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First to Know: promoting civilian-led early warning in armed conflict – new report

April 2021

Civilian-led early warning of violence in armed conflict is a viable technique that has significant potential to save lives by alerting both responsible authorities and civilian populations of impending threats, finds a new report. ‘First to Know: Civilian-led early warning in armed conflict examines the lessons learned from a pilot early warning system in South Sudan implemented by Ceasefire and the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation.

Civilian-led early warning systems have the potential to:

  • Ensure that information on a wide spectrum of violence or threatened violence is captured, including in particular sexual and gender-based violence, extortion, pillage and other exactions against local civilian populations, as well as communal violence and patterns of criminal violence linked to the conflict;
  • Provide real-time information from territories to which access is difficult or denied for official monitors;
  • Ensure that warnings quickly reach the communities that are most under threat;
  • Enable local community interests and perspectives to be regularly inputted into peace processes.

‘The early warning system has allowed us to bring civilian concerns to the attention of key national and international decision makers in the South Sudan peace process, concerns that would have otherwise been marginalised,’ said Edmund Yakani, Executive Director of CEPO.

‘Unfortunately the peace process has not been run with the interests of civilians in mind,’ he added.

Drawing on the experience of the pilot in South Sudan, the report finds that civilian-led early warning systems should be tailored to the social and political context of the conflict in which they operate, that they must be complemented by an effective advocacy strategy on civilian protection to enable rapid response, and that they should not be regarded as a cheap or easy alternative to official or international systems.

The report argues that civilian-led early warning systems are an important step toward peace processes that are more inclusive of the interests and perspectives of the civilians they claim to serve. They are well-suited to the majority of today’s conflicts, which frequently occur in populated areas and in which civilians are actively targeted or otherwise subject to serious harm.

‘Civilian-led early warning recognises the active role civilians themselves play in improving civilian protection and security,’ said Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Ceasefire. ‘The technique is an important complement to official warning systems which sometimes move slowly and even fail to warn populations most at risk.’

To support the effective expansion of civilian-led early warning, this report recommends:

  • Key national and international decision makers in peace processes should support civilian-led early warning systems and recognize that they offer a means of prioritizing the protection of civilians and supporting the inclusion of civilian perspectives into processes relating to conflict prevention, de-escalation and resolution.
  • Policy makers should recognize that civilian-led early warning systems require a serious commitment of time and resources. They require significant political and material support, and protection.

 

Note for editors:

First to Know: Civilian-led early warning in armed conflict is published on 8 April 2021. The report was produced under the project ‘Strengthening civil society capacity for early warning on identity-based violence in South Sudan’, supported by the UK government (UK Aid Direct).

For further information or to arrange interviews, e-mail: contact@ceasefire.org

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After decades of disappearances, Iraq preparing to turn the page – new report

January 2021 

Iraq’s disappeared persons might finally have a chance at justice, according to a new report by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

The report, entitled The Forever Crime: Ending enforced disappearance in Iraq, argues that Iraq is at a historic juncture in the struggle against enforced disappearance, a practice which has gone on for decades and left virtually none of Iraq’s communities untouched. Draft legislation to suppress enforced disappearances is now under consideration by the Iraqi parliament.

International law defines enforced disappearance as a phenomenon in which state actors deprive individuals of their liberty – through acts of abduction, arrest or detention – then refuse to acknowledge what has happened to them, leaving their loved ones in a state of prolonged uncertainty and distress.

Iraq’s disappeared range from the victims of Ba’ath Party-era state violence, to the thousands of Iraqi civilians and ‘ghost detainees’ held without charge over the course of the US-led occupation, to the scores of primarily Sunni men and boys abused and disappeared by pro-government militias in the course of the conflict with ISIS. Most recently, scores of demonstrators in the popular protests in Baghdad, Basra and other southern cities have also been forcibly disappeared.

But the report finds that up until now, victims of these abuses have not been treated equally.

‘While the Saddam Hussein violations are widely acknowledged, there has been near-complete impunity for abuses by coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces they established and trained,’ says Miriam Puttick, Head of Middle East and North Africa Programmes at Ceasefire and the report’s author. ‘These security forces, and the pro-government militias that operate alongside them, have been key partners of Western governments in the fight against ISIS.’

Despite the scale of the problem, Iraq is now facing an unprecedented opportunity to address it. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who came to office in the wake of widespread popular protests that followed the end of the conflict with ISIS, has made vocal commitments to addressing human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances.

