The KRG responds to a report by the US State Department
The annual United States Department of State report on human rights around the world devotes a few paragraphs in its discussion of human rights in Iraq to Kurdistan.
Dr. Dindar Zibari, head of the committee charged with following up international reports in the KRG, responds to this report about human rights in the region. The report focuses on the conditions facing journalists in the region and prisoners in state prisons, especially those from ethnic and religious minorities. In response, Zibari confirmed that the KRG Parliament had passed a journalism law whose Article 35 is specifically about journalism and journalists in the region. Comparing the violations from 2012 and 2013, we see that violations against journalists have decreased: while there were 63 in 2012, there were just 47 in 2013. In addition, the KRG Ministry of the Interior and journalists syndicate have collaborated in appointing a follow-up committee concerned with violations against journalists.
Dr. Zibari also mentions that there are cases where journalists do not appeal when their rights are violated and this appears to have happened after government investigations. There are also times where citizens appeal against journalist who have overstepped the mark. Furthermore, according to the directorate of general security, no journalist or writer has been arrested by security forces without a court order.
According to the KRG Ministry of Culture, there are about 800 media agencies in the region; according to the journalists syndicate, there are about 7000 journalists in the union. This number in itself proves that there is an open and unrestricted field for the media and freedom to express oneself in the Region. However, there has been times when journalists have ignored the principles and laws of the press and have become a danger for the safety and security of Kurdistan.
Another point is demonstrations in the Region. Article 11 of the 2010 public order deals specifically with demonstrations, stating the behavior required from security forces. Rules 6 and 7 prevent police and security forces from using force against protestors and to violate any of their rights; any violations of these requirements will be punished. Turning to the torture of prisoners in the Region’s prisons, Dr. Zibari states that in accordance with Article 111 of the 1969 Iraqi legislation, which is still in force, the torture of prisoners is forbidden and considered a crime. If there have been violations, it has been in a personal context and those responsible have been punished. He also said that if anyone is arrested in the Kurdistan Region, the judge has to decide whether to charge or release them within 24 hours. There are situations in which an arrested person whose life is in danger may be keep in prison for longer.
The KRG Ministry of the Interior previously provided all these details with evidence to the US Secretary of State, and Dr. Zibari believes that the report should have included specific examples of violations if they had occurred. He also mentioned that the UN Special Envoy to Iraq stated in his latest report on human rights in Iraq that he had visited 53 prisons in the Kurdistan region and seen around 4,000 prisoners, men, women and children. This alone demonstrates that the doors of the Region>s prisons are open for international inspectors.
Talking about the delays in reaching court verdicts in the Region, Dr. Zibari announced that the KRG has added more attorney generals and judges, and that the tribunal hired 40 general attorneys for the region in March, 2013 with more judges in order for this problem to be solved and to speed up the judicial process. Moreover, security organizations in the region have all been put under the command of the Kurdish Intelligence agency and Infor- mation agency under special legislation.
Turning to the ethnic and religious minorities of Kurdistan and its disputed areas, Dr. Zibari states that in the region ethnic cohesion and freedom for all races in all aspects of life is available and there are no threats or pressure of any kind on minorities. In contrast, The Region provides a safe haven for all the minorities of Iraq and for Arab residents from southern and mid Iraq. In addition, due to the unsafe areas of Iraq because of terrorism and bombings outside the region, thousands of Arab residents head to all three govern orates of Kurdistan region for shelter and to have secure lives. Another way that other ethnic and religious minorities contribute to the decision makings of political processes and having high positions in the KRG, they also have the advantage of working in education and more features of the society. There are 44 schools in Arabic, Turkmen and Assyrian language only in Erbil city and in Hamdiana, Bartalaf, Teklif, Qaraqosh and Alqosh there is 56 schools in the Assyrian language. Likewise in the Dohuk city there is a special panel in the general directorate of education ministry in Dohuk that is responsible for studies of the Yazidizm in the Dohuk and Mosul provinces. No minority has been pressured or forced to study only in the Kurdish language and also political wise no minor has been arrested due to their race. The minority groups are not distinguished in any way than the Kurds, they practice their religions just like the Kurds do and the court laws apply to them no differently than the Kurds.
Finally, the head of follow up committee of international reports in the KRG affirmed that the committee will be answering the USA>s department of state annual report in a more detailed format in the near future.