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By Lisa Schlein
Geneva
02 December 2008

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has released its 13th human-rights report, which covers the first six months of 2008 and shows a marked drop in violent attacks by militias or criminal gangs in the country. But Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from the U.N. Human Rights Office in Geneva the report notes the number of human-rights abuses in Iraq remains high.

Iraqi security personnel secure the site of a twin bombing near the entrance to a police academy in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, 01 Dec. 2008
Iraqi security personnel secure the site of a twin bombing near the entrance to a police academy in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, 01 Dec. 2008
The report notes a sharp drop in the number of casualties from violent, high-visibility attacks by militias or criminal gangs in Iraq. But, it says the problem has not gone away and certain categories of people remain particularly vulnerable.

For example, the report notes the targeted killings of professionals, including journalists, educators, doctors, judges and lawyers has continued. It says many criminal abductions for ransom occurred during the first six months of this year.

Human-rights investigators find politicians, security officials, policemen and members of pro-government militias also are frequently attacked and assassinated by armed groups.

U.N. Human Rights Spokesman Rupert Colville says religious and other minorities continue to be the victims of targeted violence, threats, and assassination. He says their property and cultural sites often are destroyed.

"The report highlights the situation of detainees across the country, including in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region," he said. "Many detainees have been deprived of their liberty for months or even years, often under harsh physical conditions, without access to defense counsel and without being formally charged with any crime. Continuing widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees by Iraqi law enforcement authorities and continuing impunity of current and past human rights abuses constitutes severe breaches of international human rights obligations and remain of major concern."

Colville says the plight of women across Iraq is of great concern. He says urgent measures are needed to combat violence against women, in particular so-called honor killings. He says the killing by the relatives of women who supposedly dishonored their families is widely reported from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

The report also addresses the conduct of security operations in Basra and Sadr City by the Iraqi and the multi-national forces in Iraq between March and May. It says heavy fighting in densely populated urban areas, where militia members positioned themselves, resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries.

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