‘Again and again the Iraqi government has announced investigations into recent alleged disappearances but with little result,’ says Mark Lattimer, Ceasefire’s Executive Director. ‘The government now has a chance to turn rhetoric into action by backing the new bill on ending enforced disappearance.’

New legislation addressing enforced disappearance is now before the Iraqi parliament. If passed, Iraq would be among the first in the region to criminalize the practice, setting a precedent in the struggle against impunity.

But overturning the legacy of enforced disappearance in Iraq will require more than criminalizing the offense. There are many factors that enable the practice, like the widespread use of secret detention centres, the involvement of different armed groups in carrying out unauthorized arrests and detentions, and the lack of a unified reporting mechanism or search procedure for missing persons.

‘Because there is no system in place to deal with disappearances at present, family members of the disappeared are forced to go from prison to prison, searching for information about their loved ones,’ says Puttick. ‘This treatment is inhumane and causes further suffering for families.’

 

Note for editors:

  • The Forever Crime: Ending enforced disappearance in Iraq is published in English and Arabic on 19 January 2021.

For further information or to arrange interviews, e-mail: contact@ceasefire.org

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Official figures reveal only one prosecution of UK armed forces personnel for war crimes overseas since 2001

Official figures reveal only one prosecution of UK armed forces personnel for war crimes overseas since 2001

December 2020

Official figures released by the Ministry of Defence to Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights reveal that since 2001 there has only been one prosecution of UK armed forces personnel for war crimes overseas.

Despite lengthy engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, and evidence of serious abuses by UK service personnel against local civilians, data supplied to Ceasefire under the Freedom of Information Act show that only one war crimes prosecution has been conducted, in over nearly two decades, under the International Criminal Court Act 2001, which brought within UK law those offences of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC. No prosecutions against UK personnel were brought under either the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, which first criminalized war crimes in UK law, or under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which criminalizes torture.

‘These figures contradict the argument by defence ministers that the Overseas Operations Bill, currently going through Parliament, is required to put an end to “vexatious prosecutions” for war crimes,’ said Rose Burke, Policy Officer at Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights. ‘In reality, there have been none. There should no longer be any doubt that war crimes and torture, along with sexual crimes, should now be exempted from the Bill’s “triple lock” on prosecutions after five years.’

The sole war crimes prosecution relates to the killing of Mr Baha Mousa, an Iraqi civilian from Basra, which later formed the subject of a judicial inquiry. Three members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment were charged, and one convicted in 2007, of inhumane treatment as a war crime under the International Criminal Court Act 2001. An autopsy on Mr Mousa’s body recorded 93 separate injuries.

The MoD figures show that, in addition to the one war crimes prosecution, five prosecutions were conducted for other offences allegedly committed against members of the local population in Iraq (this includes one in relation to the Baha Mousa case) and nine for other offences against the local population in Afghanistan.

In relation to military operations in Iraq:

  • Five prosecutions in total were conducted, in which a total of 25 defendants were charged, and six convicted at court martial. This includes the sole war crimes prosecution.
  • In total seven members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment were tried for the killing of Mr Mousa, the most senior being a colonel. Three were charged with the war crime of inhumane treatment, and five were charged with other offences. All were acquitted except Cpl Donald Payne who was convicted of inhumane treatment but acquitted of manslaughter.
  • It is understood that the convictions listed under ‘other offences committed against the local population’ include those of three members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who were given custodial sentences of up to two years in 2005 after photographs emerged of them abusing Iraqi civilians at Camp Bread Basket, in Basra in 2003.

In relation to military operations in Afghanistan:

  • Nine prosecutions in total were conducted, with a total of 16 defendants
  • Of those 16, none faced prosecution for war crimes or crimes under the International Criminal Court Act 2001, but were prosecuted for ‘other offences against the local population’. Nine convictions were secured at court martial.
  • The killing of a wounded Taliban fighter, who was hors de combat, in Helmand province in September 2011 led to the prosecution of three members of the Royal Marines, of whom two were acquitted. Sgt Alexander Blackman was convicted at court martial of murder in 2013, reduced on appeal to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. Despite being recorded at the time of the killing as saying ‘I just broke the Geneva Convention’, he was never charged with a war crime.

It emerged in June that the Service Prosecuting Authority had closed all but one of the remaining legacy investigations from Iraq and that any further prosecutions were now unlikely.

The sole prosecution and conviction for a war crime committed in UK overseas military operations demonstrates that the Overseas Operations Bill, which includes a ‘presumption against prosecution’ after five years for alleged war crimes committed by British troops abroad, is fundamentally misguided.

