Human Rights Abuses Under The 2003 Invasion

“States like [Iraq, Iran, and North Korea] and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil. . . .By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. . . . I will not wait on events while dangers gather.”

—President George W. Bush, State of the Union, January 29, 2002 (Gompert. et al, 2014)

The United States has been present in Iraq for almost 18 years since 2003. In fact, U.S. troops have disengaged in 2011 but returned in 2014 as the dominant partner in a multination coalition assembled to defeat the Islamic State militants (Loveluck, 2021). The United States has agreed to withdraw all its remaining troops deployed to combat ISIS in Iraq. Nevertheless, they did not provide an exact timeline.

The Iraq invasion and its chaos caused massive human rights violations and substantial tragic levels of death and destruction in the country since 2003. Detainees and civilians have been discriminated against and treated inhumanly by the US military forces. These human rights abuses can be described as “war crimes” (Khawaja, 2012).

In fact, civilians are considered the primary victims of the 2003 invasion. According to international law, foreign military forces are supposed to maintain peace and population security. U.S. forces have violated international law by using incendiary weapons and cluster bombs, which caused massive killings, massacres, and destruction of the infrastructure (Khawaja,2012). It is universally known that cluster bombs are illegal because they can easily spread from military to civilian areas (Khawaja, 2012). U.S. and British forces also released depleted Uranium. Various diseases and medical catastrophes such as genetic damage, congenital disabilities, and cancer were the results of the radiation produced by the D.U (Khawaja, 2012). Numerous non-governmental organizations have condemned the use of D.U. since it pollutes the environment and causes inhuman effects on civilians. The use of poisonous gasses in times of warfare is a significant violation of the “1925 Hague Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and Bacteriological Methods of Warfare” (Khawaja, 2012).

Civilians’ illegal arrestation, abuses of prisoner’s rights represent another significant facet of the war. Needless to say that in all armed conflicts, the hostile effects fall disproportionately on women and children. Wars intensify gender-based and sexual violence, and they also limit women’s mobility and access to basic essential services and jobs. Therefore, it is crucial to shed spotlights on the status of Iraqi women after the 2003 invasion. It is generally claimed that women in Iraq before 1991 enjoyed more rights compared to other women in other middle eastern countries. However, the war did not only worsen their situation but also made them the most vulnerable entity. They suffered from illegal imprisonment, humiliation, sexual abuse, enforced prostitution, torture, rape, and murder. A rape survivor who was a detainee at Abu Ghraib told Al-Jazeera that “U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison raped women many times and forced them to strip naked in public” (Khawaja, 2012). An independent British organization called Physicians Human Rights has stated that U.S. soldiers were using various psychological torture techniques such as forced nudity, sexual violence, and humiliation, sleep deprivation… (Khawaja, 2012).

Moreover, U.S. forces were attacking families in their homes. Even homes did not serve as a shelter to stop U.S. soldiers from raping and murdering women. For instance, the rape of the 14-year-old Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi by Steve D. Green and other soldiers has put the entire international community in shock. The soldiers killed her parents, her sister, and after raping her, they set her body on fire. They were convicted for their barbaric, brutal, inhuman crime, but the verdict was not satisfying for the child’s family since her uncle declared that if non-Americans had done this, they would have been executed for sure (Khawaja, 2012). Children’s rights violations were also an essential feature under U.S. occupation. Many children were arrested indiscriminately and brutally beaten. Sometimes, they were even forced to confess that they have links with Al-Qaeda. They were also abused and tortured intoet their parents’ confession (Khawaja, 2012). International law, together with U.S. domestic law, hold U.S. military officials accountable for their war crimes.

In sum, the Iraq war represents a theatre of a plethora of human rights violations by the U.S. forces. From brutally arresting children, torturing men to raping women. The victims are still waiting for justice to be applied. If the democracies are committed to the respect of human rights and believe in the establishment of peace, they would have to assure justice (Khawaja, 2012). If the international community closes its eyes to these massive unlawful abuses, the concept of human rights would hardly survive (Khawaja, 2012). After 18 years of considerable deaths and substantial bloody confrontations, the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens have started to consider the invasion of Iraq as a grave foreign policy mistake.


Albert, M., & CHOMSKY, N. (2003). NOAM CHOMSKY ON IRAQ WAR. Peace Research, 35(1), 51-60. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from

Altheide, D., & Jennifer N. Grimes. (2005). War Programming: The Propaganda Project and the Iraq War. The Sociological Quarterly, 46(4), 617-643. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from

Dobbins, J., McGinn, J., Crane, K., Jones, S., Lal, R., Rathmell, A., . . . Timilsina, A. (2003). IRAQ. In America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq (pp. 167-222). Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from

DUNNE, T., & MULAJ, K. (2010). America after Iraq. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), 86(6), 1287-1298. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from

FISHER, D., & BIGGAR, N. (2011). Was Iraq an unjust war? A debate on the Iraq war and reflections on Libya. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), 87(3), 687-707. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from

Khawaja, N. (2012). Human Rights Violations Under US Occupation in Iraq: An Analysis. Pakistan Horizon, 65(3), 59-83. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from

About the author:

Rim Affathe is a 20 years old student. She was born and raised in Morocco, and she is currently living in Italy. She is a third-year political science student at Mohamed VI Polytechnic University, and she is spending her exchange year at LUISS university in Rome. Rim Affathe has a vested interest in gender studies, postcolonial feminism, security studies and diplomacy. She aspires to be a Moroccan diplomat and a women’s rights advocate. She is also a member of the feminist and youth-led initiative Politics4Her.

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