BAGHDAD, 22 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said on Wednesday that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October, describing it as the highest death toll since the beginning of the US-led occupation of the country in March 2003.
In its latest human rights report for September and October, UNAMI said the increase was the result of the growing influence of armed militias and rampant torture "despite the Government's commitment to address human rights abuse".
"Hundreds of bodies continued to appear in different areas of Baghdad, handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing," the statement said. "Many witnesses reported that perpetrators wear militia attire and even police or army uniforms."
UNAMI added that the report was based on figures released by the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals throughout the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad.
The report stated that just over 7,000 civilians were killed in September and October, including 351 women and 110 children. October's figure was nearly 120 more than July's, which had been the previous highest death toll.
The Prime Minister's office in Iraq and the Health Ministry refused to comment on the report, saying that they had not read it yet.
The report painted a grim picture of Iraq today; from attacks on journalists, judges and lawyers and the worsening situation of women, to displacement, violence against religious minorities and the targeting of schools.
"The civilian population of Iraq continues to be victims of terrorist acts, roadside bombs, drive-by shootings, crossfire between rival gangs, or between police and insurgents, kidnappings, military operations, crime and police abuse," the report said, adding that sectarian violence appeared to be the main cause of deaths.
UNAMI said the Iraq government should do more to reassert its authority and ensure respect for the rule of law by dismantling the growing number of militias, fighting corruption and organised crime and maintaining discipline within the security and armed forces.
"Arbitrary detention, grievous conditions of detention, allegations of torture and mistreatment continue to remain an issue of serious concern in Iraq," it said.
Displaced and vulnerable suffer
Another report also released on Wednesday by the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that displaced women, children, the elderly and the sick were at increasing risk from effects of violence in Iraq.
The report, based on findings in three governorates, said that "even in the comparatively stable Qadissiya governorate, some 200 km south of Baghdad, 11 per cent of the displaced are widows left alone to fend for themselves and their children".
The IOM report added that "lack of economic opportunities for women and the gradual breakdown of a traditional support system means women are facing an increasingly difficult life".
According to the IOM, expecting single mothers were particularly at risk of jeopardising the health of their unborn child as most were too poor to afford food rations and could not access adequate medical and prenatal care.
"In Wassit governorate, the situation is similar for children from especially poor displaced families. Apart from begging, children are employed to sell products, work in agriculture or in manual labour," the report said.
The report said that in the volatile Salah Al-Din governorate, which includes the towns of Tikrit and Samarra, "most displaced female-headed households, single pregnant women, the elderly and the sick struggle for survival without proper access to shelter, food, water and medical assistance".
"What is worrying and increasingly being reported from our staff and partners in the field is that traditional coping mechanisms are not only being stretched to the limit but are starting to break down," said Rafiq Tschannen, IOM's Chief of Mission for Iraq.
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