Iraq: regime withholds civilian death count

The Iraqi government has refused to provide the UN with civilian casualty figures for its 10th report on the human rights situation in the occupied country since August 2005, but numbers from various ministries indicate more than 5,500 people were killed in the Baghdad area alone in the first three months of 2007. The numbers, provided to the Los Angeles Times by government ministry employees, could not be independently verified.

Spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Said Arikat, said the government had given no “official” reason for not issuing casualty figures. But UN human rights officer Ivana Vuco said Iraqi officials had made it clear the figures were withheld for political reasons.

“We were told they were concerned that people would misconstrue the figures to portray the situation very negatively, and that would further undermine their efforts to establish some kind of stability and security in the country,” Vuco said. “We are trying to stress our point of view, which is that transparency is the key to establishing security.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government rejected the report for its criticisms of Iraq’s judicial system. The UN said some prisoners in Iraqi detention facilities faced torture, forced confessions and inadequate access to counsel. (LAT, April 26)

Meanwhile, a suicide car bomb killed and wounded dozens of people near the town of Tal Afar April 27. US and Iraqi forces are engaged in fierce fighting in the area with both Shi’ite and Sunni insurgents. On April 25, a suicide bomber killed nine people when he walked into a police station in Balad Ruz in Diyala. (AlJazeera, April 27)

See our last post on Iraq and the body count.