Human Rights and Democracy Report 2014: Iraq - in-year update December 2015

Published 21 April 2016

The overall human rights situation in Iraq remained of grave concern between July and December 2015. The government of Iraq (GoI), with the support of the Global Coalition to counter Daesh, has made military progress against Daesh, but the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, with the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) rising to over 3.3 million.

Daesh and associated armed groups continued to commit atrocities. These included abduction and murder; punishments of stoning and amputations; systematic persecution of communities because of their religion or ethnicity; sexual violence and sexual slavery; forcible recruitment and use of children in conflict; and attacks on religious sites. As areas have been liberated from Daesh, mass graves have been discovered, highlighting the appalling numbers of civilians Daesh have executed. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq recently published a report that highlighted the systematic abuses perpetrated by Daesh. They reiterated their view that these acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.

Violence against women and girls remains common in Daesh-held areas. Reports estimate that over 1,500 women remain captives of Daesh – traded and sold by Daesh fighters as sex slaves. There are also reports of women being stoned to death, often on charges of adultery as a result of coming into contact with men to whom they are not related. Daesh has worked to remove women and girls from public life, taken away their independence, and placed them entirely under the control of men.

Levels of terrorist violence and numbers of civilian casualties in Iraq have remained high since July. According to the UN more than 1,794 people were killed in Baghdad between July and December. The UN reported that at least 3,520 civilians and 2,436 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have been killed since July. This does not include accurate figures for Anbar province, meaning that the total number is likely to be higher.

Reports of sectarian atrocities and human rights abuses and violations have increased as areas have been liberated from Daesh. These include allegations of abuses and violations committed by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Kurdish Security Forces (KSF), Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and militias. Human Rights Watch has alleged that the ISF and militias have committed possible war crimes in their fight against Daesh, particularly in areas liberated from Daesh, such as Tikrit.

The GoI did not carry out any executions between July and December, although they retain the death penalty, and death sentences were handed down during this period. President Fuad Masum continued to review all death penalty warrants to ensure that all sentences had been passed by legitimate trials and without the use of forced confessions. An unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty had been in place in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) since 2008. However, on 12 August, one man and two women were executed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for the abduction and murder of two schoolgirls. Media reports suggest that there are currently over 205 people on death row in the KRI.

On 29 October, rockets were fired at Camp Liberty, a temporary transit location for members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, killing 24 residents and injuring others. FCO Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, condemned the incident and called on the GOI to bring those responsible to justice. Officials at the British Embassy in Baghdad raised this issue with the Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister to make clear the need for an urgent and comprehensive investigation into the incident. On 11 November, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York underlined our concerns in the Security Council and to the Iraqi Permanent Representative. The GOI has begun an investigation, which we are following. We continued work with the UN High Commission for Refugees which is assessing applications made by residents for relocation.

On 29 September, Department for International Development Minister, Desmond Swayne, announced that the UK would provide an additional £20m in UK aid funding to support the humanitarian response in Iraq. This brings the UK’s contribution to £79.5m. The funding will provide medical care, clean water and improved sanitation, shelter, cash support and other essentials to displaced Iraqis.

In October, the FCO hosted the Iraqi Minister of Justice, Haider al Zamali, and the Deputy Head of the Shura Council in London for a three-day fact-finding visit. As part of this, a Prisoner Transfer Agreement between the UK and Iraq was signed. The Minister also visited Belmarsh prison to find out how the UK had modernised an existing prison, talked to the Judicial Training College about possible collaboration, and discussed with the Crown Prosecution Service how they develop evidenced-based prosecution cases.

In November, FCO Minister for Human Rights and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Baroness Anelay, visited Baghdad and Erbil. Baroness Anelay used the visit to meet Ministers and senior officials to discuss women’s rights, preventing sexual violence in conflict, and justice and accountability issues. She also heard directly from some of the victims of Daesh’s violence and brutality. During her visit the Minister announced the provision of up to £750,000 to help implement Iraq’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and over £65,000 for the Iraqi Al-Amal Association to support their work with young people and gender equality. Baroness Anelay also used this opportunity to launch the Arabic version of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict and encourage its use in Iraq.