Iraq

The Yazidi Survivors’ Law: A step towards reparations for the ISIS conflict

On 1 March 2021, after nearly two years of deliberations, Iraq’s parliament passed the Yazidi Female Survivors’ Law, a major step forward in addressing the legacy of violations committed by ISIS against members of religious minorities in Iraq. The law (Law No. 8 of 2021) provides a comprehensive programme of reparations to Yazidi, Christian, Shabak, and Turkmen survivors of sexual violence and other ISIS crimes, including both individual and collective measures.

The law comes in the aftermath of more than three years of armed conflict in Iraq, which left thousands dead and millions displaced. While ISIS targeted many of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities during the conflict, the group’s treatment of the Yazidi community was particularly brutal. It is estimated that around 6,800 Yezidis were abducted and around 3,100 killed over a few days in early August 2014. Men and boys were massacred and buried in mass graves while thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery, in a campaign that has been recognized as genocide by numerous international bodies.

Since the end of the conflict, there has been extensive debate about the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of these violations, and a wave of actual prosecutions of mostly junior suspects on terrorist charges. However, the duty to provide reparation to survivors of violations is an equally important part of recovery from the conflict. Reparations are among the most victim-centric of transitional justice measures, and when properly designed, can have a transformative effect on those victimized and the societies in which they live.

While Iraq has significant experience in administering reparations programmes, the Yazidi Survivors’ Law is the only initiative that is specific to the conflict with ISIS and is the first to provide reparations to survivors of sexual violence. In Iraq and many other contexts, acts of sexual violence have long been viewed as a side effect of war and excluded from the harms addressed by post-conflict reparations schemes. By enacting the law, Iraq has become part of a steadily growing field of practice in redressing the harm inflicted on individuals as a result of conflict-related sexual violence.

The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights has been closely involved over recent years in supporting civilians in documentation and advocacy and in providing technical advice to parliamentarians on the new law (together with our partner the International Institute for Law and Human Rights). As we continue working on its implementation, this briefing describes who and what is covered by the law, how it will work, and outlines the gaps that remain as Iraq takes an important step towards delivering reparations to survivors.

Read the report: Yazidi Survivors’ Law Briefing (PDF)

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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.

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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

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Iraq joint statement: Stop the killing of activists

December 2019 update

Civilian activists across cities in central and southern Iraq have been targeted deliberately with live fire, bringing the death toll in the latest protests by early December to over 400, with thousands injured. The killings have been carried out by militia members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and by Iraqi Security Forces, protestors report.

Read the joint appeal issued by CEASEFIRE and 14 other human rights organisations here: Authorities must immediately end the use of lethal force against protestors and stop targeting activists, journalists and the media

Read our October joint letter here: Freedom of speech and assembly under attack in Iraq

‘CEASEFIRE called for effective investigations into a wave of targeted assassinations by alleged PMF members a year ago’, said Executive Director Mark Lattimer. ‘The government’s failure to investigate and prosecute perpetrators means that the militias now feel they can shoot with impunity.’

Read the CEASEFIRE report in English here: Civilian Activists under Threat in Iraq

And in Arabic here نشطاء مدنيون تحت التهديد في العراق

Drawing on thousands of accounts of violations uploaded on CEASEFIRE’s violations reporting platform, the report details a pattern of attacks on civilian activists in 2018 including protestors, journalists and media workers, lawyers, women in public life, and other human rights defenders. In addition to the use of excessive force against protestors on the streets, the report documents a campaign of systematic death threats and premeditated assassinations.

Killings of unarmed protestors continue to be reported by official sources in Iraq as being carried out by ‘unknown assailants’. PMF militias aligned with Iran have, however, made little secret of their willingness to use force to end the protests.

Created in 2014 as an umbrella for militias fighting ISIS, the Hashd al-Sha’abi or Popular Mobilization Forces are now believed to number over 100,000 fighters. They include powerful militias supported by Iran such as the Badr Organisation, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. They were given official status by former prime minister Haider al-Abadi and now operate with the authority of the Iraqi state.

ceasefireIraq joint statement: Stop the killing of activists
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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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Meet the civilian activists from Iraq

Film by NiiWorks for Ceasefire /MRG.

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Iraqi activists live in fear as death squad killings rise – new report

December 2018

Report PDF: Civilian Activists under Threat [PDF]

Civilian activists in Iraq are facing arbitrary detention, torture and premeditated assassinations, including at the hands of Shi’a militia members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), reports a new bulletin published today by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International. Hundreds of human rights defenders have been detained and mistreated, and scores have been killed.

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Syrian refugee women and girls facing gender-based violence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region – new report

Syrian refugee women and girls facing gender-based violence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region – new report

May 2018

Seven years after the eruption of the conflict in Syria, refugee women and girls are facing gender-based violence in host countries in the region, says a new report from the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Asuda, a leading NGO combating violence against women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Report: Broken Lives: Violence against Syrian refugee women and girls in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Kurdish version | Arabic version) is based on 92 in-depth interviews conducted by the two organizations with Syrian women and girls.

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Reparations for the victims of conflict in Iraq – new report

As Iraq rebuilds after ISIS conflict, ensuring reparations for the victims of violations committed by all sides should be priority.

November 2017

Report PDF: Reparations for the victims of conflict in Iraq: Lessons learned from comparative practice

As Iraq prepares to rebuild and recover from the conflict with ISIS, ensuring accountability for violations committed and reparations for victims is an immediate priority, says a new report from the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International.

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