On August 19, 2009, coordinated truck bombings in Baghdad killed at least 95 civilians and wounded about 600 others.  On August 10, two truck bombings in northern Iraq and a series of bomb attacks in Baghdad left at least 48 civilians dead and about 250 wounded.  These are only the latest in a series of deadly attacks against Iraqi civilians that began in June. The victims of these terrible attacks are ordinary women, children, and men.

We, human rights organizations and activists working in the Middle East and North Africa, join the mourning of their loved ones and express our grave concern about these continuing attacks in Iraq and  elsewhere in the region that target or indiscriminately harm civilians.

We call on all parties to take steps to put a decisive end to these murderous practices.

We oppose such attacks without regard to whether the perpetrators are states or non-state armed groups, without regard to the ethnic, religious, or national identity of the victims, and without regard to the political goals of the attackers. We call on civil society leaders and activists in each and every country and community to speak out forcefully against all attacks of this nature.

Over the past several years, hardly a single country in the region has been immune to attacks that deliberately targeted civilians - we have seen them in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

All parties should condemn such attacks against civilians without reservation.  There should be no exceptions - whether the victim is Shi`a or Sunni, Christian or Jew, Palestinian or Israeli. In the same way, there should be no exceptions because of the cause for which the perpetrators fight and kill - combating insurgency or struggling for national liberation. It makes no difference either if the perpetrator is the "underdog." And there should be no attacks targeting civilians as reprisal for similar behavior by an adversary.

The requirement to distinguish between civilians and combatants during armed conflict is a moral imperative in every culture, no less in Arab and Islamic cultures.

The core international humanitarian law principle of distinction -the obligation of any party to an armed conflict to distinguish at all times between military objectives, which may be attacked, and civilians, who may never be attacked so long as they are not directly participating in hostilities - is codified in the Geneva Conventions and other treaties, is recognized in customary international humanitarian law and international judicial decisions, and is otherwise endorsed by many countries in their legislation and military manuals.

Ordering or carrying out attacks that target or indiscriminately harm civilians during armed conflict are war crimes. During peacetime and war, crimes that target a specific civilian population, when carried out in a widespread or systematic manner, are crimes against humanity.

We therefore call on all parties to conflicts, states and non-state armed groups, to declare an immediate and unconditional halt all attacks that target or indiscriminately harm civilians, whether in reprisal or for any other purpose. And we urge leaders and activists in every country to insist that these attacks come to an end, and to hold accountable those responsible.

  • Adala Association, Morocco;
  • Algerian League for Human Rights; Algeria
  • Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship (AFDC), Jordan;
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Egypt;
  • Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, Syria;
  • Hewar Foundation for Democratic Development, Yemen;
  • Human Rights First Society (HRFS), Saudi Arabia;
  • Human Rights Watch, USA;
  • Mada Center, Morocco;
  • National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, Syria;
  • Palestinian Center for Human Rights
  • Observatory of Human and Environmental Development, Jordan;
  • Tunisian League for Human Rights; Tunisia.