Although there have been few prosecutions, the MoD has approved payments totalling £20 million to settle over 300 cases of alleged violations committed by UK service personnel in Iraq alone, including in relation to conduct which falls within the definition of war crimes. The Overseas Operations Bill introduces an absolute long-stop of six years on claims against the MoD from either service personnel or civilians who have suffered harm.

‘With the release of these figures, the real purpose of the Overseas Operations Bill has now become obvious. It is not to protect UK armed forces from prosecution, but to shield the government from liability,’ said Mark Lattimer, Ceasefire’s Director. ‘It should be renamed the MoD protection bill.’

The new data form a more comprehensive account than the one given to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights on 5 October by Damian Parmenter, Director of Defence and Security Industrial Strategy at the MoD, and follow a review of the historic prosecutions before the establishment of the Service Prosecuting Authority in 2009. Ceasefire wrote last week to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to provide her with the latest figures.

This information comes as the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has announced the closure of her preliminary examination of the UK’s record in Iraq. The Prosecutor found that there was a reasonable basis to believe that UK servicemen committed war crimes including wilful killing/murder, torture and inhuman/cruel treatment, but declined to pursue a full investigation because it was not shown that the UK had acted to shield perpetrators from justice.

Notes for editors:

  1. The updated MoD response to Ceasefire’s FOI request is available here.
  2. Ceasefire’s briefing on the Overseas Operations Bill is available here. Ceasefire argues that the bill will not only limit accountability for abuses by UK armed forces but will also remove avenues for redress for civilian victims, violating the UK’s legal obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
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UK Overseas Operations Bill violates civilian rights

September 2020

Draft legislation in the UK will restrict the rights of civilian war victims to claim compensation for the harm they have suffered, further marginalising some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

The Overseas Operations Bill, which will be debated in Parliament on September 23rd, not only creates a de facto statute of limitations for crimes committed by the UK’s armed forces overseas, including for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but it also creates an absolute statute of limitations or ‘longstop’ of six years for civil claims and claims under the Human Rights Act brought against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

For years, successive UK Defence Secretaries have sought to introduce legislation which they claim will prevent ‘vexatious claims’ against the MoD, and limit the application of the European Convention on Human Rights to UK military operations overseas. Defence ministers have repeatedly stated that the law of armed conflict- not human rights law- is the appropriate and applicable law to military operations. Yet in the Government’s attempt to put IHL at the fore, they have introduced a Bill which would violate some of the fundamental principles of IHL.

The prohibitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, and genocide have long been considered peremptory norms of international law. The special status of these jus cogens norms means that statutes of limitations for prosecution cannot be applied to them- as confirmed in the Rome Statute, and the right to remedy for victims of these norms cannot be restricted.

In fact, there has been a growing recognition of the individual right to reparation for civilian harm over the past two decades. The USA’s Department of Defense, for example, is currently developing a comprehensive policy addressing civilian casualties resulting from US military operations. Yet despite claiming to be a global leader in the respect of human rights and humanitarian law, it appears the UK is going backwards.

The Overseas Operations Bill discriminates against civilians who have been subjected to rights violations overseas, who will be left with no avenue to claim reparation for the harm they have suffered after six years. There are many reasons why civilians in countries where the UK has recently conducted military operations- like Iraq and Afghanistan- may not be able to make a claim within six years. In Afghanistan, for example, the country remains in a state of armed conflict up to this day, with fraught peace negotiations ongoing. The plight of many civilians who have been subjected to decades of warfare, is compounded by practical issues such as language barriers and lack of awareness of the UK’s legal systems.

Legislation which would introduce a de facto statute of limitations for war crimes and restrict the right of civilians to reparation for violations of IHL, goes against the values at the core of IHL, as well as who the UK claims to be as a country. Rather than causing further harm to civilians overseas, the UK should introduce a policy on reparations for civilian harm, which would allow civilians to access their rights, and prevent the UK from violating international law.

For more information on the Overseas Operations Bill and how it violates the UK’s legal obligations, see CEASEFIRE’s briefing.

See also CEASEFIRE’s submission to the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, which highlights the impact of the civil litigation longstop on the right to reparation for victims of IHL violations.

