Human rights in Saddam Hussein's Iraq

Hangings in Saddam-era Iraq.

Iraq's era under President Saddam Hussein was notorious for its severe violations of human rights. Secret police, torture, mass murder, rape, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations, chemical warfare, and the destruction of southern Iraq's marshes were some of the methods the country's Ba'athist government used to maintain control. The total number of deaths related to torture and murder during this period are unknown. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued regular reports of widespread imprisonment and torture.

Documented human rights violations 1979–2003

Human rights organizations have documented government-approved executions, acts of torture and rape for decades since Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979 until his fall in 2003.

Mass grave.

'Saddam's Dirty Dozen'

According to officials of the United States State Department, many human rights abuses in Saddam Hussein's Iraq were largely carried out in person or by the orders of Saddam Hussein and eleven other people. The term "Saddam's Dirty Dozen" was coined in October 2002 (from a novel by E.M. Nathanson, later adapted as a film directed by Robert Aldrich) and used by US officials to describe this group. Most members of the group held high positions in the Iraqi government and membership went all the way from Saddam's personal guard to Saddam's sons. The list was used by the Bush Administration to help argue that the 2003 Iraq war was against Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party leadership, rather than against the Iraqi people. The members are:

Other atrocities

"Fifty-seven boxes were recently returned to the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya in Zeit trucks—large Russian military vehicles—by the Iraqi government authorities. Each box contained a dead child, eyes gouged out and ashen white, apparently drained of blood. The families were not given their children, were forced to accept a communal grave, and then had to pay 150 dinars for the burial."[9]

Methods of torture used by Saddam's regime included assault with brass knuckles and wooden bludgeons; electric shocks to the genitalia; scorched metal rods being forced into body orifices; the crushing of toes and removal of toenails; burning off limbs; lowering prisoners into vats of acid; poisoning with thallium; raping women in front of their family members; burning with cigarette butts; the crushing of bones; the amputation of ears, limbs, and tongues; and the gouging of eyes.[10] The destruction of Shi'ite religious shrines by the former government has been compared "to the leveling of cities in the Second World War, and the damage to the shrines [of Hussein and Abbas] was more serious than that which had been done to many European cathedrals."[11] After the 1983-88 genocide, some 1 million Kurds were allowed to resettle in "model villages". According to a U.S. Senate staff report, these villages "were poorly constructed, had minimal sanitation and water, and provided few employment opportunities for the residents. Some, if not most, were surrounded by barbed wire, and Kurds could enter or leave only with difficulty."[12]

Number of victims

"There is a feeling that at least three million Iraqis are watching the eleven million others."

—"A European diplomat," quoted in The New York Times, April 3, 1984.[13]

In January 2004, Human Rights Watch stated: "Having devoted extensive time and effort to documenting [Saddam's] atrocities, we estimate that in the last twenty-five years of Ba'th Party rule the Iraqi government murdered or 'disappeared' some quarter of a million Iraqis, if not more."[14][15] The 1988 Al-Anfal campaign resulted in the death of 50,000-100,000 Kurds (although Kurdish sources have cited a higher figure of 182,000), while upwards of 25,000 civilians and rebels were killed during the suppression of the 1991 uprisings.[5][16] In addition, 4,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were reportedly executed in a particularly large 1984 purge.[17] Far fewer Iraqis are known to have been executed during other years of Saddam's rule. For example, "Amnesty International reported that in 1981 over 350 people were officially executed in Iraq ... the Committee Against Repression in Iraq gives biographic particulars on 798 executions (along with 264 killings of unknown persons, and 428 biographies of unsentenced detainees and disappeared persons)." Kanan Makiya cautions that a focus on the death toll obscures the full extent of "the terror inside Iraq," which was largely the product of the pervasive secret police and systematic use of torture.[13]

See also


  1. "UN condemns Iraq on human rights". BBC News. 2002-04-19.
  2. JURIST - Dateline
  3. 1 2 "Whatever Happened To The Iraqi Kurds?". Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  4. "Iraq: 'Disappearances' – the agony continues". 2005-07-30. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  5. 1 2 "ENDLESS TORMENT, The 1991 Uprising in Iraq And Its Aftermath". Retrieved 2016-08-21. An independent French organization called The Truth About the Gulf War reported in June 1991 after a trip to Iraq that authorities were vague about the toll of the uprising, but 'the figures given for those killed, most of them in southern Iraq and the overwhelming majority of them civilians, ranged from 25,000 to 100,000 dead.' ... The environmental organization Greenpeace estimates that 30,000 Iraqi civilians, including rebels, and 5,000 Iraqi soldiers died during the uprisings as a result of the clashes and killings, while acknowledging that 'little authoritative information is available.' ... A demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau, Beth Osborne Daponte, also arrived at the figure of 30,000 civilian deaths during the uprising.
  6. "Human Rights Watch, Iraq archive". Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  7. Jordan, Eason (April 11, 2003). "The News We (CNN) Kept To Ourselves". The New York Times. (requires login)
  8. "Mass Grave Discovery In Iraq Could Fuel Divisions". Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  9. Pryce-Jones, David (1989-01-01). "Self-Determination, Arab-Style". Commentary. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  10. Perazzo, John, Iraqi Horrors the "Peace Movement" Ignores, FrontPage Magazine, November 29, 2002.
  11. Milton Viorst, "Report from Baghdad," The New Yorker, June 24, 1991, p. 72.
  12. “Kurdistan in the Time of Saddam Hussein," p. 15. See also "Civil War in Iraq," Staff Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate, May 1991, pp. 8-9.
  13. 1 2 Makiya, Kanan (1998). Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq, Updated Edition. University of California Press. pp. 62–65. ISBN 9780520921245.
  14. "War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention". Human Rights Watch. 2004-01-25. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  15. A January 26, 2003 The New York Times article by John F. Burns similarly states "the number of those 'disappeared' into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000." Noting that the Iran–Iraq War cost approximately 800,000 lives on both sides and that—while "surely a gross exaggeration"—Iraq estimated there were 100,000 deaths resulting from U.S. bombing in the Gulf War, Burns concludes: "A million dead Iraqis, in war and through terror, may not be far from the mark." See Burns, John F. (2003-01-26). "How Many People Has Hussein Killed?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-04. Also writing in The New York Times, Dexter Filkins appeared to echo but misrepresent Burns's remark on October 7, 2007: "[Saddam] murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. ... His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead." See Filkins, Dexter (2007-10-07). "Regrets Only?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-04. In turn, Arthur L. Herman accused Saddam of "kill[ing] as many as two million of his own people" in Commentary on July 1, 2008. See Herman, Arthur L. (2008-07-01). "Why Iraq Was Inevitable". Commentary. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  16. Johns, Dave (2006-01-24). "The Crimes of Saddam Hussein: The Anfal Campaign". PBS. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  17. Chauhan, Sharad S. (2003). War on Iraq. APH Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 9788176484787.

Further reading

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