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Human Rights Developments

Human rights conditions in the Kurdish controlled region deteriorated during 1994. Extrajudicial executions reportedly occurred during fighting between the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in December 1993 as well as between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Socialist Party. Both sides are believed to be responsible for killing outside of combat, although the PUK's Washington representative Barham Salih denied this charge in January.

Fighting broke out between the PUK and the KDP in May and spread quickly throughout the region. In KDP heartlands, PUK offices were surrounded and their members and soldiers were arrested and disarmed. The PUK took similar actions in their territory. The hostilities resulted in violations of the laws of war, including summarily executing persons held in custody. A fragile cease-fire was declared after a week of fighting which left hundreds of peshmerga_Kurdish rebel fighters_and civilians dead. PUK peshmerga allegedly opened fire on a crowd mourning the death of a KDP commander on June 13 killing twelve people. Several cease-fire agreements were reached and breached shortly thereafter. The head of the Iraqi National Congress Ahmed Chalabi mediated talks between the two Kurdish leaders in June.

The Right to Monitor

The Kurdish regional authorities have generally been open to foreign human rights monitoring. Many Western nongovernmental organizations have conducted missions to Iraqi Kurdistan, although these visits have become more dangerous with the recent attacks on foreigners by Iraqi agents in the region. The politicization of Kurdish life based on the split between the PUK and the KDP hinders some investigation efforts.

Amnesty International investigated alleged abuses during the fighting in December between PUK and the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. It documented abuses committed by both sides with photographic and medical evidence.

U.S. Policy

The United States has been careful to call for limited autonomy in the Kurdish area without promoting independence for the Kurdish region. The maintenance of the Combined Task Force/Operation Provide Comfort has remained central to U.S. policy toward Iraqi Kurdistan. The military mission provides a shield over the areas of Iraq north of the 36th parallel. Aircraft patrolling the region enforcing the "no-fly" zone as well as a small allied liaison force at Zakho depend entirely on the Turkish government for base support and logistics. Turkey has become increasely less cooperative with the U.N. sanctions over both Iraq and its operations with regard to the Kurdish region. It wishes to resume trade with Iraq and is wary of iniatives that grant the Iraqi Kurds autonomy, fearing that it would serve as a potential catalyst for autonomy demands by Turkish Kurds.

In January, the U.S. expressed grave concern over allegations of extrajudicial executions by the PUK in discussions with the PUK's Washington representative.

The Work of

Human Rights Watch/Middle East

Human Rights Watch/Middle East was in correspondence with Kurdish leaders throughout the year expressing concern over human rights abuses during the fighting between factions, especially summary executions of prisoners. The organization emphasized the need to adhere to the laws of war.

In a December 17, 1993 letter to Massoud Barzani, the organization questioned the KDP's involvement in an attack with gunfire on a large crowd of peaceful demonstrators outside the KDP headquarters building in Suleimaniyeh on December 13. A letter was sent on May 17, 1994 to Massoud Barzani, Jalal Talabani, and Abullah Rasoul, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, discussing the fighting. The letter highlighted international legal obligations under international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilian populations from harm during military operations as well as the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Iraq's Crime of Genocide: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds, based on previously published reports by Human Rights Watch/Middle East, will be co-published with Yale University Press in early 1995.

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