Iraq is a republic with a freely elected government led by Prime Minister Nouri Jawad al‑Maliki. The current administration assumed office in May 2006, after the Council of Representatives (COR) approved a national unity government composed of the major political parties to represent major sects and ethnicities. The 2005 COR elections establishing this government met internationally recognized electoral standards. After an upsurge in violence in 2006, civilian deaths from war-related violence decreased sharply in the second half of 2007; however, widespread violence persisted throughout the country. Sectarian ethnic and extremist violence, coupled with weak government performance in upholding the rule of law, resulted in widespread, severe human rights abuses. There were reports of unauthorized government agent involvement in extrajudicial killings, and violators were not prosecuted. In 2007 kidnappings and disappearances remained a severe problem, with frequent accusations directed at the police. There were documented instances of torture and other abuses by government agents and illegal armed groups. The government was ineffective in adhering to the rule of law, particularly in the security forces and institutions, due to ongoing, large-scale violence, corruption, sectarian bias, and lack of civilian oversight and accountability. Discrimination and societal abuses against women and ethnic and religious minorities remained serious problems. While the government generally respected constitutional provisions for religious freedom, private conservative and radical Islamic elements continued to exert tremendous pressure on other groups to conform to extremist interpretations of Islam's precepts. Trafficking in persons for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor also remained serious problems.
To resolve these difficult and complex problems, the United States will continue to support Iraqis as they reach agreement on a common vision for the future of the country. The U.S. government seeks a responsive, democratic Iraqi government that defends its constitution and works toward achieving national reconciliation. This includes a government that resolves differences peacefully by healing sectarian and ethnic divides and reflecting the will of the people. The United States continues to assist in developing a strong political center that is committed to upholding the interests of the nation as a whole and diminishing the influence of extremism. Toward this goal, the United States uses a variety of diplomatic tools and assistance programs in support of political reconciliation, good governance, and capacity building; efficient service delivery; political party development; respect for the rule of law and human rights; devolved power to regions, provinces, and localities; and an engaged citizenry, including women and youth.
Strong democracies require free, fair, and transparent elections; accountable and responsive government institutions; strong civil society; and an independent media. The United States, working with international and local organizations, provides assistance to develop further these pillars of democratic growth. The United States supports efforts to advance reconciliation at the national and local levels. The United States coordinates with Coalition partners, non-Coalition partners, NGOs, and the UN in seeking the passage and enactment of key laws that contribute to national reconciliation, transparent and fair elections, good governance, and independent media.
On the national level, the United States pursues actions in support of political reconciliation, good governance, institutional capacity building, and political party development. To promote political reconciliation, the United States funds programs to strengthen cross-sectarian linkages among leaders of civic and political institutions, support mediation and dialogue, promote tolerance, and strengthen civil society. Reconciliation programs, which bring together leaders from different groups, specifically target mixed neighborhoods that have had a history of sectarian violence. Additionally, U.S.-funded programs train government representatives and ministerial staff in building capacity and promoting accountability and management. The United States, along with international organizations, provides training to political parties with a focus on moving the parties from sectarian-based to issues-based platforms. At the local level, the United States promotes participatory, representative, and accountable governance. The increased number of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) throughout the country support improvements in the rule of law, promote political and economic development, and foster improved service capacity in provincial administrations. The United States supports local government capacity-building projects in major cities and in all 18 governorates.
The United States supports efforts to develop the country's penal and judicial systems, fight corruption within the police forces, and ameliorate prison overcrowding. The United States supports building the capacity of the courts, creating a professional police force and corrections system, and instilling a culture of transparency and accountability. The United States also provides technical expertise to the courts and to build the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Justice, the Corrections Service, the Higher Judicial Council, the High Tribunal, and the Supreme Court. U.S. capacity-building programs help judges adhere to constitutional requirements, including that of processing initial arrest cases within 24 hours. The United States funds security measures to protect judges and their families to allow them to remain impartial by remaining free of intimidation. The United States assists the Ministry of Justice in building the staff, expertise, and facilities to assume custody and control of large numbers of prisoners from the Ministries of Interior and Defense.
The United States works with government institutions to promote the rule of law, fight corruption, and build the capacity of individuals working in and with the ministries. Ministry capacity-building efforts focus on training officials, increasing transparency, and building core public sector functions, including effective public budgeting, financial management, and procurement. U.S.-funded programs provide support for continued constitutional development to ensure citizens-–especially women-–are able to make maximum use of the protection and rights outlined in the constitution. The United States focuses significant resources on supporting anticorruption through training and support to the Commission on Public Integrity, mentoring the ministerial Inspectors General, and promoting closer ties with the Board of Supreme Audits. In December 2007 the ambassador created the new senior-level position of U.S. anticorruption coordinator to engage the government and international community on strategies to promote transparent and accountable governance and gave a mandate for all U.S. agencies to intensify their efforts against public corruption.
U.S. programs work to integrate human rights and rule of law promotion into education and training programs that reach all levels of society, especially at the grassroots level. Along with international partners, the U.S. government works with government officials to harmonize domestic laws and policies with international human rights standards. U.S.-funded programs help build management capacity in the country's human rights institutions. U.S.-funded programs carry out human rights monitoring and advocacy training for NGOs and civil society organizations protecting the rights of women, children, and religious and ethnic minorities. The United States also supports the Human Rights Defenders Network and the Human Rights Education Center in Baghdad. U.S. programs provide human rights training to government officials and civil society. U.S. grants to NGOs foster treatment and reintegration of victims of torture, spur collection and documentation of human rights abuses committed by the former regime, and enhance awareness of human rights standards throughout society. The U.S. government supports systems to prevent and address human rights violations through early warning, monitoring, investigating, and reporting. In response to complaints of prisoner abuse and torture in Ministry of Interior facilities, senior U.S. officials encouraged prosecution of those responsible and the reestablishment of unannounced inspections of all detention facilities by internal affairs units. The United States incorporates a strong human rights and rule of law component in the training of all police forces. Additionally, with U.S. support, the Ministry of Interior has begun to implement measures designed to prevent and correct human rights violations, including the investigation, indictment, and dismissal of officers implicated in human rights abuses.
The United States promotes freedom of the press and the development of an independent media. The U.S. government funds development programs in media professionalism and media legislation and works with various local actors that oversee public broadcasting. To promote media freedom legislation, U.S. programs provide consulting services to the government and civil society organizations on drafting legislation that will govern the media sector in the future. The United States, often through PRT outreach and programs, supports the growth of civil society, including through programs that assist civil society organizations in advocacy and management training as well as in understanding how to use the media to advance their agendas. Other U.S. programs support the participation of civil society organizations in the political process, civic education, and conflict resolution. The United States facilitates broad participation in public dialogues, promotes responsive and accountable local government, and provides resources and training to strengthen the institutional capacity of grassroots organizations.
The United States places a high priority on improving the lives of women and supports this goal through diplomatic advocacy, media campaigns, training workshops, and programming. The United States funds programs to combat violence against women, to help women in need of legal and other support, and provide women with training and education to foster the skills and practices of democratic public life. This includes leadership training for women in and aspiring to be in government and be community leaders. The United States holds workshops for female political leaders and sponsors numerous regional meetings and workshops across the country on women's rights and women in the political process and civil society. U.S.-funded programs increase support for women's rights through multimedia public outreach, particularly at the grassroots level. The United States also works to advance economic empowerment of women through economic skills and small business training. U.S. officials regularly engage with religious leaders and government officials to urge that legal protections for minority rights and freedom of religion be respected.