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Human Rights Council discusses report on abuses in Iraq committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

MIDDAY

25 March 2015

Adopts Presidential Statement on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women

The Human Rights Council during its noon meeting held an interactive dialogue with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Iraq in light of abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated groups.

Presenting the report, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said that human rights violations suffered by the people of Iraq were shockingly widespread and extremely severe. Information gathered pointed to the crime of genocide against the Yazidi population, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of human rights, particularly against women and girls. Systematic enslavement, selling of women and girls, rape, forced transfer, and other inhuman and degrading treatment were documented. Christians, Turkmen, Shabak, and other Shi’a groups were also targeted. The report also noted violations by Iraqi security forces and associated militias, including torture and indiscriminate attacks against civilians. She urged Iraq to conduct full investigation of all violations, and asked the Council to recommend the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Speaking as the concerned country, Iraq said it would continue its efforts to investigate the gross violations committed by ISIL and support the work of the United Nations team in Iraq. Iraq underlined the importance of ensuring displaced persons’ safe return and of holding perpetrators accountable. The Iraqi forces that were fighting ISIL were defending the honour of Iraqi people and were exercising their right of self-defence. Iraq would not permit a transgression of the rule of law and committed itself to fight ISIL and any terrorist group.

During the discussion, speakers strongly condemned atrocities committed by ISIL, in particular sexual violence against women and children and violence against religious minorities, which amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Speakers expressed concerns about war crimes by other armed groups, and underlined the importance of holding all perpetrators to account, and called on Iraq to ratify Statute of the International Criminal Court. The international community was urged to continue supporting Iraq’s efforts on combatting ISIL.

Speaking in the interactive discussion were European Union, Jordan, Syria, Greece, Chile, Netherlands, Hungary, Australia, Belgium, Iran, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Egypt, China, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Sudan, Lebanon, Croatia, Algeria, Russian Federation, and Switzerland.

Minority Rights Group, AUA Americans Chapter, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Now, Humanitarian Law Project, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and Union of Arab Jurists also took the floor.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council adopted a Presidential Statement on the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

In the Presidential Statement, the Council called upon States to take concrete steps towards promoting and protecting all human rights of women and girls. It reaffirmed that Governments bore the primary responsibility for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and that international cooperation had an essential role to play in assisting developing countries in progressing towards the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The Human Rights Council is having a full day of meetings today. At 2:30 p.m., it will hear the presentation of country reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner on Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Cyprus and Iran, followed by a general debate.

Adoption of Presidential Statement

In a statement by the President of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/28/L.35) on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to take concrete steps towards promoting and protecting all human rights of women and girls; reaffirms that Governments bear the primary responsibility for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and that international cooperation has an essential role to play in assisting developing countries in progressing towards the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; and endorses the pledge made by States in the political declaration on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women adopted at the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women on 9 March 2015, and looks forward to the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment on 26 September 2015.

China, in a general comment, welcomed the adoption of the Presidential Statement and thanked all participants for their constructive cooperation. The Fourth World Conference was an important milestone in the achievement of women’s rights. Over the past 20 years, the international community had made progress on gender balance. China looked forward to the Global Summit for Women to be held later this year.

The Council then adopted the Presidential Statement without a vote.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups (A/HRC/28/18)

Presentation of the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq

FLAVIA PANSIERI, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report on the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate violations and abuses of international human rights law committed by ISIL and associated groups in Iraq, said that human rights violations suffered by the people of Iraq were shockingly widespread and extremely severe. Violence had dominated Iraq for decades but 2014 was the deadliest year for civilians since the bloodshed of 2006 and 2007. It was marked by particularly horrific attacks and a surge of violence by the so-called ISIL group, which had deliberately committed shocking and serious crimes. Information gathered from the report pointed to the crime of genocide; deliberate and widespread attacks directed against civilian populations suggestive of crimes against humanity; war crimes; and other serious violations of human rights, particularly against women and girls. ISIL was clearly intent on shattering the rich ethnic and religious diversity of Iraq, and had perpetrated appalling crimes on Christians, Kaka’es, Kurds, Sabea-Mandeans, Shi’a, Turkmen and Yezidis, for no other reason than their religious beliefs or ethnic origin. Information gathered by the mission suggested perpetration of the crime of genocide against the Yezidi population, with a manifest pattern of killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and forced transfer of children, separation from women and young children, and summary executions. Yezidi women and girls had been taken as spoils of war and transferred to multiple locations to be given as slaves to ISIL fighters. Systematic enslavement, selling of women and girls, rape, forced transfer, and other inhuman and degrading treatment was documented. One escapee had reported the brutal rape of a crying six-year old girl, who was then re-sold to another ISIL fighter. A nine-year old girl kept in the same house was reportedly blindfolded, handcuffed, beaten and repeatedly raped over the course of three days. There were also reports of the conscription of Yezidi children to participate in armed conflict, and their forcible military training and conversion to Islam.

