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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French authorities arrest Roger Lumbala, former militia leader, for crimes against humanity in DR Congo

January 2021

Congolese MP Roger Lumbala has been arrested in France and is under investigation for complicity in crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003.

The charges relate to his responsibility for a military campaign in Ituri province named Effacer le tableau (‘Erasing the Board’) in which thousands of civilians were tortured and/or killed, including members of the indigenous Bambuti population. Violations including murder, forcible population transfer, torture, rape and persecution were documented by an investigative mission in 2004 conducted by Congolese civilian activists coordinated by Minority Rights Group International, Ceasefire’s partner NGO.

The French prosecutor announced on Monday 4 January that Lumbala had been arrested last Tuesday, but charges against him were only confirmed this weekend.

A UN-commissioned ‘Mapping Report’ published in 2010 detailed 617 incidents under the heading of war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law committed in the DRC wars from 1993 – 2003. The charges confirmed against Roger Lumbala mark the first time that any prosecution has been mounted for those crimes since the report’s publication.

‘Lumbala’s arrest is a significant step forward for international justice and a blow against impunity in the DRC’, said Joshua Castellino, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International. ‘The indigenous Bambuti population was targeted in a campaign of extermination for which no-one has yet been held responsible. Crimes of that gravity demand justice.’

Effacer le tableau was a planned, systematic campaign of attack against the civilian population of the DRC’s Ituri province, carried out by two armed opposition groups, the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC) and the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie – National (RCD-N), the latter under the control of Roger Lumbala. From October 2002 until January 2003, the combined militia forces occupied territory in the areas of Epulu, Mambasa, Teturi, Byakato and Erengeti, carrying out a series of atrocities against the Bambuti and other local populations and forcing the displacement of over 100,000. After the signing of Congolese peace accords in 2003, the RCD-N forces were integrated into the Congolese army. Accused of supporting further rebel movements, Lumbala only returned to the DRC from exile in 2017 after another peace accord and was elected a parliamentary deputy.

‘Civilian victims have had to wait over 10 years since the UN Mapping Report catalogued atrocities in the DRC for this first prosecution,’ said Miriam Puttick, Head of Programmes at Ceasefire. ‘For the cause of justice and reconciliation it is vital that other prosecutions now follow.’

A group of over 180 mainly Congolese NGOs, led by Nobel laureate Denis Mukwege, have called for the identities of suspected perpetrators of the crimes in the Mapping Report to be disclosed in order to kickstart the stalled justice process.

Following the landmark Pinochet case 20 years ago, international criminal prosecutions under the principle of universal jurisdiction have gained ground. The trial of Anwar Raslan, a former colonel in Syria’s feared General Intelligence Directorate, is currently taking place in Koblenz in Germany. Other Syrian cases are expected to follow.

Notes for editors

  1. Erasing the Board: Report of the international research mission into crimes under international law committed against the Bambuti Pygmies in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is available in English and French here: https://searchlibrary.ohchr.org/record/3176?ln=en
  2. The UN ‘Mapping Report’, Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003, is available here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/CD/DRC_MAPPING_REPORT_FINAL_EN.pdf
  • Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. It works with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights is an international initiative to develop civilian-led monitoring of violations of international humanitarian law or human rights in armed conflict, to pursue legal and political accountability for those responsible for such violations, and to develop the practice of civilian rights. www.ceasefire.org

For more information or to arrange interviews email press@mrgmail.org or contact@ceasefire.org

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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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Turkey orchestrating destruction, demographic change in northern Syria – new report

July 2020

Turkey’s occupation of Afrin in northwestern Syria is causing permanent changes to the demographic character of the area, according to a new report by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA e.V. – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy.

The report, entitled Cultivating Chaos: Afrin after Operation Olive Branch, is based on more than 120 interviews conducted with individuals from Afrin since the area fell under Turkish control over two years ago, documenting violations including killings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, pillage, and attacks on livelihoods.

Turkey’s military advance into the area, code-named Operation Olive Branch, culminated in the capture of Afrin city on 18 March 2018 and caused the mass displacement of its Kurdish-majority population.

The invasion was spearheaded by Turkish armed forces, bolstered by tens of thousands of Arab and Turkmen fighters organized under the umbrella of the Syrian National Army (SNA). Despite their name, the factions take direct orders from Turkey, which also trains them and pays their salaries, according to the report.

Since the invasion, Turkey has handed direct control of Afrin’s districts and villages to the factions. The consequences for the local population have been disastrous.

‘Civilians who remain in occupied Afrin live in constant fear of the factions,’ says Miriam Puttick, Head of Middle East and North Africa Programmes at Ceasefire. ‘They know that they can be accused of collaboration with Kurdish parties, detained, tortured, or even killed at any time.’

The presence of the factions is continuing to drive displacement and acts as a barrier to the return of Afrin’s Kurdish-majority population, the report finds. Meanwhile, thousands of families from other parts of Syria have been resettled into empty houses belonging to local residents.

These processes, far from being a secondary effect of the military operation, appear to have been one of its central goals, the report argues.

‘The existence of the Kurds in Afrin is in serious danger,’ says Jian Badrakhan, Legal Consultant at YASA. ‘From over 95% at the Turkish occupation, they are estimated to be under 40% now.’

