Information regarding military conscription in Iraq. [IRQ2863]

The response to an information request received in February 1989 on "Penalties against refusal to report for recall to military service in Iraq" is attached. In addition, a more recent response regarding 1) the penalty for deserting the army and, 2) information on the consequences of return for Iraqis is appended for your files:

A 1985 United Nations report on conscientious objectors to military service states that "imprisonment or extended service requirements may arise from failure to comply." [ A. Eide and C. Mubanga-Chipoya, United Nations, Conscientious Objection to Military Service, Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, (New York: United Nations Publications, 1985) p. 28.] The Penal Code of the Popular Army, promulgated in March 1984, provides for the death penalty for 11 capital offenses committed by members of the army, [ Amnesty International, When the State Kills... The Death Penalty: a Human Rights Issue, (New York: Amnesty International, USA, 1989), pp. 151-153, attached. ] however, the IRBDC does not have information as to whether desertion is among these offenses. 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.] In September 1987, a Western diplomat commented on the execution of deserters, stating that although "desertion was once punishable by instant execution... [it now] draws a death sentence only [after] a second offence because of the need to conserve manpower to fight the Iranians." [ Alan Cowell, "Iraqi Leader Keeps Tight Grip on Nation", The Ottawa Citizen, 29 September 1987.] The diplomat further observed that public executions are used to discourage others from desertion. Corroboration of "second-offence" executions is not currently available to the IRBDC. On the other hand, Amnesty International reported the execution of army deserters during 1987, although the organization could not ascertain the exact number of deaths, nor did it mention if these were for first offence desertions. [Amnesty International, Report 1988, (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1988), p. 237.]

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. The Amnesty International Report 1989 also mentions a January 1988 amnesty extended to army deserters and to those who failed to report for military service, but later reports the alleged execution of the deserters in December 1988. [ Amnesty International, Report 1989, (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1989), pp. 258-259.]

Regarding the consequences of 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.] Members of these parties have been imprisoned or executed, and the authorities have sometimes imprisoned relatives when suspects have not been found. [Ibid.] An Amnesty International document "Iraq: The Death Penalty" (AI Index: MDE 14/01/89) describes some of the capital offenses in Iraq (for example, membership or affiliation to al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya is punishable by death).

According to David Korn, author of a Middle East Watch publication, to be released in December, some of those potentially at risk in Iraq include:

1) anyone with a family relation in jail (for example, the Amnesty International Canadian Bulletin article, "29 Executed Say Reports" 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.]

David Korn also 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 government requires, as a condition of return, that potential repatriates cease all their political activities and abandon their claims (like the Kurds) for autonomy. ["Les Refugiés Irakiens Dans le Monde", Documentation Refugiés, supplement au No. 55, 6/15 Novembre 1988, p. 6.] A report carried in the Toronto Star on 26 March 1989 quotes British human rights workers as charging 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.]