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UN: Human Rights Rapporteur Urges Iraqi Cooperation

The UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iraq has not yet been permitted to visit the country or conduct a thorough dialogue with Iraqi officials. But he tells a General Assembly committee he has gathered enough information to provide disturbing evidence of human rights violations in Iraq. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 27 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- UN Special Rapporteur Andreas Mavrommatis of Cyprus has urged Iraq to respond to a series of human rights violations that have been reported in a year-long investigation.

Mavrommatis says based on his discussions with Iraqi exiles, witnesses and victims of alleged abuses, there appear to be continuing signs of prison brutality, forced relocations of non-Arabs and intimidation of opponents of the regime.

The special rapporteur spoke this week (Wednesday) to a General Assembly committee that has been hearing a range of human rights reports.

Mavrommatis said the Iraqi government had not yet responded to his request to visit the country or establish a formal dialogue on human rights issues. Without such cooperation, he told the committee, he believed it was important to report on the information he has gathered by trips to the region and discussions with Iraqis outside the country.

For instance, he said he has received information that non-Arab residents of the Kirkuk area, especially Kurds, Turkoman and Assyrians, continue to be driven from their homes by the government.

"Forced deportation of non-Arab families living in the Kirkuk area and confiscation of their property is reported to continue on a large scale, allegedly. Those who refuse to comply with the order to leave their homes are subjected to intimidation, arrest, economic hardship through the revocation of ration cards and eventually they are forcibly expelled."

If true, such actions would continue a trend reported by the previous special rapporteur, Max van der Stoel. Mavrommatis said 94,000 people have reportedly been forced to leave their homes in the area between 1991 and 2000. He called on the Iraqi government to investigate the allegations and cease any forced dislocations.

Mavrommatis said he was also concerned by reports of ongoing executions. He said at least 122 male prisoners were executed in the first six months of this year. Many of them were detained for opposition to the ruling party, he said, and later convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to death.

As noted in his report to the General Assembly, the rapporteur believes Iraq is violating its obligations under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Mavrommatis also drew attention to allegations of families of those suspected of opposing the Iraqi regime.

"I interviewed Iraqi women who reported that after their husbands [or] male relatives were arrested or executed or went into hiding out of fear of persecution, they experienced several forms of abuse and intimidation, ranging from their withdrawal of ration cards to taking away medicines, medications, etc."

An Iraqi representative at this week's UN session rejected the charges, saying they should have been verified before being reported as facts. The Iraqi representative said the sources for the rapporteur's report include what he called "antagonistic" governments and opposition leaders who may be trying to destabilize the country.

Mavrommatis responded that it is crucial for him to visit Iraq to carry out his work, especially to check on reports of unfair trials. He said he hoped recent discussions with Iraqi officials in New York and Geneva would lead to an acceptance of his request to visit the country.