Party.
In 1987, as part of an intensified campaign in Kurdistan,
Iraqi government forces conducted large-scale searches of
homes in Kurdish towns and arrested and relocated a number of
There is no legal protection against the monitoring of
telephones, which many Iraqis believe to be a common practice.
All mail is believed subject to review by censors. Government
security services and the Ba'ath Party are generally assumed
to maintain pervasive networks of informers.
Membership in the ruling Ba'ath Party is viewed as a key to
advancement inside and outside the Government. Although the
Ba'ath is an elitist party and "membership" entails stages
from initiate to full member, recruitment can be aggressive.
Some emigrants have claimed that they joined the party to
avoid beatings or harassment or to enhance career prospects.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
     a. Freedom of Speech and Presso
These freedoms are not respected. The Government views
political dissent as a security threat and strictly controls
speech, press, and assembly. The Constitution prohibits "any
act aimed at undermining the national unity of the people,
provoking racial, sectarian, and regional bigotry, or
violating gains and achievements of the country." The
Government owns and operates the press, radio, and
television. The media do not criticize the Government, and
news reporting is strongly biased. Opposition viewpoints are
not heard. Few foreign periodicals reach Iraq, and Western
newspapers are not sold. Foreign visitors' newspapers,
magazines, cassettes, cameras, and video cassettes can be
confiscated at the airport. To control the dissemination of
political leaflets, typewriters and photocopying machines must
be registered.
Taking photographs of military installations, government
buildings, or areas near sensitive locations is forbidden and
punishable by imprisonment. Journalists and photographers
visiting Iraq at the invitation of the Government are required
to present film taken in Iraq for inspection by the
     b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
These freedoms are severely limited. Public meetings may only
be organized under the auspices of the Government or Ba ' ath
Party. Association for nonreligious purposes and
demonstrations without government approval have met with
severe repression. Professional organizations are subject to
control by the Ba ' ath Party Central Vocational Bureau.
Industrial workers do not constitute a significant part of the
total work force, whose principal components are agricultural
workers, shopkeepers, and government employees. Until early
1987, industrial workers were organized in the Federation of
Trade Unions under the control of the Ba ' ath Party Central
Labor Bureau, but the federation was abolished, and all
industrial workers are considered to be in the same category
as government employees. Even before the abolishment of the
federation, the right to bargain collectively was not
recognized. Although workers legally have the right to
strike, after providing notice to the Labor Ministry, no
strikes have been reported for almost 20 years.
     c. Freedom of Religion
Iraq is an ethnically and religiously diverse society. Many
non-Muslims, principally Jews and Christians, left Iraq under
previous regimes. Since its rise to power in 1968, the
Ba'athist Government, while carefully controlling religious
groups, has enforced tolerance of religious diversity, seeking
to submerge religious differences in the promotion of secular
A 1981 law gave the Ministry of Endowments and Religious
Affairs the authority to promulgate laws and regulations
governing places of worship, appointment of clergy, religious
literature, and participation in religious councils and
meetings. Muslim religious leaders operate under close
government supervision, are considered government employees,
and receive their salaries through the Government. The
Government administers the principal Muslim shrines and
mosques and has increased allotments to refurbish and maintain
them in an apparent attempt to win support from the devout.
While the Government has assumed much greater authority in
Islamic religious affairs since 1981, the law has not been
invoked against Iraq's Christian sects. Iraq's Christians
number more than 500,000 and constitute nearly 4 percent of
the population. Their freedom of worship in churches of
established denominations is legally protected, but they are
not permitted to proselytize or to hold meetings outside
church premises. Convents and monasteries exist, and some new
churches have been constructed, in some cases with government
financial support. The Jewish community is believed to have
decreased from 150,000 following World War II to about 400.
It was severely persecuted in the past, but there is no
evidence of recent persecution. One synagogue in Baghdad
still functions.
     d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Iragis are generally free to travel within the country and to
change their residences or workplaces. However, they are
likely to be constrained by social, cultural, and religious
traditions which define the areas occupied by the various
ethnic and religious groups. Sensitive border and other
security areas are off-limits. Civilian travel in the war
zone is restricted. Curfews are in effect where Kurdish
insurgents have been active. There are police checkpoints on
highways and outside major towns, but most Iragis and
foreigners travel freely in nonrestr icted areas. Foreign
diplomats must obtain Foreign Ministry permits for travel
outside of Baghdad, which are usually granted when reguested
sufficiently in advance.
All Iragis and most foreigners who have remained in the country
for more than 2 weeks must obtain exit permission. Travel has
been even further limited since September 1986 when severe
restrictions on currency exchange were imposed. Because of
the war's drain on the economy, permission to travel abroad is
restricted to a few categories of Iragis, including officials,
government-approved students, and persons needing medical
treatment. (While permission for medical treatment abroad may
be granted, permission to transfer hard currency abroad to pay
for it usually is not.) The Government seeks to limit the
countries an Iragi traveler may visit and, should the traveler
visit a nonauthorized country, a small fine may be levied upon
his return. Iraqis who have residences abroad may depart the
country provided they originally had left before the war began.
In general, a married woman must have the permission of her
husband to travel abroad.
The Government can reguire a prospective traveler to post a
substantial bond to assure return. The RCC decreed in 1987
that Iragi students abroad who refuse to return to Iraq must
reimburse the Government for all education received in Iraq or
abroad at government expense. The resolution is applicable
retroactively to students who have refused to return since May
16, 1983, the day the Government began requiring those
employees who left government jobs before completing the
required 20 years of work to reimburse the State for the cost
of their education. Amounts due can be recovered by
confiscation; nonpayment may result in imprisonment. Each
student must provide a guarantor before traveling abroad.
This guarantor and the student's parents may be held liable
for the student's return.
There is no specific ban on emigration nor special restrictions
for members of minority groups; however, emigration is
discouraged. Prospective emigrants have had travel permission
delayed and have been harassed. Many emigrants leave behind
substantial property because of the difficulty of exporting
assets. Currency exchange violations are considered national
security offenses, and penalties can be severe.
Alien spouses of Iraqi citizens who have resided in Iraq for
at least 3 years are required to become naturalized or leave
Iraq. Many people, including several Americans, have thus
been obliged to accept Iraqi citizenship and are therefore
subject to the present travel restrictions. In March 1984, a
resolution by the RCC reduced the residency period before
naturalization to 1 year for the spouses of Iraqis employed in
government offices. The Iraqi spouse faces penalties for
noncompliance, including loss of job, a fine of approximately
$10,000, and repayment of the costs of education.
In recent years, the Government has instituted special programs
to encourage the repatriation of qualified professionals.
Aliens of Iraqi origin can apply for a document permitting
them to enter and exit Iraq without a visa. Former Iraqis can
more easily obtain visitors' visas than can other aliens, who
generally must have an official sponsor.
Other persons of Iraqi origin are permitted to return,
including many persons who were admitted to other countries
as refugees. A number of such people, especially Assyrian
Christians, have returned on temporary visits. They are free
to come and go, within the limits of the present travel
restrictions, since they are not considered to have violated
Iraqi laws. However, those who emigrated only after the
beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, including several U.S.
permanent resident aliens, have been unable to depart Iraq
after returning.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Gonvernment
Citizens do not have the right to change their government in
Iraq. The elitist Ba'ath Party, dominated by the President
and the party's Regional Command, rules Iraq. The party
reportedly has some 1.5 million adherents, representing about
10 percent of the population; but only some 50,000 "active" or
full members, less than 0.33 percent of the population,
participate inf luentially in party activities. There are two
other legal political parties, both Kurdish. They and the
Ba'ath Party constitute the Patriotic and Progressive National
Front, essentially a vehicle of support for the Government.
The two non-Ba'ath parties carry on only limited activity.
Members of the military or security services may engage in
political activities only within the Ba'ath Party.
Association with the party is not required for appointment to
senior government positions or military ranks or election to
the National Assembly, but normally is necessary to attain
political influence.
Opposition groups, including various Kurdish groups and
splinter parties, are severely repressed. The Communist Party
was removed from the National Front and declared illegal in
1979. The Da'wa Party, a violent dissident Shi'ite Group, is
still proscribed, and its members are subject to incarceration
and execution, as are members of other parties believed to be
cooperating with Iran.
General elections were last held for the 250-seat National
Assembly in 1984. The Government screened all the candidates
for consonance with Ba'ath party ideology. Though in theory
possessing a wide range of official duties, the Assembly
exercises little real authority. The most recent local
elections were held in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in August
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Iraq denies charges that it violates human rights. Iraqi
officials claim Amnesty International and other human rights
groups receive information on which they base their charges
from pro-Iranian Iraqi exile groups in London and Paris. The
Government acknowledges some of AI's appeals and accusations
and in a letter to AI in July 1985 confirmed approximately
two-thirds of the executions AI said took place in February
and March 1985. The Iraqi Government contended, however, that
these were not political executions but executions carried out
for crimes against national security. In the past it has
offered to investigate allegations of torture if the victims,
interviewed outside Iraq, returned. None is known to have
done so.