Other communities also suffered great violence. Christians suffered forced displacement in conditions of great hardship, and were looted of all their valuables. Attacks were perpetrated against villages occupied by Turkmen, Shabak, and other Shi’a groups, including surrounding villages, killing of inhabitants, burning and destroying houses and destroying places of worship. Information gathered strongly suggested that crimes against humanity were committed against Christian, Shi’a and Yezidi communities. ISIL had committed war crimes of murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, directing attacks against the civilian population, directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, historic monuments, pillaging a town or place, committing rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, conscripting or enlisting children or using them to participate actively in hostilities, ordering the displacement of civilian populations, and destroying or seizing the property of an adversary. There were reports of ISIL-established courts in Mosul, the summary execution of 600 male inmates in Badoush Prison near Mosul as well as 1,700 hors du combat members of Iraqi security forces, and the killing of at least 600 members of the Abu Nimr tribe.

The report also noted violations by Iraqi security forces and associated militia, including torture, and attacks against civilians including air attacks, including the use of barrel bombs by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) which constituted an indiscriminate attack. The displacement of people was also a serious concern. The Deputy High Commissioner called on the Human Rights Council to urge Iraq to conduct full investigation of all violations, and asked the Council to recommend to the Security Council the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Iraq was cognizant of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on crimes committed by Da’esh; it had met with the team, expressed its willingness to cooperate with the team, and provided it with required documents on the attacks. A commission to investigate the gross violations committed by Da’esh had been also established by Iraqi authorities and would try to investigate beyond what had been already documented. Iraq lamented that the United Nations’ team did not have enough time to visit all the places where people had been displaced nor had been able to document all the atrocities. Investigating all the violations and crimes committed against Iraqi people, in particular elders, children and women, and the destruction of archaeological sites would require more time and efforts. Iraq was carrying on with its own investigation in that sense. It had to be ensured that displaced people would safely return to their homes and that the perpetrators of those crimes would be held accountable. Iraq emphasized its support to the United Nations’ team and to what had been reported, in particular on what was said regarding the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity that were committed. The forces that were fighting Da’esh were the security forces of Iraq, who were defending the honour of Iraqi people and were exercising the right of self-defence. Iraq condemned any human rights violations, stressed that it would not permit a transgression of the rule of law, and committed itself to fight Da’esh and any other terrorist groups and to implement the recommendations of the report. Finally, Iraq called the Human Rights Council to get even more involved.


Interactive Dialogue on the Report on Iraq

European Union was extremely concerned about the situation in Iraq and condemned in the strongest terms the unspeakable crimes committed by ISIL which might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. All human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict must be properly investigated and those responsible must face justice in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights law. The Council should remain seized on this very serious situation.

Jordan condemned the barbaric crimes committed by ISIL and stood by Iraq in its efforts to preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Jordan called upon the international community to provide all necessary assistance to Iraq to ensure its success. The Human Rights Council had a duty to put an end to the massive human rights violations perpetrated by Da’esh and to support Iraq in facing this menace.

Syria said that Iraq was on the frontlines against takfiri terrorism and in spite of the many international resolutions on fighting terrorism and the international action against ISIL, there was a constant flow of ISIL terrorists committing crimes in many areas in the region. This proved the absence of effective international will to fight terrorism, including preventing terrorists from crossing international borders, purchasing arms and selling spoils of war such as antiques and oil.

Greece condemned in the strongest possible terms atrocities by ISIL, which amounted to crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, and expressed deep concerns about the systematic targeting of Yazidis and Christians. Greece stressed that those responsible had to be held accountable. Greece called for continued support to Iraq in combatting ISIL, and praised the work of the Office of the High Commissioner in Iraq despite the dire situation.

