Human rights in Saddam Hussein's Iraq: Wikis


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Iraq under Saddam Hussein had high levels of torture and mass murder.

Secret police, torture, murders, deportations, forced disappearances, targeted assassinations, chemical weapons, and the destruction of wetlands (more specifically, the destruction of the food sources of rival groups) were some of the methods Saddam Hussein used to maintain control. The total number of deaths related to torture and murder during this period are unknown, as are the reports of human rights violations. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued regular reports of widespread imprisonment and torture.


Documented human rights violations 1979-2003

Human rights organizations have documented government-approved executions, acts of torture, and rape for decades since Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979 until his fall in 2003.

  • In 2002, a resolution sponsored by the European Union was adopted by the Commission for Human Rights, which stated that there had been no improvement in the human rights crisis in Iraq. The statement condemned President Saddam Hussein's government for its "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law". The resolution demanded that Iraq immediately put an end to its "summary and arbitrary executions... the use of rape as a political tool and all enforced and involuntary disappearances".[citation needed]
  • Full political participation at the national level was restricted only to members of the Arab Ba'ath Party, which constituted only 8% of the population. Therefore, it was impossible for Iraqi citizens to change their government.
  • Iraqi citizens were not allowed to assemble legally unless it was to express support for the government. The Iraqi government controlled the establishment of political parties, regulated their internal affairs and monitored their activities.
  • Police checkpoints on Iraq's roads and highways prevented ordinary citizens from traveling abroad without government permission and expensive exit visas. Before traveling, an Iraqi citizen had to post collateral. Iraqi women could not travel outside of the country without the escort of a male relative.
  • The activities of citizens living inside Iraq who received money from relatives abroad were closely monitored.
Chemical weapons which were used by Saddam killed and injured numerous Iranian and Iraqis.
  • Al-Anfal Campaign: In 1988, the Hussein regime began a campaign of extermination against the Kurdish people living in Northern Iraq. This is known as the Anfal campaign. The campaign was mostly directed at Shiite kurds (Faili Kurds) who sided with Iranians during the Iraq-Iran War. The attacks resulted in the death of at least 50,000 (some reports estimate as many as 100,000 people), many of them women and children. A team of Human Rights Watch investigators determined, after analyzing eighteen tons of captured Iraqi documents, testing soil samples and carrying out interviews with more than 350 witnesses, that the attacks on the Kurdish people were characterized by gross violations of human rights, including mass executions and disappearances of many tens of thousands of noncombatants, widespread use of chemical weapons including Sarin, mustard gas and nerve agents that killed thousands, the arbitrary imprisoning of tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly people for months in conditions of extreme deprivation, forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of villagers after the demolition of their homes, and the wholesale destruction of nearly two thousand villages along with their schools, mosques, farms, and power stations.[1][2]
  • In April 1991, after Saddam lost control of Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War, he cracked down ruthlessly against several uprisings in the Kurdish north and the Shia south. His forces committed wholesale massacres and other gross human rights violations against both groups similar to the violations mentioned before. Estimates of deaths during that time range from 20,000 to 100,000 for Kurds, and 60,000 to 130,000 for Shi'ites.[3]
  • Also in April 2003, CNN revealed that it had withheld information about Iraq torturing journalists and Iraqi citizens in the 1990s. According to CNN's chief news executive, the channel had been concerned for the safety not only of its own staff, but also of Iraqi sources and informants, who could expect punishment for speaking freely to reporters. Also according to the executive, "other news organizations were in the same bind."[5]
  • After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, several mass graves were found in Iraq containing several thousand bodies total, and more are being uncovered to this day[citation needed]. While most of the dead in the graves were believed to have died in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein, some of them appeared to have died due to executions or died at times other than the 1991 rebellion.
  • Also after the invasion, numerous torture centers were found in security offices and police stations throughout Iraq. The equipment found at these centers typically included hooks for hanging people by the hands for beatings, devices for electric shock, and other equipment often found in nations with harsh security services and other authoritarian nations.

Collusion of foreign powers in Saddam-era human rights abuses

During his rule Saddam Hussein was aided by foreign powers; the great bulk of Iraq's conventional weapons (such as tanks and artillery) were supplied by the Soviet Bloc, China, France, and Egypt, all of whom helped arm the Ba'athist government throughout the 1980s. Western relations with Iraq seem to have been motivated mostly by the potentially larger threat of an Iranian styled Islamic Revolution, which might have threatened foreign investment and disturbed the strategic balance in the region. It was hoped that an appropriate amount of foreign aid would allow for an Iraqi victory over Iran in the Iran–Iraq War, but be insufficient to allow for Iraqi expansion into Iran and other countries in the region. Western relations with Iraq after the Iran–Iraq War demonstrated a continued interest to support Iraq in an effort to balance the power of Iran and other actors. As late as July 25, 1990, a week before the invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, assured Saddam Hussein that the U.S. "wanted better and deeper relations."[6]

'Saddam's Dirty Dozen'

