PHR has been investigating human rights violations in Iraq for three decades.
In 1989, amidst a brutal repression of the country’s Kurdish minority by the government of Saddam Hussein, PHR published evidence that Iraq’s army had attacked Kurdish villages with bombs containing mustard gas and an unknown lethal nerve agent.
In the wake of the regime’s brutal Anfal campaign in the late 1980s, in which tens of thousands of Kurds disappeared, PHR investigators travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan to help exhume, identify, and determine the probable cause and manner of death of victims found buried in single and mass graves.
Also that year, PHR conducted an investigation into the serious medical consequences of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Our team found evidence of assaults on health professionals, interference with the delivery of health care, the stripping of medicine and medical supplies from health facilities, and the stationing of military personnel in hospitals – all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
In the post-9/11 period, PHR warned of the serious risk to the health and human rights of the Iraqi people in the event of war. We also highlighted the grave health consequences and legal requirements surrounding the interrogation, torture, and ill-treatment of detainees, and called on the U.S. government to clarify the involvement of health professionals in these brutal methods.
PHR’s current work in Iraq is centered on building up the country’s ability to investigate international crimes and acts of sexual violence. This includes documentation of crimes against the long-persecuted Yazidi people, who suffered a brutal 2014 attack by ISIS in which thousands of men, women, boys, and girls were killed, forced into flight, or abducted, raped, and enslaved.