Chile condemned abuses by ISIL and expressed its utmost concern about abuses committed against civilians, including forced displacement, human trafficking and sexual slavery of women and children. The general and widespread attacks against civilians because of their ethnic or religious identity constituted a crime against humanity. Chile underlined the importance and universality of all human rights.

Netherlands was shocked by the grave human rights violations committed by ISIL and other armed groups, and said the brutality of these crimes had no parallel in modern history. The Netherlands was increasingly concerned about reported human rights violations by Iraq’s armed forces and affiliated militias, and stressed the importance of holding all perpetrators to account. Accountability was crucial for peace and reconciliation in Iraq.

Hungary said that atrocities and crimes perpetuated by ISIL were numerous and horrific and Hungary was appalled by the displacement of Christians and other minorities and the destruction of their cultural heritage. Justice must be ensured for all victims of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and the best way was to take it forward through the International Criminal Court. Iraq should continue to engage with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and respond positively to requests for visits by the Special Procedures.

Australia said that horrific atrocities committed by Da’esh illustrated the importance of international efforts to counter them. Reports had indicated clear patterns of sexual violence and gender-based violence against the Yazidi women and the recruitment of children, and this was unacceptable. Australia expressed support for the establishment of appropriate monitoring and investigation mechanisms to assist Iraq in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Belgium would continue to assist Iraq to fight this terrorist organization and was concerned that Iraqi security forces and associated militia had perpetuated human rights violations in their counter-terrorism operations. Iraq should ensure that all alleged crimes were investigated in accordance with international standards and perpetrators brought to justice, and should become a party to the Rome Statute. Broad-based and inclusive dialogue with all segments of the society was needed in order to bring the current crisis to an end.
Iran strongly condemned atrocities by ISIL which amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, including targeting of civilians and the destruction of cultural sites. Iran expressed its strong support to Iraq and called on the international community to continue supporting its efforts to combat ISIL, in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

United States expressed utmost concern about atrocities by ISIL which amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The United States was also deeply concerned by human rights violations by Government affiliated groups, particularly against the Sunni group, and urged Iraq to ensure that all perpetrators were brought to justice. The United States asked how Iraq could address the needs of minorities that had been driven out of their homelands by ISIL.

United Kingdom said abuses by ISIL were horrific and underlined ISIL’s disregard of international human rights and humanitarian law. It was vital that the Government of Iraq protected its population and held the perpetrators to account. The efforts by the international coalition to combat ISIL were vital, and it was important that the international community continued supporting efforts by Iraq and the fight against ISIL.

Spain said that the report contained no surprises and was chilling as it included a list of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; full accountability must be achieved. Spain had deployed a mission of experts to the Iraqi army in the framework of the global network for counter terrorism. Iraq should continue to strengthen an independent judiciary and the International Criminal Court should assist the country in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible.

Canada said that the report had shed new light on the situation in Iraq and was alarmed by the human rights violations committed by the so-called ISIL, especially by sexual violence and sexual slavery. Violations of international humanitarian law that amounted to war crimes were being committed by ISIL, which enjoyed the support of Iran. The perpetrators of the crimes must be held responsible.

Turkey said that the report had confirmed the widespread and unprecedented attacks on human dignity committed by the Da’esh terrorist group and was confident that Iraq would live up to its obligation to protect the civilian population. Turkey shared the concern that the line between regular and irregular security forces in Iraq was becoming increasingly blurred. Turkey stressed the need to keep in mind the circumstances in which Da’esh came into being. It underlined that a just, inclusive and even-handed approach was needed while focusing on the human rights situation in Iraq.

Republic of Korea was truly concerned about the brutality of violations by ISIL, and deplored the high number of displaced persons, who now lived in dire situations. The Republic of Korea called upon all parties to respect international human rights and humanitarian law, and stressed that the Iraqi Government should ensure that all perpetrators were held accountable. The Republic of Korea would continue to take part in the international community’s efforts to support Iraq.

Egypt condemned atrocities by ISIL against women, children and religious minorities, which amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The international community should intensify its efforts to combat terrorism in the region and to support the Government of Iraq. Egypt expressed its hope that Iraq would reach stability, development and human rights for all its people.

China strongly condemned crimes by ISIL and other groups which had seriously violated the basic human rights of people in the region, constituted a serious threat for the region, and created a humanitarian disaster. China underlined its commitment to combat terrorism and the use of the Internet for the propagation of their ideas and recruitment. China would continue to provide all kinds of help to Iraq, including emergency and relief assistance, and called on the international community to do the same.

