News

USIS Washington 
File

15 April 1998

UN: IRAQ EXECUTED MORE THAN 1,500 POLITICAL PRISONERS IN 1997

(Human Rights conditions further deteriorated during past year) (430)
By Wendy Lubetkin

USIA European Correspondent



Geneva -- Max Van der Stoel, the former Dutch Foreign Minister who has
been charged by the UN with investigating human rights violations in
Iraq, believes it is "highly probable" that Iraq carried out more than
1,500 executions for political purposes during 1997.


Most of the executions took place during the "Prison Cleaning
Campaign" of November and December 1997, which followed a November 18
visit to the Abu Ghraib prison by Saddam Hussein's youngest son, Qusay
Saddam Hussein.


In his report to the 1998 session of the U.N. Commission on Human
Rights, Van der Stoel writes that human rights conditions in Iraq
deteriorated further during the past year and that extrajudicial
executions were carried out "at a reportedly increased pace" in Iraq's
prisons.


According to accounts received by Van Der Stoel, the political
executions were carried out by shooting, hanging or electrocution. If
relatives wanted to recover the body, they were forced to pay for the
bullet.


In addition to the mass executions of hundreds of political prisoners,
four Jordanian nationals were executed on December 8, 1997, for having
smuggled $850 worth of car parts. The case led the Government of
Jordan to expel several Iraqi diplomats from Amman in protest.


Property crimes are punishable by death in Iraq, and the government
continues to carry out such sentences, the report notes.


Van der Stoel's report also charges that the Iraqi authorities
continue to forcibly displace Iraqi Kurds and Turkomans from Kirkuk,
Khanaqin and Douz.


Throughout the country, "basic civil and political rights such as
freedom of assembly, expression, and movement are severely restricted
when not forbidden."


The report notes that prior to the Gulf War in 1990, Iraq had one of
the highest per capita food availabilities in the region. Instead of
complying with Security Council resolutions which would have led to
the lifting of sanctions, "Iraq decided to rely only on domestic
production to meet the humanitarian needs of its people -- preferring
to let innocent people suffer while the government maneuvered to get
sanctions lifted."


The most alarming aspect of the food situation is its impact on
children, the report says. Beggars, street children and undernourished
children in hospitals have been widely seen throughout the country.


"Had the government of Iraq not waited five years to decide to accept
the oil-for-food agreement ... millions of innocent people would have
avoided serious and prolonged suffering," the report says.


(For more information on this subject, contact our special Iraq
website at:
http://www.usia.gov/iraq)