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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The New Iraqi regime slams U.N. report on casualties


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's government on Thursday strongly criticized a U.N. report on human rights that put its civilian death toll in 2006 at 34,452, saying it is "superficial" and discussed subjects that are taboo in Iraqi society such as homosexuality.

The government did not reject the casualty figure but said the U.N. Assistance Mission report was "not professional or neutral as we would expect from the missions of the international organization. The report was superficial in dealing with several points," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

A compilation of Iraqi government figures from three agencies put the number of civilians killed last year at some 12,357.

But a Health Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information, said 16,000 bodies of victims of violence had been brought to the Baghdad morgue alone last year and it appeared that the U.N. figure was "about correct."

When asked what the government didn't accept about the report, al-Dabbagh said "I am not talking about figures. I am talking about details in the report."
The U.N. report, which was released Tuesday in Baghdad, also was critical about the government's performance on human rights violations, raising concerns about homosexuals and other vulnerable groups.

"The current environment of impunity and lawlessness invites a heightened level of insecurity for homosexuals in Iraq. Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile toward homosexuals frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them," the U.N. report read. "There has been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq."

Such a topic is widely frowned at in this predominantly Muslim country and gays usually keep their sexual orientation a secret.

"There was information in the report that we cannot accept here in Iraq. The report, for example, spoke about the phenomenon of homosexuality and giving them their rights," al-Dabbagh said. "Such statements are not suitable to the Iraqi society. This is rejected."
"They should respect the values and traditions here in Iraq," he said.

He said that the government is doing its best to guarantee the respect of human rights in the country "despite the difficult situation Iraqi is going though."