The U.S. State Department's latest human rights report says that the interim government in Iraq reversed "a long legacy of serious human rights abuses under the previous regime."
Until its removal in 2003, Saddam Hussein's government was responsible for the disappearance, murder, and torture of tens of thousands of Iraqis. Human rights organizations say that the regime executed as many as three-hundred-thousand civilians, and probably more.
During 2004, one-hundred-eighty-nine mass grave sites were confirmed. Ten mass graves were uncovered in al-Hatra, in Ninewah province. Two were excavated. One contained the remains of Iraqi women and children and the other contained the remains of men. Approximately two-hundred-seventy-five bodies, thought to be Iraqi Kurds were found in each site.
Iraqi Kurds were not the only victims of Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. According to the State Department report, mass graves were discovered in all parts of Iraq. They contained the remains of people from "every major religious and ethnic group in the country, as well as of foreign citizens," including three-hundred-twenty-two Kuwaitis.
Before the recent election, Iraq's interim government made what the State Department calls "a governmental commitment to human rights." As the State Department human rights report puts it: the Iraqi government's "success in building an accommodating structure for the exercise of civil liberties...was shown clearly in the citizens' embrace of freedoms of speech and press, peaceful assembly, and association and religion."
At the same time, the State Department report points out that the Iraqi interim government's performance "was handicapped by a serious insurgency in which a terrorist campaign of violence impacted every aspect of life with executions, kidnappings, torture, and intimidation waged against civilians."
Clearly, much more needs to be done in Iraq to establish a society in which human rights are fully respected. But as U.S. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky says, the democratic elections held in Iraq and elsewhere, are positive examples of progress on democracy and human rights from which other countries can draw inspiration.
President George W. Bush says, the U.S. "aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations with governments that answer to their citizens and reflect their own cultures, and because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.