According to officials of the United States State Department, many human rights abuses in Saddam Hussein's Iraq were largely carried out in person or by the orders of Saddam Hussein and eleven other people. The term "Saddam's Dirty Dozen" was coined in October 2002 (from a novel by E.M. Nathanson, later adapted as a film directed by Robert Aldrich) and used by US officials to describe this group. Most members of the group held high positions in the Iraqi government and membership went all the way from Saddam's personal guard to Saddam's sons. The list was used by the Bush Administration to help argue that the 2003 Iraq war was against Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party leadership, rather than against the Iraqi people. The members are:

  • Saddam Hussein (1937–2006), Iraqi President, responsible for many torturings, killings and of ordering the 1988 cleansing of Kurds in Northern Iraq.
  • Qusay Hussein (1966–2003), son of the president, head of the elite Republican Guard, believed to have been chosen by Saddam as his successor.
  • Uday Hussein (1964–2003), son of the president, had a private torture chamber and of the rapes and killings of many women. He was partially paralyzed after a 1996 attempt on his life, and was leader of the paramilitary group Fedayeen Saddam and of the Iraqi media.
  • Taha Yassin Ramadan, Vice-President. He oversaw the mass killings of a Shi'a revolt in 1991, and he was born in Iraqi Kurdistan.
  • Tariq Aziz, Foreign Minister of Iraq, backed up the executions by hanging of political opponents after the revolution of 1968.
  • Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Hussein's half brother, leader of the Iraqi secret service, Mukhabarat. He was Iraq's representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
  • Sabawi Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Hussein's half brother, he was the leader of the Mukhabarat during the 1991 Gulf War. Director of Iraq's general security from 1991 to 1996. He was involved in the 1991 suppression of Kurds.
  • Watban Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Hussein's half brother, former senior Interior Minister who was also Saddam's presidential adviser. Shot in the leg by Uday Hussein in 1995. He has ordered tortures, rapes, murders and deportations.
  • Ali Hassan al-Majid, Chemical Ali, mastermind behind Saddam's lethal gassing of rebel Kurds in 1988. A first cousin of Saddam Hussein;
  • Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri, military commander, vice-president of the Revolutionary Command Council and deputy commander in chief of the armed forces during various military campaigns.
  • Aziz Saleh Nuhmah, appointed governor of Kuwait from November 1990 to February 1991, ordered looting of stores and rapes of Kuwaiti women during his tenure. Also ordered the destruction of Shi'a holy sites during the 19hhh70s and 1980s as governor of two Iraqi provinces.
  • Mohammed Amza Zubeidi, alias Saddam's shi'a thug, Prime Minister of Iraq from 1991 to 1993 - to have ordered many executions.

Number of Victims

According to The New York Times, "he [Saddam] murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends on friends, circles within circles — making an entire population complicit in his rule".[7] Estimates for the number of dead in the Iran-Iraq war vary from 500,000[8] to 1.5 million.[9] Others have estimated 800,000 deaths caused by Saddam not counting the Iran-Iraq war.[10]

Iraq sanctions

Researcher Richard Garfield estimated that "a minimum of 100,000 and a more likely estimate of 227,000 excess deaths among young children from August 1991 through March 1998" from all causes including sanctions.[11] Other estimates have ranged as low as 170,000 children.[12][13][14] UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that

if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war." [15]

The US State Department has stated that Iraq was offered the Oil-for-Food Programme designed to alleviate the humanitarian condition of Iraq in 1991 but that Iraq refused to accept it for years. It stated:

In Northern Iraq, where the UN administers humanitarian assistance, child mortality rates have fallen below pre-Gulf War levels. Rates rose in the period before oil-for-food, but with the introduction of the program the trend reversed, and now those Iraqi children are better off than before the war. Child mortality figures have more than doubled in the south and center of the country, where the Iraqi government—rather than the UN—controls the program. If a turn-around on child mortality can be made in the north, which is under the same sanctions as the rest of the country, there is no reason it cannot be done in the south and center. The fact of the matter is, however, that the government of Iraq does not share the international community's concern about the welfare of its people. Baghdad's refusal to cooperate with the oil-for-food program and its deliberate misuse of resources are cynical efforts to sacrifice the Iraqi people's welfare in order to bring an end to UN sanctions without complying with its obligations."[16]

This view is disputed buy author Anthony Arnove, who writes:

Sanctions are simply not the same in the north and south. Differences in Iraqi mortality rates result from several factors: the Kurdish north has been receiving humanitarian assistance longer than other regions of Iraq; agriculture in the north is better; evading sanctions is easier in the north because its borders are far more porous; the north receives 22 percent more per capita from the oil-for-food program than the south-central region; and the north receives UN-controlled assistance in currency, while the rest of the country receives only commodities. The south also suffered much more direct bombing..."[17]