There is no government office or official charged with
investigating human rights and coordinating with other
governments and international organizations on human rights.
Since 1980 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
delegation based in Iraq has made regular visits to Iranian
prisoners of war (POW's) (whose number is estimated at 14,700)
and has assisted in Iraq's unilateral repatriation of some of
them. Iraq has received the ICRC president and other
delegates several times to discuss the treatment of POW's and
the protection of civilians in the Iran-Iraq war.
Iraq cooperates with the ICRC in efforts to resettle Iranian
civilian refugees in third countries. A total of 401 such
refugees had departed Iraq or had been accepted as refugees by
other countries as of June 1987. The United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun to operate in Iraq,
having sent several delegations to register refugees and to
make efforts for their resettlement. The UNHCR intends to
establish a permanent office in Baghdad.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The Ba'ath Party has been committed to the equality of the
sexes, and a series of laws since it came to power in 1968 has
steadily improved the status of women. Such laws have
protected women from exploitation in the workplace; granted
subsidized maternity leave; permitted women to join the
regular army. Popular Army, and police forces; and equalized
women's rights on divorce, land ownership, taxation, suffrage,
and election to the National Assembly. In the 1970's, the
Government imposed legal penalties on families that opposed
sending their women to literacy schools, and on men who were
seen harassing women. However, women may still travel abroad
only with the permission of their husbands.
The percentage of female students among students in elementary
schools climbed from 37.4 percent in 1977-78 to 46.4 percent
in 1982-3. Secondary school female enrollment went from 29.2
to 34.5 percent of students in the same period. About 32
percent of the students at universities and technical
institutes are female.
Women represent about 47 percent of agricultural workers and
about 25 percent of the total work force. The war has
accelerated the Government's drive to elevate the status of
women, and some Iraqis believe that it has permanently broken
cultural barriers to the acceptance of women in traditional
male roles. Women have become increasingly visible as
architects, construction engineers, oil engineers, air traffic
controllers, factory and farm managers, and Air Force pilots.
Some 40,000 women were reportedly volunteers in the Popular
Army in 1982.
The General Federation of Iraqi Women (GFIW) was established
in 1969, the regime's first year in power, to promote the
Government's policies towards women. Membership in the GFIW
does not require affiliation with the Ba'ath Party. The GFIW
organizes conferences on women's issues, establishes training
courses for women, implements programs to eradicate illiteracy,
undertakes civilian war relief activities, and administers
nurseries. It drew up a 4-year plan (1983-86) to encourage
women to work outside the home and has opened four employment
offices in Baghdad for women graduates.
The use of minority languages is unrestricted. Kurdish, an
official language, is used in schools and media in Kurdish
areas. Turcomans publish in their dialect of Turkish.
The Shi 'a, who make up roughly 55 percent of the population,
have historically been economically, politically, and socially
disadvantaged throughout the Mideast. The Government has a
declared policy to raise their living standards and equalize
opportunities for economic and professional advancement. In
recent years, the Government and party have promoted Shi 'as
into prominent positions, and the economic and social status
of the Shi 'a has improved markedly. Nevertheless, the
Government maintains a close watch against Iranian attempts to
exploit dissatisfaction among the Iraqi Shi 'a, who share the
same branch of Islam prevalent in Iran.
Although Christians sometimes allege discrimination in
education and jobs, adherence to their religion has not
prevented many from obtaining wealth and professional
advancement. The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister,
a Chaldean Christian, has represented Iraq even at meetings of
the foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference. Other Christians hold important official and
private positions.
Citizens considered to be of Iranian origin bear special
identification, often precluding desirable employment or
impeding advancement. Many "Iranian" families have been in
Iraq for generations. Some say their forebears were not from
Iran but claimed Iranian nationality to evade Ottoman military
Children are frequently encouraged to work as necessary to
support the family, a common social practice in the Middle
East. The employment of children is forbidden in state-run
enterprises or other than small-scale family enterprises. The
urban workweek is 6 days a week, 6 to 7 hours a day for
government workers; on Friday all but private vendors are
closed. Wages are set by the Government for public sector
workers (i.e., the bulk of the employed) and do not adhere to
any fixed per-hour or per-day rate; salaries are generally
deemed low but adequate. Wages in the small private sector
are set solely by supply and demand. Occupational safety
programs are in effect in state-run enterprises and inspectors
make irregular visits to private establishments; enforcement
varies widely