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Warring Parties Undermine Students’ Future in Yemen – new report

August 2020

Warring parties carried out more than 380 attacks impacting schools and educational facilities in Yemen between March 2015 and December 2019, Mwatana for Human Rights and Ceasefire Center for Civilian Rights said in a new report published today. Attacks and other abuses completely or partially destroyed dozens of schools, disrupted the educational process, and contributed to undermining students’ future in Yemen.

The report, “Undermining the Future: Attacks on Yemen’s Schools,” includes attacks on and abuses against and impacting schools that occurred between March 2015 and December 2019. The documented incidents can be grouped into three main patterns: airstrikes impacting schools and educational facilities (153 incidents), attacks impacting schools during ground attacks (36 incidents) and military use and occupation of schools (171 incidents). In addition to these three primary patterns, Mwatana documented 20 other incidents of abuse impacting schools, such as laying landmines near schools and looting.

Of the documented incidents in the report, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group bears responsibility for 22 ground attacks, 131 incidents of military occupation and use of schools, and 18 other incidents of abuse or attacks, such as laying mines around schools. The Saudi/UAE-led coalition is responsible for all 153 documented airstrikes, while armed forces and groups of the internationally recognized Yemeni government bear responsibility for 8 ground attacks and 30 incidents of military occupation and use of schools. UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council forces are also responsible for 8 incidents of military occupation and use of schools. Ansar al-Sharia bears responsibility for one of the documented incidents.

The report includes a series of recommendations to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, other coalition member states, the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council, most notably calling on these warring parties to fully adhere to the principles and provisions of international humanitarian law to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects, including schools. The report also recommends that Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and others immediately stop selling or transferring weapons to warring parties in Yemen. The report also recommends that the UN Human Rights Council renew and strengthen the mandate of the UN Group of Eminent Experts, with a view to laying a better groundwork for accountability and redress. The report also recommends the Saudi/UAE-led coalition be re-added to the UN Secretary-General’s annual “List of Shame” for abuses against children during armed conflict.

Download the reports:

Undermining The Future Arabic PDF
Undermining The Future English PDF

 

Note for editors:

The report, “Undermining the Future: Attacks on Yemen’s Schools,” is published by Mwatana for Human Rights and the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights on 18 August 2020. It is based on investigative field research conducted by the Mwatana team in 19 Yemeni governorates, including more than 600 interviews with witnesses, victims’ families, parents, and education workers.

For further information or to arrange interviews, e-mail: contact@ceasefire.org

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UK overseas operations bill: ‘Suppress the violations, not those who expose them’

March 2020

Described by defence ministers as an attack on ‘lawfare’, the UK government today introduced a new bill creating limits on accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights committed by UK armed forces overseas. CEASEFIRE believes the proposals undermine the UK’s international obligations to suppress war crimes and the crime of torture.

‘Defence ministers have set up the straw man of the “vexatious lawyer” to justify limiting accountability for war crimes,’ said Mark Lattimer, CEASEFIRE’s director. ‘But the records of UK public inquiries, court judgments and civil settlements all demonstrate that the cases of abuse are real and serious. The Ministry of Defence should be supporting the armed services to stop violations, not going after those working to expose them.’

To understand the UK’s record in Iraq, read CEASEFIRE’s briefing ‘Seven myths about UK military abuses against civilians in Iraq.

The new bill:

  • creates a statutory presumption against prosecution of current or former service personnel for alleged offences committed more than five years ago while deployed abroad;
  • requires courts to take into account the ‘operational context’ when extending normal time limits for civil claims for personal injury and/or death in connection with military operations overseas;
  • imposes an absolute limit or ‘longstop’ of six years on bringing claims for personal injury and/or death in connection with military operations overseas;
  • requires governments to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to future overseas operations.

Under the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention against Torture and under human rights law the UK is obliged to investigate violations of the laws of war and cases of torture and to suppress them. By legislating to limit accountability for such violations – potentially contributing both to impunity and to a lack of redress – the UK will likely be in breach of its obligations under international law.

Certain sexual offences are excluded from the provisions in the bill limiting criminal prosecutions, but not other serious offences – including murder and torture. The measures may also create incentives to prolong or obstruct investigations in order to benefit from the new time limits.

‘Most of the cases of proven and alleged violations in Iraq were perpetrated against civilians – the very people UK armed forces were mandated to protect,’ added Mr Lattimer. ‘Introducing incentives not to undertake genuine investigations into cases of abuse will obstruct justice for civilian victims, both now and in the future.’

Notes for editors: The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill was published on 18 March 2020 and is available here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0117/20117.pdf

For further information or for comment, please contact e-mail: contact@ceasefire.org or call Tel: 07970 651342.

