Vanishing in Iraq: UN Experts Call for Action Against Enforced Disappearances
Author: Bilge Ece Zeyrek
Middle East and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On 4 April 2023, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances published a report on the situation in Iraq. The report is based on the Committee visits to several cities, including Anbar, Bagdad, Erbil, Mosul, and Sinjar held between 12-25 November 2022. The Committee reported that enforced disappearance has been prevalent in various periods across a substantial portion of Iraq's land and that there is still impunity and re-victimization.  According to UN independent human rights experts, it is believed that around one million individuals have disappeared in Iraq in the past 50 years.  This issue still persists today, and experts are urging the need for investigation and laws to eliminate this atrocious crime.
The report demonstrates five waves of disappearance in Iraq, including enforced disappearance from the Ba'ath era in 1968-2003 under Saddam Hussein's authoritarian rule to the anti-government protests from 2018-2020.  The report reveals that up to 290,000 people, including 100,000 Kurds during the Ba'ath era forcibly disappeared.  The second wave covers the period from the 2003 invasion to the pre-ISIL period, where at least 200,000 Iraqis were captured, and 96,000 were held in US or UK prisons.  The report also documents new rounds of abductions and mass killings of Iraqi soldiers by ISIL from 2014 to 2017 and how Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) made thousands of Sunni Arabs disappear, mainly men and boys, during military operations to retake major cities from extremists.  Additionally, the report states that thousands disappeared during the 2018-2020 demonstrations protesting against corruption in government. 
The Committee is urging Iraq to create a comprehensive plan to investigate all cases of current and past disappearances in line with their responsibility under Article 9 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Iraq has four months to respond to the report, and the Committee will monitor the implementation of its recommendations through the reporting procedure. 
Sources and Further Reading
 Iraq: UN Committee urges urgent investigation and legislation to eradicate enforced disappearances. (2023, April 4). UN Human Rights Office.
 Iraq: Rights experts call for new laws to end ‘waves of disappearance’. (2023, April 4). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/04/1135342
, , , ,  Report of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances on its visit to Iraq under article 33 of the Convention. (2023, March 31). CED/C/IRQ/VR/1 (Findings).
 Report of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances on its visit to Iraq under article 33 of the Convention. (2023, March 31). CED/C/IRQ/VR/1 (Recommendations).
 Schlein, L. (2023, April 4). Up to 1 million Iraqis are victims of enforced disappearance. VOA News.