Iraq has acceded to five of the seven major United Nations conventions on human rights, namely: the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights; on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1971), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1970), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1986), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1994).
Iraq has also acceded to seven of the eight International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on human rights, namely:
convention (98) on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (1962), the two conventions (29 and 105) on Forced or Compulsory Labour (1962 and 1959 respectively), the two conventions (100 and 111) concerning the Elimination of Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (1963 and 1959 respectively), and the two conventions (138 and 182) pertaining to Forbidding the Employment of Children and Minors (1985 and 2001 respectively).
Iraq made reservations on certain provisions of the conventions it acceded to, namely:
- The two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights; on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Iraq declared that ratifying the covenant does not imply recognizing Israel or establishing any relations with Israel.
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: article (22) on ways of resolving disputes among states over implementing or interpreting the convention. Also, acceding to the convention does not imply recognizing Israel or establishing any relations with Israel.
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: article (6 & 7/2) clause 6 concerns states commitment to take all suitable measures to amend or repeal laws, regulations and practices that constitute discrimination against women. Clause 7 concerns repealing all provisions in national penal codes that constitute discrimination against women. Article (1 & 2/9) clause 1 concerns a woman's equal right to acquire her citizenship, keep it, or choose another citizenship. Clause 2 concerns women's equal right to their children's citizenship. Article (16) on eliminating discrimination against women in all matters related to marriage and familial relationships; as long as it does not contradict the provisions of Islamic law (Shari'a). Article (29/1) concerning ways of resolving disputes among state parties over implementing or interpreting the conventions.
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child: Article (14/1) that commits state parties to recognize a child's right to freedom of thought, belief and religion; Iraq considered allowing a child to change his religion contradictory to Islamic Shari'a.
Iraq has agreed to the "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam" issued in 1990 by foreign ministers of Muslim countries. The declaration is a guiding document that does not require ratification. Iraq also acceded to the "Arab Charter of Human Rights/Amended" prepared by the Arab Summit in Tunisia in May 2004, but did not ratify it like most Arab states.
Human Rights Institutions
Iraq has governmental, parliamentary and non-governmental institutions concerned with Human Rights. At the governmental level, a ministry for Human Rights was established after American occupation, while another Human Rights ministry was established in the Kurdish region before occupation. At the parliamentarian level, there is a Human Rights committee and other related committees, such as a civil society committee. Moreover, a draft law for establishing a national Human Rights institution was prepared.
At the level of non-governmental organizations hundreds of NGOs, committees and centers concerned with Human Rights were established as a result of the absence of any controls or preconditions on establishing such organizations and associations. This rush was also encouraged by generous funding offered by foreign institutions and organizations. Iraqi organizations work in the areas of Human Rights, humanitarian fields, women, children, persons with special needs, political prisoners, the environment and development. Iraqi NGOs have also organized and participated in training courses, seminars, workshops and conferences on disseminating a culture of Human Rights and consolidating the concepts of transparency and democracy. They were also involved in the electoral process and trained election observers.
However, this boom in the number of Human Rights NGOs, their variety and diffusion does not reflect their capacity, efficiency and impact. The ministry of Civil Society Affairs imposes many bureaucratic measures on NGOs before allowing them to start their activities. Some NGOs were established as a cover to confessionalist movements, the funds of other NGOs were frozen by administrative decisions, while a third group of NGOs were harassed by armed groups. Human Rights organizations in the Kurdish region are more effective, and powerful, however, most of them are affiliated with Kurdish political parties.
Achievements on the Road to Good Governance
There are no real human rights achievements attained under occupation and its repercussions. Whatever was achieved could be viewed in different ways:
1. Promulgation of a constitution that adopts political and social pluralism, asserts the principles of human rights and guarantees civil and political rights. However, while Iraqi officials view it as the best Arab constitution with regard to enhancing human rights and public freedoms, Iraqi researchers pointed to the many dangerous contained in the constitution, such as: consolidating confessionalism, consolidating federal regions and their jurisdiction in a manner that has no resemblance in any part of the world, some articles of the constitution are being revised.
2. Expanding women's political participation that resulted in electing 87 women to the 275 member national assembly (31.5% of parliamentary seats). Although this is considered a great achievement according to good governance indicators, researches warned that this sudden inflation in women's representation, that exceeds its equivalent in the United State of America by two-fold, is the result of confessional politics rather than an expression of the regime's or society's will to advance women's rights. In other words, women's representation is a confessional phenomenon rather than a gender phenomenon.