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Last updated: June 2019

[Actors of protection, 3.4, 8.3]

The KRI is governed by the autonomous KRG under the Iraqi Constitution. The KRG is responsible for the governorates of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk. The KRI is the only constitutionally recognised autonomous region. The Constitution permits the KRG to have their own executive, legislative and judicial powers, aside from those exclusive to the federal government. They are allocated an equitable share of national revenues, and are permitted to establish and organise their own internal security forces, such as police.

KRG’s regional legislative assembly is made up of 111 seats, ten of which are reserved for minorities (5 for Christian, 5 for Turkmen), and 30 % of which are for women. Under the Constitution, the KRG has considerable powers to legislate a range of areas including health services, education, policing and security, environment and natural resources, housing, trade, industry, social services, transportation and roads. The Kurdish Parliament may also amend the application of Iraq-wide legislation falling outside of exclusive federal powers.

Legislation, decisions, court decisions and contracts enacted in the region of Kurdistan shall remain in force, and decisions issued by the government of the region of Kurdistan ‘shall be considered valid unless they are amended or annulled pursuant to the laws of the region of Kurdistan by the competent entity in the region, provided that they do not contradict with the Constitution’.

A number of parliamentary committees also support the government in areas such as health, housing, human rights, civil affairs, women’s rights, education, integrity and labour rights.

As a result of different political factions, Peshmerga groups’ operating procedures are not standard or uniform and they frequently do not coordinate, with each faction taking orders from their political command. Sources indicated that the Peshmerga factions are politically divided and ‘deeply partisan’, and an instrument of political patronage for the PUK and KDP’s respective political bureaus. An atmosphere of mistrust between the main political parties in KRI has been created, with each perceiving their own factions of the security forces as a line of defence against political rivals.

In KRI, the Kurdistan Judicial Council is independent of the KRG Ministry of Justice, however the executive branch reportedly ‘politically influenced sensitive cases’. Judges are frequently appointed based on partisanship rather than merit or independence.

According to a UNHCR interview in 2016, the population of KRI does not make use of the police or the courts. The same report notes that IDPs generally mistrust the KRG forces and do not approach police either. There are no signs of ‘systematic mistreatment’ of Arab IDPs by the police or courts on account of their status or belonging in the north. However, collective punishment of IDPs upon security incidents is common and scapegoating sometimes occurred. There were reports that PMU and KRG forces detained children accused of terrorism, subjecting them to beating and abuses.

Both Arabs and Kurds were at risk of arbitrary detention and torture from the Asayish.

Despite legal protections under the ‘press law’ No 35. of 2007, which prohibits imprisonment, harassment, or physical abuse of reporters, journalists state that it is used arbitrarily by the ‘ruling elite to stifle dissent’ and that security forces harassed news outlets critical of the KRG leadership.

Kurdish authorities have detained political opponents and have violently suppressed demonstrations, and political demonstrators and journalists have been beaten.

According to the UN, there is an ‘overall mistrust in the criminal justice system’ in Kurdistan with respect to the lack of effective investigations and the atmosphere of impunity, particularly regarding attacks on media professionals. In 2016, UNHCR observed that ‘access to the rule of law [in KRI] is dependent on ethnic and religious affiliation, tribe, connections, family and relatives, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, for an individual to stand up for his rights by himself’.

In general, the KRG is considered to be an actor of protection meeting the requirements of Article 7 QD. However, in certain individual circumstances, such as for persons perceived as associated with ISIL, political opponents, LGBTIQ persons, in relation to harmful traditional practices, honour-based and domestic violence, the KRI may be unwilling to provide protection within the meaning of Article 7 QD.