Group: Thousands of women illegally held in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Iraq authorities are illegally detaining thousands of women, many of whom are subjected to torture and ill-treatment including the threat of sexual abuse, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The 105-page report contained the testimony of dozens of women. They included one who said officers obtained a confession from her by threatening to rape her teenage daughter. Seven months after speaking to HRW, the woman was executed.



Allegations of abuse are not new, but the findings by the New York-based rights group — which come despite government pledges of reform — raise concerns about Iraq’s ability to handle those detained in massive security sweeps targeting militants.

International rights groups are worried about the weakness of the Iraqi judicial system, accusing it of being plagued with corruption and falling short of international standards.

Human Rights Watch said that women have been held for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge. Many were rounded up for alleged terrorist activities by male family members. Interviewed detainees described being kicked, slapped, raped or threatened with sexual assault by security forces.

“Iraqi security forces and officials act as if brutally abusing women will make the country safer,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In fact, these women and their relatives have told us that as long as security forces abuse people with impunity, we can only expect security conditions to worsen,” Stork said.

Militants have frequently cited the mistreatment of women as a justification for their attacks.[More]