Information on the fate of self-exiled Iraqis who are returned involuntarily to Iraq [IRQ2600]

The IRBDC does not currently have specific information on the fate of self-exiled Iraqis who are involuntarily returned to Iraq. There is reason to believe that many Iraqis who left the country as a consequence of their political beliefs, may encounter problems upon return. Several opposition political parties are prohibited in Iraq, including the al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya, the Iraq Communist Party (ICP), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Socialist Party - Iraq (KSP-I), and the Kurdistan Popular Democratic Party (KPDP). [ Amnesty International, Report 1988, (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1988), p. 236.] Numerous members of the parties have been imprisoned or executed, and the authorities have sometimes imprisoned relatives when suspects have not been found. [ Ibid.] Please refer to the Amnesty International document "Iraq: The Death Penalty" (AI Index: MDE 14/01/89) for a description of some of the capital offenses (for example, membership or affiliation to al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya is punishable by death).

Persons in danger of potential/possible imprisonment include:

1) anyone with a family relation in jail (for example, see the Amnesty International Canadian Bulletin article, "29 Executed Say Reports", which discusses the detention of 90 members of the Hakim family). One Amnesty International report entitled, "Iraq: Children: Innocent Victims of Political Repression" (AI Index: MDE 14/04/89, February 1989) lists the names of 315 "disappeared" children of the Barzani clan, and provides information on the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of children who are relatives of people sought by the authorities.

2) anyone associated with one of the aforementioned political groups (PUK, KDP, al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya, etc.;

3) anyone who has criticized the Iraqi government, at home or abroad. [18 October 1989. David Korn, author of a Middle East Watch document, to be released in December, which details the human rights situation in the State of Iraq.]

During a discussion regarding the consequences of return with David Korn, an author on the human rights situation in Iraq, he mentioned an incident involving the forcible return (by the Iraqi Embassy) of some Iraqi students studying in Egypt. He observed that, according to his sources, the students disappeared subsequent to their return to Iraq.

In its Country Reports for 1988, the U.S. Department of State contends that some Iraqis, particularly Assyrian Christians accepted as refugees abroad, have returned to Iraq on temporary visits and have been free to enter and exit the country repeatedly. [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1989), pp. 1360-1361.] It adds, however, that those who departed after the Iran-Iraq war began are unable to leave Iraq once they return. Another source, Documentation Refugiés, indicates that the political conditions and divisions between the Iraqi government and the opposition may force some repatriates to forego their political activities, or that the possibility of return to Iraq is quite limited. ["Les Refugiés Irakiens Dans le Monde", Documentation Refugiés, supplement au No. 55, 6/15 Novembre 1988, p. 6.] A reportcarried in the Toronto Star on 26 March 1989 quotes British human rights workers in their charges that the Iraqi regime continues to torture, summarily execute, and unlawfully detain perceived opponents. [Harvey Morris, "Iraq regime still tortures opponents, experts say", Toronto Star, 26 March 1989.] Persons suspected of desertion or draft evasion might face harsh penalties upon return. For example, in February 1985, the government of Iraq acknowledged the execution of some army deserters stating: "desertion from military service during wartime is a crime dangerous to the security and well-being of a country and is punishable by death..." [ Amnesty International, Annual Report 1986, (London: Amnesty International Publications), p. 330.]

Amnesties for Iraqi exiles have been announced by the Iraqi leadership over the past couple of years. The first, on 2 December 1987, was an amnesty granted to all Iraqis living abroad who were convicted or suspected of criminal offenses, including those sentenced to death. [ Keesing's Record of World Events, Volume XXXIV, p. 35862.] However, in a November 1988 proclamation of amnesty for political offenders, President Saddam Hussein did not appear to offer specific guarantees to amnesty seekers, stating: "I cannot say that we respect human rights as we wish to in Iraq because there are some authorities who need to change their way of thinking to reflect the post-war situation." [ Alan George, "Saddam rules, OK", The Middle East, March 1989, p. 20.] At the time of writing its Report 1988, Amnesty International was unaware of any persons who had taken advantage of the amnesty. [ Report 1988, p. 236.] In a March 1989 document, Amnesty International notes that "Army deserters had not benefited from several amnesties announced by the Iraqi Government in the latter half of 1988 following the announcement of a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq conflict in July 1988." [Amnesty International, "Iraq: Arrest and execution of army deserters, military personnel and Ba'ath Party Officials", AI Index: MDE 14/05/89, 6 March 1989.] This report mentions the execution of 83 people in mid-December, many of whom were army deserters, and the execution of an additional 14 persons in January 1989, who were arrested on suspicion of plotting a coup.