Iraq

Eyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict

July 2017

Technological advances have meant that civilians are now enabled to play a greater role than ever before in monitoring and documenting violations, finds a new report Eyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict.

As UN rapporteurs and other official international monitors are effectively denied access to a wide range of insecure territories around the world, civilian monitors have become a complementary, and in some cases the principal, source of information on what is happening on the ground to civilian populations.

SianEyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict
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Ending enforced disappearance: from Baghdad to Belfast

January 2018

Pooling international best practice to support Iraq in ending enforced disappearances was the theme of a combined study and advocacy tour to Belfast and London undertaken by leading Iraqi MPs last month, organized by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights in partnership with the Institute for International Law and Human Rights.

Iraq has faced the recurring problem of enforced disappearances at many times in its recent history, and all Iraq’s communities have been affected. Thousands of people remain missing, even just from the latest phase of the conflict. In 2010 Iraq acceded to the International Convention on Enforced Disappearance but it has yet to enact any implementing legislation.

Following an agreement with the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Parliament, Ceasefire and IILHR have provided technical assistance in reviewing draft legislation in line with international standards.

In December, key members and officials of the Iraqi Human Rights Committee responsible for the bill came to London and Belfast to hold discussions with academics specializing in transitional justice from the School of African and Oriental Studies – University of London, Queen’s University Belfast, MPs and Peers, UK Foreign Office officials, relevant NGOs and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (NI).

Photo caption: MPs from the Iraqi delegation meet in Belfast with Ceasefire and IILHR staff and the lead forensic investigator for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (December 2017)

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Raqqa: Will the lessons from Mosul be learnt in time?

July 2017

As US-led coalition forces in partnership with a non-state armed group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, continue their attempt to take Raqqa from ISIS control, up to 200,000 civilians remain at risk, including some 70,000 inside the city.

In June the chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria warned that the intensification of coalition air strikes had already led to a ‘staggering loss of civilian life’. Syrian human rights groups have recorded some 1,400 civilian deaths in total over the last eight months including those from air strikes, artillery fire, and hundreds killed by ISIS on the ground.

The pattern of killing in Raqqa is tragically beginning to resemble that during the nine-month assault on Mosul in neighbouring Iraq, which ended this month.

A survey of recent practice by Iraqi and international coalition forces published by the Ceasefire Centre at the start of the Mosul campaign warned then that the lives of thousands of civilians were at critical risk.

Report PDF: Civilian protection in the battle for Mosul: critical priorities

Civilian protection in the battle for Mosul: Critical priorities found that recent precedents from military operations to retake Iraqi cities from ISIS control, including Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah and Sinjar, demonstrate a pattern of repeated failures to implement sufficient measures for civilian protection, both in the conduct of hostilities and in planning for the humanitarian consequences. In the event, thousands of civilians were killed in Mosul and, according to the most recent figure from the International Organization for Migration, over one million were displaced.

In particular, the imposition of siege tactics on ISIS-held cities and the intensive bombardment of urban areas by international coalition forces has combined with the ISIS tactic of using ‘human shields’ to result in thousands of civilian casualties and high levels of civilian suffering.

The operation to encircle Raqqa and lay siege to the city threatens to concentrate the battle in neighbourhoods that remain heavily populated with civilians.

All parties to the conflict should adhere at all times to their obligations under international humanitarian law, including ensuring respect for the fundamental principle of distinction, prohibiting indiscriminate attacks, and taking all feasible precautions to avoid, or in any event minimise, civilian death or injury or damage to civilian objects.

SianRaqqa: Will the lessons from Mosul be learnt in time?
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Thousands of civilians now at risk in Mosul assault – new report

October 2016

The lives of thousands of civilians are at critical risk in the assault on Mosul, a new survey of recent practice by Iraqi and international coalition forces finds.

Civilian protection in the battle for Mosul: Critical priorities finds that recent precedents from military operations to retake Iraqi cities from ISIS control, including Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah and Sinjar, demonstrate a pattern of repeated failures to implement sufficient measures for civilian protection, both in the conduct of hostilities and in planning for the humanitarian consequences. Unless those failures are addressed, thousands of civilians are at risk of being killed in Mosul.

