Violence and the use of torture has increased exponentially in Iraq since the United States-led occupation of the country began in 2003, according to local analysts.
“Violence in Iraq has destroyed the integrity and structure of the country. Development and reconstruction has been delayed and, in addition, the human rights situation, which was the reason for the US invasion in Iraq, has worsened when compared to [former President] Saddam Hussein’s regime,” said Barak Ibrahim, a political analyst and professor at Mustansiryiah University.
Ibrahim and other specialists at the university say that violence in Iraq will continue despite different reconciliation plans being proposed because insurgency and militia actions are a response to the US-led occupation.
“If we go deep into the cause that prompted such violence we will find in the end that the presence, especially, of US-troops in the country has generated revolt and loss of patience by fighters and only when they [the occupation forces] leave the country can we start to speak about improvement in security issues,” Ibrahim said.
The analysts made their remarks following the release on Wednesday of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) report which stated that human rights violations were rapidly escalating in Iraq and that the death toll was worryingly high.
“Human rights violations, particularly against the right to life and personal integrity, continued to occur at an alarming daily rate in Iraq,” said the UNAMI report.
The US continues to assert that the removal of Saddam Hussein’s government was necessary as it posed a threat. “Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power,” said US president George Bush in a speech on 11 September.
Bodies were severely tortured
According to the report, bodies sent to the capital’s morgue habitually bore signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries, burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones, backs, hands and legs, missing eyes and teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.
The Iraqi authorities confirmed that most of the bodies that were found in the past six months bore signs of serious torture.
“Unfortunately, the information released by UNAMI in its report is true and reflects the reality of Iraq today. Most of the bodies found were tortured and were sometimes even impossible to recognise,” said Dr Fa'aq Amin, director of the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the Ministry of Health.
UNAMI’s report said that 3,590 civilians were killed in July and 3,009 in August. The Iraqi Health Ministry said that of those murdered in July, some 1,855 were killed because of sectarian or political violence, and another 1,583 died as a result of bombings and shootings.
Baghdad’s morgue reported nearly 1,800 killings in July and 2,000 in August in the capital alone.
“It is possible that the numbers could be higher than those reported at our morgue because not all killings in the country are registered with us,” Amin added.
More than 20,600 Iraqi civilians have died in attacks since January according to UNAMI. Between 43,269 and 48,046 civilians were killed since the US-led occupation began in March 2003, according to the NGO Iraq Body Count.
“Human rights violation is not only a crime against humanity but also the deprivation of a life which Iraqis have dreamt of during Saddam Hussein’s regime but which they cannot have because of insurgency and terrorism,” said Khuman Ahmed, human rights adviser at the Ministry of Human Rights.
The UNAMI report also warned of the increasing number of honour crimes against women in the country.
“In their fight against generalised violence, central, regional and local authorities should provide greater protection to women for crimes committed within the family, including all types of violence against women and girls on the grounds of honour,” the report said.
“The killing of a woman in Iraq will not command the same media attention as that of a man. Honour killing is a terror that women in Iraq have been suffering from and those responsible should pay drastically for that,” said Nuha Salim, spokesperson for the Baghdad-based NGO Women Freedom Organisation (WFO).
The release of UNAMI’s report came a day before the handing over of security control by British and Italian troops to Iraqi forces in the province of Dhi Qar in southern Iraq on Thursday.
It was the second of 18 provinces to have foreign troops withdrawn, the first one being neighbouring Muthanna in July 2006. Dhi Qar has experienced a minimal number of attacks and has been under the protection of coalition forces since 2003.
However, analysts are sceptical that the withdrawal of foreign troops from the province would bring long-term stability.
“The Dhi Qar handover was a good beginning but will not make any difference to insurgents and militias. The base still remains and the US military have no idea when they are going to leave our country. Every day the date for withdrawal is postponed causing more death and violence as a result of generalised revolts,” Professor Ibrahim said.
The US administration says that it will not pull out its forces until Iraqi forces are sufficiently trained to take over. “We're training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation,” said Bush in his 11 September speech. “We're helping Iraq's unity government grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done.
“Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.”
Insurgents say they will not change their ways until all coalition troops have left the country.
“Only when we see the Americans get out of Iraq will we put our weapons in the rubbish heap,” said Abu Khalifa, a spokesperson for the militia Muhammad Army.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions