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Press briefing notes on Mosul & Kyrgyzstan

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 24 January 2017
Subject: (1) Mosul & (2) Kyrgyzstan

(1) Mosul

In recent weeks, we have continued to receive a large number of reports of civilians killed by ISIL shelling or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in parts of Mosul that were recaptured by the Government of Iraq. In neighbourhoods including Sumer and Palestine in south-eastern Mosul, al-Qudas and al-Dubat in eastern Mosul city and Zuhour in eastern Mosul and others, civilians have been killed and wounded by ISIL suicide attacks, snipers, and shelling which appears to be directly targeting civilians and civilian homes, as well as IEDs left by ISIL prior to their retreat from these areas – including one last Tuesday which caused a child to lose his arm.

ISIL has also continued to attack those fleeing or attempting to flee areas controlled by it. The reports we have received and have been able to verify from ISIL-occupied areas are patchy, but we have had several reports of people being shot at as they attempt to flee ISIL-controlled areas of the city. For example, on 13 January, a woman and her son were shot and killed by ISIL members while they were fleeing their house in the Jazair area of eastern Mosul. We also have similar reports from Salah al-Din Governorate, where earlier this month two explosive devices detonated as families fled ISIL-held Hawija.

Airstrikes in Mosul also reportedly continued to cause civilian casualties, although it is difficult to verify how many civilians may have been killed or injured, particularly since information indicates that ISIL continues to base itself in civilian houses and infrastructure and is exploiting civilians as shields. We are deeply concerned about the safety and humanitarian conditions of people who remain in ISIL-occupied western Mosul city, which it is estimated could be as many as 750,000. Reports suggest that ISIL fighters have taken over hospitals in western Mosul city and are using them as military bases, and that they are diverting available resources, including food, water and medicines, to their fighters.

We remind all parties to the conflict that they must abide by the principles of humanity, distinction, proportionality and precaution in carrying out military operations. All feasible precautions must be taken to absolutely minimise the impact of conflict on civilians.

We were also deeply disturbed at reports, including video footage, that have emerged of Iraqi Security Forces Personnel brutally beating four terror suspects and eventually shooting to death three of them in an area between Intisar and Karma neighbourhoods of east Mosul. We welcome the statement issued by the Prime Minister yesterday ordering an investigation into this incident and calling on field commanders to make sure no further human rights violations are committed. As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has said, in the face of flagrant violations of the law by ISIL, it is even more crucial that Government forces and their allies ensure scrupulous respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law – and accountability where these have been breached. Captured ISIL fighters and those perceived to have supported them must be treated in full accordance with international law and must be held accountable for their crimes by properly constituted tribunals.

(2) Kyrgyzstan

The decision by a court in Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday to uphold a life sentence against political activist and journalist Azimjan Askarov is deeply troubling and we are concerned that it highlights serious shortcomings in the country’s judicial system.

The court, which reconsidered Askarov’s case from 4 October 2016 to 24 January 2017, confirmed the original verdict, finding him guilty on a variety of charges, including accessory to murder, incitement of inter-ethnic hatred and hostage-taking in the context of ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.

The decision by the national court clearly did not take into account the views of the UN Human Rights Committee which found in March 2016 that Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured and prevented from adequately preparing his defence. 

Despite the repeated commitment of the Kyrgyz authorities to uphold international fair trial standards and to resolutely investigate torture allegations, this latest trial vividly displayed the deficiencies in the country’s judicial and law enforcement system.

The court did not pursue allegations that Askarov had been tortured. The hearing also allegedly relied on the same witness testimonies as the sole source of evidence as in the first trial.

We are also concerned that the repeated absence of a court-appointed interpreter, put Askarov, a native Uzbek speaker, at a disadvantage as he was not comfortable in Kyrgyz, the language of the court proceedings. 

We reiterate the call by the Human Rights Committee for Askarov’s conviction and sentence to be quashed and urge Kyrgyzstan to conduct impartial, objective and thorough investigations and judicial proceedings in order to ensure justice for all.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell  ( +41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org ) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org )

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