Turkish authorities appear to be permanently cementing these changes through the introduction of a new identification card system that obscures civil registry data pertaining to family origins, making it impossible to distinguish between local residents, internally displaced persons and refugees. These developments are jeopardizing the possibility of future processes of return and reconciliation in the area.

Alongside these demographic changes, Turkish forces and allied fighters have also carried out widespread attacks on the region’s religious and cultural landscape. These have included numerous instances of damage or destruction of Kurdish cultural and religious symbols, Alevi and Yazidi shrines, and historical and archaeological sites.

‘Under Turkish occupation, Afrin’s history and culture is being erased,’ adds Badrakhan. ‘The very peaceful coexistence of different religious groups in Afrin is almost destroyed.’

Note for editors:

Cultivating Chaos: Afrin after Operation Olive Branch is published by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA e.V. – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy on 28 July 2020. This report was written on the basis of 120 interviews carried out with individuals from Afrin between November 2018 and February 2020, which were documented using the Ceasefire-MENA online reporting tool.

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

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In the name of national security, Iranians pay a heavy price – new report

June 2020

Measures taken in the name of national security and combating terrorism have led to grave and widespread violations of human rights in Iran, according to a new report published jointly by Minority Rights Group International and the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

Read the report here: In the Name of Security: Human Rights Violations under Iran’s National Security Laws (in English) and in Farsi.

In the Name of Security: Human rights violations under Iran’s national security laws details how Iranian authorities have imprisoned, tortured and killed their own citizens in pursuit of a national security imperative that has dominated public life in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Those targeted for the worst treatment include political dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities, dual nationals, and migrants.

‘Iran’s securitised worldview sees all political challenge as an existential threat,’ says Drewery Dyke, the report author. ‘This has led to unfettered and illegal killings during recent state-wide protests over the dire economic situation and botched efforts to deal with Covid19 effectively.’

The report finds that the threat posed by COVID-19 was treated by the Iranian authorities not just as a public health challenge but also as a national security issue, with state media reporting that the virus could be a US-manufactured ‘bioweapon.’ The security services detained thousands of people for challenging the government’s narrative of its handling of the virus, including over social media.

The dominance of the national security narrative in Iran has led to the growth in power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a decisive role in the intimidation and prosecution of those whom it considers a threat. Its anti-riot units, formed by the paramilitary Basij, are the country’s most important units to suppress public protests and riots.

Its conduct has exacerbated poor relations with minority communities in Kurdistan and Baluchistan, as well as with Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks and Turkmen, all located on Iran’s borders. Minority rights activism in Iran is often falsely and deliberately conflated with separatism and terrorism, the report argues.

The report also reveals the IRGC’s shocking role in trafficking and forcibly recruiting large numbers of Afghan and Pakistani migrants to fight on its behalf in the Syria conflict. While the IRGC promised recruits a good income and the possibility of acquiring Iranian citizenship, many Afghans and Pakistanis died in the fighting and never returned to Iran.

‘The Supreme Leader, government and new parliament must work to end this approach to restore dignity to Iran’s varying ethnolinguistic, religious and other communities that are suffering,’ urges Dyke. ‘The Islamic Republic does face real security threats, but for how long can it continue treating its own people as the enemy?’

Note to editors:

For more information or to arrange interviews: contact@ceasefire.org

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Ceasefire partner addresses UN Security Council on South Sudan peace process

Patrick Gruban / CC BY-SA

23 June 2020   

The head of Ceasefire’s partner organisation in South Sudan presented a joint list of priorities for civilian protection to the United Nations Security Council today.  

Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), was invited to address the council remotely from Juba in a session that discussed the peace process in South Sudan by the current French Presidency of the council.  

The list of CEPO and ceasefire’s joint recommendations for civilian protection includes 

  • A proactive approach to early warning that identifies and addresses both the proximate and underlying structural causes of the outbreaks of violence that have blighted South Sudan since the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed in December 2017 
  •  The immediate establishment of the three institutions of transitional justice stipulated in the September 2018 Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, namely the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the Compensation and Reparation Authority.  
  • The continuing engagement and active support of the international community for South Sudan to deal with the direct and indirect effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. This support should explicitly address wider protection needs and not be focused exclusively on humanitarian issues 

Read CEPO and Ceasefire’s priorities for civilian protection in the South Sudanese conflict here.  

Watch Edmund Yakani’s presentation to the United Nations Security Council here.

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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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South Sudan: New unity government but worrying levels of violence

February 2020

Although recent developments in South Sudan including the formation of a government of national unity are positive, violence against civilians remains worryingly high and almost four million displaced have been unable to return to their homes.  

Ceasefire’s submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan focuses on violence related to cattle-raiding, widespread across much of the country, the role of land as a conflict resource and the consequent forced mass displacement of civilians in the context of the community-based violence that have characterised South Sudan’s civil war.  

The report of the UN Commission, issued ahead of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, expresses concern at the escalating toll of local conflicts across South Sudan, noting an almost 200% increase in civilian casualties between 2018 and 2019.  It accuses both government and opposition forces of deliberately starving civilians as a method of warfare in Western Bahr el Ghazal and Unity States.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan reported 152 incidences of violence which caused 531 deaths and 317 injuries between late February and May 2019.  

The commission reported that the some groups of cattle herders, motivated by local communitarian grievances, were mobilised by military and civil authorities, equipped with light and heavy weaponry and operated like organised militia groups in carrying out attacks.

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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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