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Denis Halliday, also said the situation was more complicated, and made worse because the United States and British Governments routinely blocked humanitarian supplies to Iraq, including medicine. "[T]he US and UK governments' blocking of $4bn of humanitarian supplies is by far the greatest constraint on the implementation of the oil-for-food programme."[18] Halliday accused the U.S. of obstructing the Sanctions Committee from inception, which he himself setup in 1996, and resigned from his position in protest. His successor, Hans von Sponeck, also questioned why the U.S. would choose to make matters difficult, knowing innocent Iraqis were trapped between a dictator and a "bankrup" policy. "For how long should the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?"[18][19] Von Sponeck also resigned, and authored a book, A Different Kind of War: The UN Sanctions Regime in Iraq, in which he accused U.S. policymakers with political interference.[citation needed] Chlorine was desperately needed to disinfect water supplies, but was banned from manufacture in the country and its import severely restricted due to the potential that it may be used as part of a chemical weapon.[20]

The UN Resolutions had the express goals of eliminating WMDs and extended range ballistic missiles, prohibiting any support for terrorism, and forcing Iraq to pay war reparations and all foreign debt. Some analysts, architects of American war policy such as Douglas J. Feith and foreign observers have argued that the sanctions diminished Iraq militarily, in terms of WMDs, and in its capacity for attacks against its neighbors as its supply lines were cut.[21] In a 2004 Foreign Affairs journal article, the scholars George A. Lopez and David Cortright credit sanctions with: "Compelling Iraq to accept inspections and monitoring; winning concessions from Baghdad on political issue such as the border dispute with Kuwait; preventing the rebuilding of Iraqi defenses after the Persian Gulf War; and blocking the import of vital materials and technologies for producing weapons of mass destruction."[22] Cortright and Lopez argue that "the much-maligned UN-enforced sanctions regime actually ... helped destroy Saddam Hussein's war machine and his capacity to produce weapons."[12][23] Hussein told his FBI interrogator [24] that Iraq's armaments "had been eliminated by the UN sanctions."[25]

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who called the sanctions "the most intrusive system of arms control in history",[26] cited the breakdown of the sanctions as one cause or rationale for the Iraq war.[27] Accepting a large estimate of casualties due to sanctions,[28] Walter Russell Mead argued on behalf of such a war as a better alternative than continuing the sanctions regime, since "Each year of containment is a new Gulf War."[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Whatever Happened To The Iraqi Kurds?". Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  2. ^ "Iraq: ‘Disappearances’ – the agony continues". 2005-07-30. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  3. ^ "ENDLESS TORMENT, The 1991 Uprising in Iraq And Its Aftermath". Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  4. ^ "Human Rights Watch, Iraq archive". Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  5. ^ Jordan, Eason (April 11, 2003). "The News We (CNN) Kept To Ourselves". The New York Times.  (requires login)
  6. ^ Dobbs, Michael (December 30, 2002). "U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2006-05-27. 
  7. ^ By Dexter Filkins (2007-10-07). "Iraq - Kanan Makiya - Saddam Hussein - New York Times". Iraq: Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  8. ^ John Pike. "Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  9. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (2005-12-01). "Sticking up for Saddam. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  10. ^ "News". Indict. 2003-06-18. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  11. ^ "Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children". Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  12. ^ a b Cortright, David (November 2001). [A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions ""A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions""]. The Nation. A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions. 
  13. ^ "Reason Magazine - The Politics of Dead Children". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  14. ^ "The Wages of War: Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 2003 Conflict. PDA Research Monograph 8, 20 October 2003. Carl Conetta". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  15. ^ Iraq surveys show 'humanitarian emergency' UNICEF Newsline August 12, 1999
  16. ^ "Saddam Hussein's Iraq". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  17. ^ Arnove, Anthony. Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War, South End Press, April 2000.
  18. ^ a b The most recent report of the UN secretary-general, in October 2001, says that the US and UK governments' blocking of $4bn of humanitarian supplies is by far the greatest constraint on the implementation of the oil-for-food programme. The report says that, in contrast, the Iraqi government's distribution of humanitarian supplies is fully satisfactory (as it was when we headed this programme). The death of some 5-6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments' delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad." Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, The hostage nation, The Guardian. November 29, 2001.
  19. ^ "UN sanctions rebel resigns". BBC News. 14 February 2000. 
  20. ^ Faizan Habeeb (1998-05-12). "A Call For Emergency Chlorine Shipments To Iraqi". Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  21. ^ Feith, Douglas J. (2008). War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. New York: HarperCollins. p. 193. ISBN 0060899735. 
  22. ^ Cortright, David (2004-06-19). "Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  23. ^ Cortright, David (2001-09-11). "Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  24. ^ "Saddam Hussein Talks to the FBI". Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  25. ^ "Saddam Hussein Said WMD Talk Helped Him Look Strong to Iran". Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  26. ^ "EYES ON IRAQ; In Cheney's Words: The Administration Case for Removing Saddam Hussein - New York Times". New York Times. 2002-08-27. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  27. ^ "Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's Remarks in Wilmington, Ohio". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  28. ^ Murray, Iain (2003-03-21). "Recent Research Suggests ...". United Press International. Archived from the original on 2005-03-19. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  29. ^ "Deadlier Than War - Council on Foreign Relations". Retrieved 2009-06-29. 

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