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Amnesty raps European countries for sending back Iraqis

Amnesty International accused five European countries Tuesday of breaching UN rules by forcibly repatriating Iraqis to dangerous parts of the war-scarred country.

The rights group also warned that the continuing political uncertainty after elections last month risks fuelling further violence in the country, seven years after a US-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Despite the ongoing violence in Iraq, several European governments continue to forcibly return rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Iraq,” it said in a report entitled “Iraq — Civilians under fire”.

“In 2009, the authorities in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK forcibly returned scores of Iraqis to unsafe parts of Iraq, such as central Iraq, in breach of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees guidelines,” it said.

British authorities forcibly repatriated 44 Iraqi asylum seekers to Baghdad last October; Norway returned 30 in December and 13 in January, it said.

Meanwhile the group warned of an increase in violence amid a continuing post-election limbo.

Former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi’s secular coalition narrowly won the March 7 vote, defeating incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by 91 seats to 89, according to unofficial results.

But both fell massively short of the 163 seats needed to form a majority in a new 325-seat parliament, ushering in so far fruitless coalition negotiations between them and smaller parties.

“The continuing uncertainty as to when a new government will be formed… could well contribute to a further increase of violent incidents of which civilians are the main victims,” said Amnesty’s Malcolm Smart.

“The uncertainty is threatening to make a bad situation even worse. Both the Iraqi authorities and the international community must act now to prevent more unnecessary deaths,” added Smart, the group’s Middle East and north Africa head.