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Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region of Iraq commits to human rights

The Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani, expressed a strong commitment to human rights in a meeting with Amnesty International in the city of Erbil on Thursday. Amnesty International's visit to the Kurdistan region follows the publication last week of its report, Hope and Fear: Human rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The report said that security forces in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region operate outside the rule of law and regularly abuse their authority. It detailed many cases of people who were arbitrarily detained by Asayish (security) officials, tortured and forcibly disappeared. At the meeting, Prime Minister Barzani said that a new law was being prepared to make the Asayish accountable to the Council of Ministers, though the timetable for this was still unclear. The Prime Minister told Amnesty International that he had personally read the report and that he had instructed that its recommendations be circulated to the detention authorities and to government ministries. He assured the organization of his determination to ensure that the Asayish and other security agencies are made fully accountable under the law. Amnesty International's report also described recent improvements including the release of hundreds of long-term political detainees in 2008 and legal reforms affecting the status of women and media freedom. The Prime Minister assured Amnesty International that he and his government are committed to stamping out so-called honour crimes and to ensuring that women are afforded effective protection against violence, including within the family. "The Kurdistan Regional Government has taken positive human rights steps in recent years," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme and head of the organization's delegation in the Kurdistan Region. "In particular, it has put in place concrete measures to combat violence against women, and we are heartened by this. At the same time, we emphasized the need to ensure that women's human rights defenders are fully involved in all stages of developing and implementing policies to end violence, discrimination and to increase life opportunities for women and girls."