Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Domestic and international NGOs operated in most cases with little government interference, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.
Due to the ISIS-driven humanitarian crisis, the majority of local NGOs focused on providing assistance to IDPs and other communities the conflict has affected. In some instances these NGOs worked in coordination with central government and Kurdistan regional government authorities. A number of NGOs also investigated and published findings on human rights cases. When NGOs alleged human rights abuses that concerned government actions or actions of ethnic or religious groups allied with the government, there were some reports of government interference. NGO Kurdistan Economic Development Organization reported that in February, the PUK Asayish prevented it from holding a meeting regarding corruption in the KRG, and told the NGO to focus on other economic issues instead.
NGOs faced capacity-related challenges, did not have regular access to government officials, and did not systematically serve as bulwarks against failures in governance and human rights abuses. Lack of domestic NGOs’ sustainability hindered the sector’s long-term development. The government rarely awarded NGOs contracts for services. While the law forbids NGOs from engaging in political activity, political parties or sects originated, funded, or substantially influenced many, although not all, domestic NGOs.
Some NGOs in the south reported government officials interfered and harassed them, particularly regarding finances. The governor of Maysan reportedly tried to control funding for local NGOs from international organizations.
NGOs were effectively prevented from operating in certain sectors. For example, the law effectively permitted only the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to operate shelters for human trafficking victims. NGOs that operated unofficial shelters faced legal penalties for operating such shelters without a license.
The IKR had an active community of mostly Kurdish NGOs, many with close ties to and funding from the PUK and KDP political parties. Government funding of NGOs is legally contingent upon whether an NGO’s programming goals conform to already identified priority areas. The KRG’s NGO Directorate established formal procedures for awarding funds to NGOs, which included a public description of the annual budget for NGO funding, priority areas for consideration, deadlines for proposal submission, establishment of a grant committee, and the criteria for ranking proposals. During the year local and international NGOs did not report difficulties registering with the regional government and obtaining permits for their operations in KRG-administered areas.
Reports indicated ISIS threatened NGOs and civil society activists in areas under its control during the year.
The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government and the KRG sometimes restricted the access of the United Nations and other international bodies to sensitive locations, such as Ministry of Interior-run detention facilities holding detainees suspected of terrorism.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) is constitutionally mandated. The law governing the IHCHR’s operation provides for 12 full-time commissioners and three reserve commissioners with four-year nonrenewable terms; in July new commissioners assumed duties. The law provides for the IHCHR’s financial and administrative independence and assigns it broad authority, including the right to receive and investigate human rights complaints, conduct unannounced visits to correctional facilities, and review legislation. Some observers reported the commissioners’ individual and partisan political agendas largely stalled the IHCHR’s work.
The KRG Human Rights Commission issued periodic reports on human rights, trafficking in persons, and religious freedom. The commission reported KRG police and security organizations had generally been receptive to human rights training and responsive to reports of violations. In February, however, a court convicted the deputy head of the commission’s Dahuk office for interfering with a police investigation; the court suspended his six-month sentence.