The latest U.N. report on Iraqi human rights was issued Saturday in Baghdad. While the report, covering the last six months of 2007, acknowledges a marked decrease in violence, it cites the need for improvement in other areas if those security gains are to be sustained.
The overall tone of the report was one of encouraging progress rather than pointing the finger, but underlying the diplomatic language was continued frustration with the Iraqi government.
"The opportunity doesn't last long," said Staffan de Mistura, the special U.N. representative in Iraq. "There has been some improvement on the economic situation. There has been some improvement even on laws. But this is not enough."
De Mistura says the government needs to do more to help the 4.4 million displaced Iraqis split between Iraq and neighboring countries. Given growing Iraqi oil revenues, U.N. officials say, money is not the issue — organization is.
The report expresses its concern with the legal system, specifically at long delays in reviewing detainee cases and on credible accusations of torture, which the report calls "grave."
The U.S.-led coalition known as MNFI (Multi-National Force in Iraq) is also criticized, particularly because it does not allow the U.N. to visit its detention facilities. The U.N. says people held in U.S. custody are entitled to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and to be brought promptly before a judge.
Both the U.S. and Iraqi authorities are criticized for the poor handling of the growing population of juvenile detainees.
The report highlights the abuse of women, and points specifically to the city of Basra and Kurdistan, areas where the Iraqi authorities are now in nominal control.
In the south, de Mistura said, there are reports of more than 100 cases in which police killed or mutilated women. In the north, he said, the U.N. received reports of 300 cases of so-called "honor killings," in which women were killed by male family members because the women were believed to have brought shame on their families.
The situation in Kurdistan is dealt with separately from the rest of Iraq, because the Kurds control their own internal affairs and the security situation is dramatically better.
Despite this, the report cites unacceptable imprisonment for indefinite periods — sometimes for as long as seven years — and widespread reports of torture.
The U.N. report did not cite any specific civilian casualty figures because, the U.N. said, the Iraqi Health Ministry would not provide any data.