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Civilian deaths in the anti-ISIS bombing campaigns 2014 – 2015

November 2015

Over 4,000 civilians have been killed in the anti-ISIS bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria during 2014 – 2015, according to available monitoring information based on credible local sources. The majority of these deaths, over 2,800, resulted from often indiscriminate bombardment by the Iraqi Security Forces. Hundreds of other civilians have been killed in anti-ISIS airstrikes carried out by members of the US-led international coalition, by the Syrian Air Force, and more recently by Russian forces, among others.

Civilian populations in Fallujah and other cities in western and northern Iraq, and in Raqqa, Aleppo and other areas of eastern and northern Syria, have been subjected to an unremitting and often indiscriminate bombardment, including the use of barrel bombs, that has left residential areas destroyed and caused extensive damage to schools, hospitals and mosques.

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Ceasefire sounds the alarm at the United Nations on Iraq’s displacement crisis

As the assault on Fallujah was causing tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights joined partners at the UN Human Rights Council on 20 June to sound the alarm about Iraq’s displacement crisis.

At a packed side event in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, delegates were addressed by Dr Chaloka Beyani, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Ms Kate Gilmore, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and representatives of Iraqi civil society. The event was chaired by Ceasefire’s Mark Lattimer, who emphasized that the opportunities offered by the re-taking of ISIS territory were being lost as local communities and IDPs faced continuing insecurity, including targeting by militia forces.

The number of IDPs in Iraq now exceeded 3.4 million, but the humanitarian response plan was only one quarter funded, he added.

The event coincided with the publication of a new report, Iraq’s Displacement Crisis: security and protection. The report finds that intimidation and harassment of IDPs based on their origin are common and increasing in areas of displacement. With the UN lacking funding and the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government under both military and economic strain, the protection of human rights and provision of humanitarian assistance have been gravely compromised, says the report, which is based on extensive interviews with IDPs carried out in Baghdad, central and northern Iraq over the last six months.

The event was jointly organised by Ceasefire in partnership with MRG, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

In an incisive intervention, the UN Special Rapporteur Dr Beyani raised concerns about the limits on freedom of movement for IDPs, heightening the insecurity they faced.

“Monitoring and documentation are essential tasks for addressing the violations … People then cannot say they did not know”

– Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

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No Way Home: Iraq’s minorities on the verge of disappearance

May 2016

No Way Home: Iraq’s minorities on the verge of disappearance seeks to document the situation of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities most affected by the violence that escalated after the fall of Mosul in June 2014. It is published by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, jointly with Minority Rights Group International, the International Institute for Law and Human Rights, No Peace Without Justice and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

Since June 2014, many thousands of persons belonging to minorities have been murdered, maimed or abducted, including unknown numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement. ISIS forces and commanders have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide, including summary executions, killing, mutilation, rape, sexual violence, torture, cruel treatment, the use and recruitment of children, outrages on personal dignity, and the use of chemical weapons.

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Iraq’s Displacement Crisis: Security and protection

March 2016

Since the present displacement crisis began in January 2014 with the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), the humanitarian emergency in Iraq has become more severe. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq now stands at 3.2 million, while more than 8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. With the UN lacking funding and the Government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) under both military and economic strain, the protection of human rights and provision of humanitarian assistance have been gravely compromised.

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The Lost Women of Iraq: Family-based violence during armed conflict

Women have paid a heavy price for the breakdown of law and order in Iraq. Decades of conflict, the revival of tribal customs, the eruption of sectarianism and the strengthening of patriarchal religious attitudes have meant that Iraq has seen an increase in forms of family-based violence that are otherwise generally on the decline in the Middle East. Violence inside the home has increased along with violence in the street.

SianThe Lost Women of Iraq: Family-based violence during armed conflict
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No Place to Turn: Violence against women in the Iraq conflict

The armed conflict in Iraq has led to the violent deaths of approximately 14,000 women since 2003. Whether driven by political, ‘moral’ or sectarian motives, attacks on women have become a tactic of war used by parties on both sides of the conflict.

In addition to the women killed in bombings, shelling and air attacks on civilian areas in Iraq, women have been deliberately targeted for assassination by both pro-and anti-government militias across the country.  Shi’a and Sunni militias have also perpetrated mass extra-judicial executions of women for perceived transgression of moral codes.

SianNo Place to Turn: Violence against women in the Iraq conflict
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