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The overall human rights situation in Iraq remained gravely concerning between January and June 2016. The government of Iraq continued to make military progress against Daesh with the support of the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh. While the overall number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) remained at 3.3 million, the humanitarian situation deteriorated, particularly in Anbar.
Media reports suggest that, in the areas it controls, Daesh continues to impose severe punishments for alleged infractions of their rules, including abductions and public executions. There have been reports of increased restrictions on the use of mobile phones, internet and television, particularly in Mosul. Daesh allegedly continued to execute journalists. In Mosul, Daesh are reportedly preventing residents from leaving to obtain medical care unless they provide guarantors for their return. When they have not returned guarantors have allegedly been beheaded.
Dozens of allegedly homosexual men have reportedly been thrown to their death from multi-storey buildings. Many faced public execution following “court” rulings that they have broken Islamic law. Women continue to be sold as slaves and forced to marry. Amnesty International reported that, in March, at least 9 Shia women from the Turkmen community were killed for refusing to marry Daesh fighters after Daesh forces killed their husbands. In June unconfirmed media reports emerged that Daesh had allegedly burned 19 Yezidi women alive in Mosul.
Civilians in Daesh-controlled Fallujah continued to be subjected to severe human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch and others have reported that Daesh forced civilians into the centre of Fallujah and occupied hospitals and civilian buildings in order to use civilians as human shields, protecting their fighters and acting as a deterrent to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There are also reports that Daesh executed civilians who attempted to flee the city.
Levels of terrorist violence and numbers of civilian casualties in Iraq have remained high since January. According to the UN more than 1,570 people were killed in Baghdad between January and June. The UN reported that at least 2,735 civilians and 2,173 members of the ISF have been killed since January. This does not include accurate figures for Anbar province, meaning that the total number is likely to be higher. In June the Institute for Economics and Peace released the 2016 Global Peace Index. The report, which measures the state of peace in 163 countries, ranked Iraq 161.
As areas have been liberated from Daesh, and more civilians flee the fighting, reports of sectarian atrocities and human rights abuses and violations have increased. In January the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq published a report that highlighted allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the ISF and associated forces, including militia and tribal forces, Kurdish Security Forces (KSF) and Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).Human Rights Watch issued a report alleging that Shia militias had committed extrajudicial killings and destroyed houses and business, which may constitute war crimes.
The situation for civilians in Fallujah was particularly concerning and media reports alleged that men and boys fleeing the city have been detained in overcrowded conditions, without sufficient food and water, and some may have been tortured. There are also concerns that supposed safe routes out of the city are not in fact safe; they are still contaminated by improvised explosive devices.
Amnesty International’s report released on 20 January highlighted concerns for IDPs trying to return to their homes. The report alleges that the KSF are preventing the return of certain communities in an effort to control disputed territory. It alleges that they are restricting the movement of Sunni Arabs and destroying houses and business to prevent returns.
On 30 June UNICEF (the UN Children’s Emergency Fund) released a report highlighting the grave situation faced by children in Iraq as a result of the current conflict. Their report alleges that 3.6 million children in Iraq are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups. Almost one in five schools is reportedly out of use due to conflict and millions of Iraqi children of school age are missing out on education.
Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and reports suggest press freedom is increasingly restricted. In a recent report Iraq ranked 158 out 180 on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index (down 2 places from 2015). Since March the Communication and Media Commission (CMC) has reportedly shut down the Baghdad office of Al Jazeera, closed the local TV channel Al-Baghdadia, and stopped broadcasts of the satirical Albasheer Show.
Iraq retains the death penalty and continues to carry out executions and issue death sentences. On 20 June, Justice Minister Haider al Zamili announced that the Ministry of Justice had carried out 12 executions in the last month. Although these numbers have yet to be confirmed, this appears to be in addition to 24 other executions reportedly carried out since January. In February a court in Baghdad convicted 40 defendants under anti-terrorism legislation in relation to the Camp Speicher massacre and sentenced them to death. In June a court in Erbil sentenced seven alleged members of Daesh to death for their role in a car bomb attack in April 2015 and seven more people for their role in attacks on government offices in November 2014.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has committed to investigating all reports of abuses and violations and ensuring those responsible are held to account. He has also stated that the protection of civilians and meeting the needs of the displaced population is a priority. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has stated that respect for human rights is fundamental to Peshmerga operations and they have undertaken to investigate all allegations of violations by the KSF.
On 7 June, the HCHR highlighted concerns for those fleeing Fallujah. He urged the government of Iraq to take immediate measures to ensure that civilians are treated in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. Our Ambassador in Baghdad and the Consul General in Erbil have been clear that protecting civilians must be a priority for all Iraqi forces. They urged Iraqi authorities to investigate all credible allegations thoroughly, and to hold those responsible to account.
The UK continues to support stabilisation efforts in Iraq in order to create the conditions to promote the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees and IDPs, particularly in areas freed from Daesh. Since January we have agreed an additional £3.5m for the UN Development Programme. This is to support immediate stabilisation needs in towns such as Al Dour and Mkeishifa in Salah ad Din, where most of the population have returned and are now benefitting from renovated infrastructure. It also supports stabilisation needs in Rabia in Ninewah, to which more than 90% of the population have returned and now benefit from improved electricity and rehabilitated agriculture. In April the UK announced an additional £2m in funding for the UN Mine Action Service for assessment and emergency Improvised Explosive Devises (IED) clearance activity in Ramadi and other areas freed from Daesh.
On 20 April, Baroness Anelay, FCO Minister for Human Rights and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, launched the Kurdish translation of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict at an event at the House of Lords with the Iraqi Ambassador and KRG High Representative. During the event Baroness Anelay stressed the importance of documenting crimes consistently, in a victim sensitive way. The British Consul General in Erbil hosted a similar event in cooperation with the KRG.