By John Lee.

Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said, adding that the prosecutions are often based on dubious accusations and forced confessions obtained through torture.

The 53-page report, “‘Everyone Must Confess’: Abuses against Children Suspected of ISIS Affiliation in Iraq,” shows that Iraqi and KRG authorities often arrest and prosecute children with any perceived connection to ISIS, use torture to coerce confessions, and sentence them to prison in hasty and unfair trials.

International law recognizes children recruited by armed groups primarily as victims who should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

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(Source: HRW)

A new cybercrimes law that would impose heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against peaceful critics who express themselves online would be a devastating setback for freedom of expression in Iraq, Amnesty International has said.

The organization has highlighted its serious concern over the draft “Law on Information Technology Crimes” in an open letter signed by nine other NGOs. The letter was submitted to the Iraqi authorities this morning and warns that the proposed law would “establish a climate of self-censorship in the country.

If passed, this draconian cybercrime law will be a devastating blow for freedom of expression in Iraq. The vague and overly broad wording of the law means it could easily become a tool for repression in a country where the space for critical voices is already severely restricted,” said Razaw Salihy, Iraq researcher at Amnesty International.

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(Source: Amnesty International)

Iraqi authorities in Nineveh are harassing, threatening, and arresting aid workers, even bringing bogus terrorism charges against them, undermining their work, Human Rights Watch said today.

In some cases, local authorities are also compelling organizations to stop providing services to families the authorities accuse of ISIS ties.

As if the their working conditions aren’t difficult enough, aid workers in Mosul and other parts of Nineveh have faced baseless charges of ISIS affiliation, and have even been arrested,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Charges of ISIS affiliation appear to be thinly veiled attempts to get some organizations to divert aid to corrupt local authorities or to stop giving assistance to some needy families accused of having relatives in ISIS.

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(Source: HRW)

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq is torturing children to confess to involvement with the Islamic State (ISIS), according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Children told Human Rights Watch that in 2017 and 2018, security officers, known as Asayish, used beatings, stress positions, and electric shock on boys in their custody. Most said they had no access to a lawyer and they were not allowed to read the confessions Asayish wrote and forced them to sign.

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(Source: HRW)

By Fazel Hawramy for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Shaima was 17 years old and entering her junior year in school in Erbil. Her mother, who was worried about family “honor,” often challenged her daughter in heated discussions.

Eventually, Shaima’s family barred her from going to school. Around 4 p.m. on Oct. 30, the neighbors heard gunshots coming from Shaima’s house.

“This is not your business,” Shaima’s mother, who was outside the house, told concerned neighbors. The family claimed that Shaima had committed suicide, but it soon became evident that her younger brother had murdered her with an AK-47, allegedly over possession of a mobile phone.

When her body was examined, there were gunshots to her hands, head and chest, and it appeared to Erbil police spokesman Maj. Hoger Aziz that, out of her innocence, Shaima had covered her face with her hands thinking that she could protect herself against the bullets from the barrel of her brother’s weapon.

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Persistent Gender Inequality in Iraq Calls for Coordinated Efforts in Developing 2nd National Action Plan on Implementing Resolution 1325

Gender inequality continues to prevail in Iraq with worrisome signals that it is deepening, requiring intensified efforts and coordination in developing a new action plan on implementing UN Security Council resolution 1325, UN Representative to Iraq Ján Kubiš said today at the high-level consultation meeting on the development of the 2nd National Action Plan.

Although he was encouraged to see progress in the protection pillar and dedicated efforts to strengthen the participation pillar in the National Action Plan, the legacy of the conflict with the terrorist Da’esh continues to hamper steps forward and there are other worrying signs of women being targeted.

Mr. Kubiš condemned the recent attacks against women, including the assassination of two women and the sudden death of two others in the past month, all of them active in political and social spheres. Other civil society activists including women are targeted by social media and political threat campaign, among others for their contacts with foreign embassies. This is unacceptable.

“Only once politically and socially active women are protected and safe, Iraq can claim to be making real progress towards women’s equality and empowerment,” he said.

The development of a new NAP with all the diversity and complexity of issues will require continuous coordination and collaboration across sectors, in particular involving civil society, and drawing from the lessons learned from the previous plan, the Special Representative said.

“By making your deliberations open to the society, by publicly broadcasting them you could mobilise even broader support for your objectives,” Mr. Kubiš said.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq noted with disappointment that political forces that negotiate the formation of the government do so, again without the participation of women. “

We all need to ask: “when the political leaders intend to deliver on their pledges to empower women and advance their rights as a part of the democratic entitlement of all Iraqis thus strengthening equal representation and inclusiveness? The time is now. Otherwise, all the exclamations about commitment to equality of women and values of democracy continue to sound hollow.”