Ireland strongly condemned the barbaric acts of ISIL and was deeply concerned by the systematic targeting of religious and ethnic minorities. The report detailed an appalling catalogue of human rights violations that ISIL committed, including extrajudicial killings, torture, forced displacement, taking of hostages, use of prohibited weapons, and the recruitment of children. Ireland asked how the international community could curb the spread of ideology at the heart of violent extremism.

France that violence against minorities was intolerable and France was keen to organize a Security Council meeting on the threat to the region that Da’esh posed. Iraq needed to act on its obligations to protect civilian populations, stop the violations committed by its security forces, and ratify the Rome Statute to enable the International Criminal Court to try the most serious crimes. What concrete measures could be taken to protect the people and what guidance would be given to the Office of the High Commissioner’s Commission of Inquiry in terms of further steps?

Germany strongly condemned the atrocious acts committed by ISIL which had systematically attacked ethnic and religious minorities, taken into slavery women and children, and displaced whole communities. Ruthless use of sexual violence against women and children was particularly appalling. ISIL’s reign of terror could only be defeated on the basis of respect for the human rights of all persons; there could be no room for acts of revenge and the settling of old scores.

Denmark strongly condemned atrocities committed by ISIL, in particular sexual violence against women, children and violence against religious minorities, which amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Denmark also expressed concern about violations by other armed groups, and urged Iraq to ensure that all perpetrators were held accountable. Denmark asked how countries could further support the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ work on the ground.

Sudan condemned violations by ISIL and commended Iraq’s efforts to coordinate the fight against ISIL and raise awareness on its brutality. Sudan underlined the importance of ensuring that perpetrators of human rights violations were held accountable, and called for further support to Iraq in full respect of the United Nations Charter.

Lebanon strongly condemned crimes by ISIL, which may amount to genocide, and supported the Iraqi army and security forces’ efforts to combat ISIL. Lebanon stressed the role that the Human Rights Council should play in addressing human rights violations by terrorist groups. ISIL was seeking to get rid of all traces of culture and humanity in Iraq. Lebanon recalled that its armed forces were combatting ISIL.

Croatia said that the scale and character of atrocities committed by ISIL was shocking and Croatia condemned the deplorable practices of recruitment and use of children and the systematic campaign of sexual and gender-based violence. Iraq should ensure accountability for all crimes committed in its territories and support the victims, especially women and children.

Algeria strongly condemned the actions perpetuated by this terrorist organization and said that it was clear that the collective killing, torture, reducing to slavery, and the destruction of infrastructure were the hallmarks of this organization. ISIL was a threat to international peace and security and it must be faced and countered with greater vigour in order to protect civilians, ensure the return of the displaced, and lay down the basis for national reconciliation in Iraq.

Russia said that the terrorist organization ISIL was pure evil which threatened the region. The authorities in Baghdad should be supported in the fight against this group and Russia expressed confidence that Iraq would be able to ensure accountability for the crimes committed. Training of fighters in Syria would only contribute to the bloodshed. Human rights mechanisms had a particular obligation to assist the Iraqi authorities and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights must avoid undertaking any steps that would aggravate the situation.

Switzerland welcomed the report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Switzerland was deeply concerned that war crimes might have been committed by both ISIL and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and that crimes against humanity may have been committed by ISIL. It underlined the importance of accountability for all violence committed, and urged the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ask the Security Council to consider a referral to the International Criminal Court in this respect.

Minority Rights Group stated that the assaults committed by ISIL had resulted in the removal of entire communities from their homelands. Violations committed by pro-government forces were also to be condemned. Iraqi Security Forces should be organized under a chain of command that was transparent and directly accountable to the Government of Iraq. Iraq should also accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and accept its jurisdiction from the start of the conflict.

AUA Americas Chapter Inc. regretted that the report failed to address the severity of the situation in Iraq and to use the word genocide. Technical assistance to Iraq should ensure the protection of the rights of all minorities. Discrimination in the laws and policies of Iraq against certain minorities was not acceptable. The protection and promotion of the human rights of all minorities, including those of the Assyrians, had to be ensured, in order to preserve the presence of ethnic and religious minorities in the country.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented atrocities by ISIL, including torture, forced conversions and forced marriage of Yazidi women and children. The policies of exclusion by the Iraqi Government had fuelled the establishment of ISIL. Human Rights Watch regretted that the resolution soon to be adopted by the Human Rights Council in response to the report would be one-sided and unbalanced. It would fail to call on all sides to protect civilians and would fail to address the need for accountability for violations by Government-affiliated groups.