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Two years after ‘liberation,’ civilians in Mosul denied justice, reparations – new report

January 2020

Over two years since the recapture of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Iraqi civilians have been largely denied the right to reparations they are owed by parties to the conflict, according to a new report by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International.

Read the report here: Mosul after the Battle: Reparations for civilian harm and the future of Ninewa

35,000 claims from victims of the war against ISIS in Mosul — including thousands who lost their homes or relatives as a result of bombardment by the US-led coalition – have now been lodged with the Iraqi government. Mosul served as the capital of the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate for some three years. The intensity and length of the military campaign to defeat ISIS left much of the city reduced to rubble and caused between 9,000 to 11,000 civilian casualties. Airstrikes carried out by the international coalition were responsible for the second highest number of civilian deaths.

‘The Iraqi government is now being asked to pay compensation to the victims of international coalition bombing, while the coalition itself washes its hands,’ says Mark Lattimer, Director of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights. ‘The US, the UK and other members of the coalition should meet their responsibilities towards victims or risk creating a legacy of anger and resentment in Mosul.’

While all parties to the conflict are required under international law to pay reparations for violations against civilians, so far this responsibility has been assumed almost exclusively by the Government of Iraq. Iraq’s Law 20 on ‘Compensating the Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions’ provides civilians with an avenue to access desperately-needed monetary compensation for personal or property damage suffered as a result of the fighting in Mosul and elsewhere. 35,000 applications from residents of Mosul and the wider governorate of Ninewa who suffered under the ISIS occupation or the military campaign to retake the city have been processed from mid-2017 until November 2019. 5,850 of the claims relate to martyrdom (deaths), and 2,700 relate to physical injuries leading to disability. Some 24,000 claims for property damage have also been sent to Baghdad for approval. The total sum of compensation awarded is expected to exceed US $ 100 million.

However, pay-outs are slow in coming and the procedure to file a claim under Law 20 is cumbersome, lengthy, and marred by allegations of corruption, leaving many civilians frustrated and hopeless, the report finds. Moreover, the mechanism fails to acknowledge the full responsibility of the US-led coalition to provide reparations to civilians in cases of wrongful conduct by coalition members.

The law also falls short of recognizing the systematic and targeted nature of the crimes perpetrated against Iraqi minority communities. For example, it is completely silent on sexual violence and child conscription, which were both used as part of ISIS’ genocidal campaign against the Yazidi minority. An estimated 3,000 Yazidis remain missing up to this day.

‘Reparations are about more than just giving civilians a means to rebuild their homes or access medical treatment – they are about acknowledging harm and restoring dignity,’ says Miriam Puttick, Civilian Rights Officer at Minority Rights Group International. ‘This is particularly important for members of minorities, whose very sense of identity and belonging were attacked in the recent conflict.’

The report recommends strengthening the mechanism to ‘Compensate Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions’ under Law 20, through easier evidentiary conditions for compensation. New legislation recognising war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity should also be drawn up under Iraqi criminal law.

The report also recommends the creation of a comprehensive reparations programme or fund addressing the harm inflicted by international coalition action within the anti-ISIS campaign.

‘Mosul was the epicentre of the battle against ISIS and will set the standard for transitional justice in Iraq’ says Lattimer. ‘How Iraqi authorities and the US-led coalition handle reparations in Mosul is a test case for Iraq’s future.’

Note for editors:

Mosul after the Battle is published by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International on 22 January 2020. This report was written on the basis of in-depth interviews conducted in Iraq between November and December 2019. For a wider analysis of reparations in Iraq, please see our report Reparations for the Victims of Conflict in Iraq (2017), available at: https://www.ceasefire.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Reparations-in-Iraq-Ceasefire-November-2017.pdf

For the Arabic version of this report, please click here.

اضغط هنا للحصول على النسخة العربية من هذا التقرير

For further information or interviews e-mail: contact@ceasefire.org

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Call for expert researchers on Iran and Iraq

Calls for experts to research and write reports on human rights-related issues in Iran and Iraq

The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International are seeking two experts to research and write separate reports on human rights in Iran and Iraq.

The Iraq expert will research and write a report on reparations and the future of Mosul, considering the legacy of violations committed in recent years and the implementation of reparations, focusing on the consequences for human rights in Iraq.

The Iran expert will research and write a report on human rights violations in Iran related to measures taken for the purpose of national security and/or the prevention of terrorism, including the impact of these violations on Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities.