Mr. Kubiš outlined UN efforts in support of women empowerment, noting that UNAMI supports women parliamentarians in their quest to establish a cross-political women’s parliamentary caucus. UNAMI will continue to impress on Political Parties who are key to advancing the participation of women in all processes to include women in their leadership structures, urging men advocates to assume a more prominent role, and parliamentarians to consider gender responsive budget in the next budget law to enhance the implementation of the NAP.

The UN will also continue to advocate for the establishment of a dedicated institution in the next government structure with budget and authority to coordinate the implementation of the NAP and national frameworks and policies on WPS.

The UN in Iraq will also mobilise support of the broader international community, including through the International Gender Group from among embassies here in Baghdad, Mr. Kubiš concluded.

(Source: UN)

Iraqi military and security forces have disappeared dozens of mostly Sunni Arab males since 2014, including children as young as 9, often in the context of counterterrorism operations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 78-page report, “‘Life Without a Father is Meaningless’: Arbitrary Arrests and Enforced Disappearances in Iraq 2014-2017,” draws on research Human Rights Watch has published on enforced disappearances in Iraq since 2014, when Iraqi forces launched anti-ISIS operations, and documents an additional 74 cases of men and four cases of boys detained by Iraqi military and security forces between April 2014 and October 2017 and forcibly disappeared.

The enforced disappearances documented are part of a much wider continuing pattern in Iraq. Iraqi officials have failed to respond to inquiries from the families and Human Rights Watch for information about the disappeared.

“Families across Iraq whose fathers, husbands, and sons disappeared after Iraqi forces detained them are desperate to find their loved ones,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite years of searching, and requests to Iraqi authorities, the government has provided no answers about where they are or if they are even still alive.”

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(Source: HRW)

Survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) can now dial “119” to receive support, counselling, and referrals to community-based services and resources in the region.

On 26 September, UNFPA and the General Directorate for Combatting Violence Against Women (GDCVAW) in KRI launched the first helpline for gender-based violence survivors.

The Helpline is a 24-hour call centre established to provide confidential support and guidance to survivors of GBV. Callers will be connected with trained social workers as well as legal and psycho-social support counsellors, both female and male.

UNFPA also organised two trainings for GDCVAW social workers and phone operators on the helpline procedures and guidelines for answering, probing, supporting, and following up on calls received at the call centre.

“The Helpline initiative will enable GDCVAW trained operators to provide counselling, advice, and support to GBV survivors and vulnerable individuals in the Kurdistan region of Iraq”, said Mr Kareem Sinjari, Minister of Interior in KRI.

Mr Ramanathan Balakrishnan, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, emphasized the importance of this project:

“While remedial services require strengthening to ensure the best possible care for GBV survivors, the helpline is definitely a positive step forward in that direction. We are confident that the helpline 119 is a solid tool that will help the Government in its efforts to combat gender-based violence and support survivors.”

The project, supported by the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), is expected to reach more than 3,600 survivors in the first year of its operations.

(Source: UN)

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A number of Iraqi Jews are organizing to officially demand the restoration of their Iraqi citizenship and the annulment of Article 17/II of Iraqi Nationality Law no. 26 (2006), which expressly excludes Jews from pursuing the option. The law provides that Iraqi nationality be restored to those who lost it as a result of political, racial or sectarian decisions.

Edwin Shukar, vice president of the European Jewish Congress, called for the restoration of Iraqi citizenship for Jews in a speech delivered Aug. 15 at the First International Conference on the Yezidi Genocide in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The first Mizrahi Jew to assume the vice presidency of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Shukar wants to acquire Iraqi citizenship in part because he feels he needs it to better represent the community of Iraqi Jews, in the diaspora and in Iraq, where it lacks formal representation before the government.

Shukar, born in Baghdad in 1955, fled the Baath regime with his family in 1971. His mother tongue is Arabic, but he is equally fluent in Hebrew and English. Shukar told Al-Monitor that his ties to Iraq remain deeply rooted.

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Two former detainees and the father of a man who died in detention have provided details of ill-treatment, torture, and death in facilities run by the Iraqi Interior Ministry in the Mosul area, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

A detainee held by the ministry’s Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Office in an east Mosul prison from January to May 2018 said he witnessed and experienced repeated torture during interrogations, and saw nine men die there, at least two from the abuse.

Another man from Mosul, arrested in March by local police, died during police interrogation in the Mosul police station, his father said. And a man who was held in the Intelligence and Counter Terrorism prison in Qayyarah said he saw other men returning from interrogations with signs of abuse on their bodies.

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(Source: HRW)