Human Rights Now expressed grave concern about human rights violations by the Government’s armed forces and associated militias against the Sunni population in Iraq, and urged the Iraqi Government to stop unlawful killings and discriminatory attacks against civilian populations. It called on the Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry to conduct independent, impartial investigations on the ongoing gross violations of human rights in Iraq.

Humanitarian Law Project regretted that many States put their own agenda first, with seemingly no concern for the many lives lost or ruined, the growing number of disappearances, incidents of torture, and mass displacement. There must be accountability for violations regardless of the perpetrators. Shi’a militias posed a greater threat to Iraq than ISIL and the international community had to address this. The Council had to continue to monitor the situation.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations welcomed the report which attested to grave crimes committed not only by ISIL but by the militias operating under the Iraqi Government as well. Iraq should join the International Criminal Court and a permanent mandate for monitoring the human rights situation in Iraq should be created.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies agreed with the report’s recommendations that everything must be done to address the violations that amounted to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The central and provincial governments in Iraq must ensure due diligence in order to investigate all allegations, especially those committed by Government militias, and support to the victims must be provided.

Union of Arab Jurists condemned the violations which were taking place in a situation of complete lawlessness. This report was 13 years overdue and the silence of the international community and especially human rights treaty bodies had led to the present situation. It was important to investigate all human rights violations committed since 2003, regardless of who the perpetrators were.

Concluding Remarks

Iraq, speaking as the concerned country, said that the delegation had listened very carefully to the report and statements made by Member States and civil society, and thanked all who expressed solidarity with Iraq and gave their advice. Terrorism was not a local danger. Those who thought that the appearance of Da’esh was the result of local policies in Iraq were mistaken. One had only to look to what was happening in Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, as well as France, to see this. Iraq appreciated the statements condemning the crimes committed by Da’esh. The crimes went far beyond the ability of anyone to imagine. Under no circumstances could the systematic acts of violence of ISIL be compared to individual acts that may have been committed by individuals affiliated with the Government of Iraq. Iraq’s accession to the Rome Statue was being studied and considered by the Government.

FLAVIA PANSIERI, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed her appreciation to the Government of Iraq for its support and for giving access to the mission, as well as to the colleagues who had conducted the research on the ground. In response to the questions raised, she noted that the recommendations made vis-à-vis the Government in Iraq echoed those of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. These included recommendations to conduct investigations and ensure that there was no impunity and that perpetrators were brought to justice. Second, recommendations to ensure basic responsibility of the protection of civilians, particularly during the conduct of military operations. Third, it was important that going forward, Iraq continued to have the broadest and most inclusive dialogue, so that all parts of the Iraqi population had a role and a voice in the peace-building process. There had been a number of remarks regarding the role of the international community and more specifically, the Human Rights Council. In that respect it was important to accompany and support Iraq in this difficult moment. The Special Session in September, the commissioning of the investigation mission, and today’s detailed discussion on the report were all results of the importance given by the Human Rights Council to the situation in Iraq. It was important that this continued, and that the matter was brought to the Security Council.

What could the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights do? The Office continued to have a strong human rights component in the United Nations Mission in Iraq and this included 42 colleagues on the ground who documented but also assisted Iraq in building institutions and the justice system, and in the training of security forces. They would continue to remain engaged and required advice by the Human Rights Council on what was the most appropriate shape of their engagement, as well as resources to conduct it. The collection of data that would ensure that impunity was not allowed and that accountability would bring perpetrators to justice required adequate funding. Ms. Pansieri also commented on the role of women in the future context of Iraq. With respect to the horrible violations that women were subjected to, all had responsibility to make available means for reparation, and to allow them to return to a normal way of life. This meant ensuring that women had medical care, access to education, psychological help, and economic empowerment, in order to be able to fully play a role in society and to recover from the horror they were subjected to. Including women in the peace process at the negotiating table was imperative. In terms of how the international community could help to curb the spread of the ideology of violent extremism, this was at the heart of any solution. It was imperative to change the narrative which saw violent extremism as almost a glamorous way to go. There was a responsibility on all to change this narrative.
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