Both reports will be approximately 12,000 words long, written in English and are to be completed by no later than 19 August 2019. Remuneration for each report will be US $4000.

Applicants should submit a CV, a brief cover letter and a suggested chapter outline by no later than 10am on 27 May to contact@ceasefire.org

Please refer to the terms of reference below for more details.

TOR: A report on security-related human rights violations in Iran

TOR: A report on reparations and the future of Mosul

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Study finds displacement, economic hardship drive domestic abuse among Syrian refugees in Iraq   

March 2019

PDF: Combating Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Refugee Crises: Lessons from working with Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq: ENGLISH, ARABIC, KURDISH

A two-year programme on sexual and gender-based violence among Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq found that displacement and economic hardship have led to an increase in physical and emotional abuse, with one focus group of women reporting that as many as half of husbands yelled at and hit their wives.

The programme, a joint project run by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Asuda, an Iraqi women’s rights group, surveyed Syrian refugees in the governorates of Erbil, Dohuk and Suleymania in Iraqi Kurdistan. The lessons learned from this study are highlighted in Ceasefire’s report: “Combating sexual and gender-based violence in refugee crises: Lessons from working in with Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq”.  

‘This report clearly highlights the psychological impact forceable displacement, exile and economic hardship has on vulnerable refugee populations,’ said Ceasefire’s Head of Middle East/North Africa Programmes, Miriam Puttick. ‘The most vulnerable sections of the refugee community – women and children – bear the brunt of this trauma.’

Almost half of the participants reported ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ mental health. Both male and female Syrian refugees said stresses related to displacement, especially financial stress and the inability to find work, had led to an increase in physical and emotional violence against women by their husbands, and to women taking out their stress and frustration verbally on their husbands and verbally and physically on their children.

Some women in Suleymania said many men were angry at how the men were treated by the host community — often taken advantage of at work, suffering physical and verbal abuse, being underpaid and forced to work long hours. These abuses were hard to address as Syrian refugees had inadequate access to legal protection.

‘However, the programme also made a strong case for the effectiveness of early and proactive intervention to address this issue, to change perceptions and start open discussions within the refugee community,’ Puttick noted. ‘The engagement of men and boys in this programming is critical – both to engage them as allies in sexual and gender-based violence programming and as potential victims of emotional and physical abuse.’

Key findings and recommendations of the programme include the importance of building trust in target communities, linking anti-SGBV efforts with livelihood and job creation schemes, ensuring services reach all of the affected community, including those living outside of refugee camps, and engaging host communities.

Recommendations for the INGO community engaged with SGBV include engaging the local government and building its capacity to effectively address this issue, and improving cooperation mechanisms between INGOs themselves.

Key project lessons: 

  • Project activities should be designed in a way that facilitates trust-building;
  • Anti-SGBV efforts should be combined with livelihoods assistance and job creation programmes;
  • Men and boys should be included in anti-SGBV programming by engaging them as allies in combating violence, but also by ensuring that services are available to male victims of SGBV;
  • Anti-SGBV programming should be extended to non-camp residents in a more sustained and targeted manner;
  • The quality of and access to shelter facilities for survivors of SGBV should be improved;
  • Host communities should be engaged with awareness sessions to reduce SGBV against refugees and create social cohesion between host and refugee communities.

Key lessons for INGOs: 

  • Building the capacity and involvement of the government should be a priority;
  • Cooperation mechanisms between NGOs need to be improved.

 

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ISIS fighters and their families facing justice: Eight options and four principles

Report PDF: Read the report here.

March 2019

Crimes under international law committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), including systematic attacks on civilian populations, have shocked the world. Now that the remaining ISIS-controlled territory in Syria is regained, attention is at last focusing on bringing ISIS leaders and fighters to justice. These include Iraqi and Syrian nationals, as well as the so-called ‘foreign fighters’ – nationals of other states in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as European, North American and other nationals. In particular, a global debate has begun about what to do with foreign fighters and their families, including a significant number of women and children.

This Ceasefire briefing considers eight accountability options potentially facing ISIS fighters and their families. It assesses the feasibility of each option and its implications, and then highlights four cross-cutting principles that should be taken into account in any decisions on justice mechanisms.

Since at least 2014, the need to hold ISIS accountable for its crimes has been considered a global priority. Which mechanism or mechanisms are now implemented will have major implications for the security of individual states across the world, for the long-term stability of the Middle East and North Africa, and, most pressing of all, for delivering justice to the tens of thousands of ISIS victims.

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