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UN Human Rights Council: Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner’s report on the human rights situation in Iraq

Statement delivered under Item 10

Since the fall of Mosul to the extremist group Islamic State, known as ISIL, in June 2014, Human Rights Watch has documented the group’s numerous atrocities in Iraq. ISIL targets Iraq’s minorities, including Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, Shia Shabaks, Shia Turkmen, and Yezidis, whom it labels as crusaders, heretics, and devil-worshipers. Those who do not convert to Islam are subject to execution. Human Rights Watch documented how ISIL has subjected Yezidi women, girls, and men to torture, forced conversion, and forced marriage. ISIL also commits abuses against Sunnis who refuse its extremist version of Islam and Iraq’s Shia population.

ISIL’s gains in Iraq were in large part enabled by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s politics of exclusion, which fed a cycle of sectarian violence through discrimination and other human rights abuses directed at Sunnis. Armed groups and Iraqi security forces continue to commit abuses that fuel ISIL’s ongoing campaign of cruelty. Human Rights Watch has documented mass killings of Sunnis, destruction of countless villages, and widespread displacement committed by Shia militias and the government-backed)Popular Mobilization Committees, often alongside Iraqi security forces.

We commend the conclusions and recommendations of OHCHR’s latest report. The investigative mission appropriately denounced the atrocities committed by ISIL, and noted that their actions may amount to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, while also reporting on serious violations by Iraqi security forces and associated armed groups that may amount to war crimes, including murder, torture, hostage-taking and targeting of civilians. The High Commissioner recommended further investigation into violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict, as well as measures to protect civilians.

Such strong conclusions require an equally strong international response. Instead, the Human Rights Council is considering a regrettably one-sided resolution. The text of the resolution currently under consideration does not call on all sides to take measures to protect civilians. Moreover, the text fails to address the necessity of holding pro-government militias and volunteer fighters accountable for the atrocities they have committed in fighting ISIL, despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s condemnation of such abuses and commitment to a zero-tolerance policy of abuses by any fighters in the conflict.

Such an unbalanced resolution, if adopted, would fail to reflect the report of the High Commissioner, undermining the credibility of the Council, and particularly those member states that are a part of the coalition participating in the conflict in Iraq. Continued OHCHR investigations into international crimes are essential.  And it should be recognized that further abuses undermine efforts to address the threat posed to civilians by ISIL. We urge the Council to strengthen the text of the resolution under consideration to support continued investigation, monitoring and reporting into abuses by all parties to the conflict, and would ask the Deputy High Commissioner what this Council can do to support implementation of the report’s recommendations. 

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