UN Waits To Issue Its Report On Iraq


Delay Stalls Debate On Human Rights

By Colum Lynch

Washington Post
September 9, 2007

The United Nations has delayed the release of a quarterly report on human rights in Iraq to avoid criticizing Washington and Baghdad while they are seeking to rally congressional and international support for the war effort, according to U.N. officials.

The move follows a request by Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, to Ashraf Qazi, the United Nations' top envoy in Baghdad, saying Iraq needs "several weeks" to study the report, according to an account by a senior U.N. official. The delay will effectively postpone debate over the United Nations' view of Iraq's sectarian violence -- and U.S. and Iraqi efforts to combat it -- until after Crocker and Gen. David H. Petraeus deliver a crucial assessment of conditions in Iraq to Congress this week.

A draft of the U.N. report, which was completed last month, focuses primarily on violence committed by Iraqi militias and insurgents, according to U.N. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. But it also documents abuses by U.S. and Iraqi forces during more than four months of the U.S.-backed military buildup in Baghdad. It faults Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, saying it lacks commitment to improving its rights record.

A spokesman for the United Nations, Farhan Haq, declined to comment on the contents of the report or to say whether the United States had requested a delay. "We're working on the next report, and when it's finalized it will go right out," he said.

The action comes as the United Nations is preparing to become more active in Iraq. The U.N. mission in Baghdad is set to grow this year and to take a larger role in mediating among competing factions, as well as in coordinating regional and international support. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Maliki are scheduled to co-chair a high-level meeting on Iraq on Sept. 22 in New York. The draft of the report will be officially presented to the Iraqi government as early as this week so it can comment on the findings. But U.N. officials said they have agreed to delay the report's release until October, in part to avoid embarrassing Maliki on the eve of the New York meeting.

Previous U.N. human rights reports have frequently given grim accounts of the violence in Iraq, including the most detailed accounts of the number of Iraqi war dead. But Maliki's government stopped providing the United Nations access to Iraqi mortality figures early this year, citing concern that the numbers were inflated. In March, the United Nations expressed concern about the use of torture in Iraqi detention centers and charged that the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi authorities failed to guarantee due process for detainees.

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