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Gay Iraqi men are being murdered, group claims

BAGHDAD — Militiamen are torturing and killing gay Iraqi men with impunity in a systematic campaign that has spread from Baghdad to several other cities, a prominent human rights group said in a report.

Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to act urgently to stop the abuses, warning that so-called social cleansing poses a new threat to security even as other violence recedes.

The bodies of several gay men were found in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City earlier this year with the Arabic words for "pervert" and "puppy" — considered a derogatory term for homosexuals in Iraq — written on their chests.

The New York-based advocacy group said the threats and abuses have spread to the cities of Kirkuk, Najaf and Basra.

"Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street," the 67-page report said.

Reliable numbers weren't available, Human Rights Watch said, blaming a combination of the failure of authorities to investigate such crimes and the stigma preventing families from reporting the deaths. But it cited a well-informed U.N. official as saying in April that the death toll was probably "in the hundreds."

The report said Iraqi law does not ban consensual homosexual conduct between adults, but contains provisions that can be exploited, including Saddam Hussein-era provisions that could reduce penalties for so-called honor crimes and crimes against people due to their sexual orientation.

Bulletins from Iraq

Bombs kill 8: Bombs hidden in plastic bags near a falafel stand exploded at a crowded market in a mainly Shiite area in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 21, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military has said insurgents are trying to reignite sectarian bloodshed. Nearly 160 people have been killed in blasts since Aug. 7.

Census delayed: Iraq said Sunday it has postponed plans to hold the first census in more than two decades due to fears it could stoke ethnic and political tension. The population count would have settled controversies over the size of the country's religious and ethnic communities and carries implications for the fate of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk.

Gay Iraqi men are being murdered, group claims 08/17/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 17, 2009 12:08am]

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