Skip to main content

Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on Iraq, Libya and Yemen

28 July 2015

Spokespersons for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 28 July 2015

(1) Iraq

We have received reports that suggest a violent clampdown on people who are attempting to flee ISIL-controlled areas in Iraq, particularly through the Hamrin mountain chain in northeast Iraq.

An increasing number of people have been attempting to escape, taking a very difficult journey from areas like Shirqat and Hawija through the Hamrin mountains and onto Tikrit, Al-Alam and Kirkuk. At least four families, including children and elderly people, reportedly died earlier this month after attempting the journey without a guide and with few supplies. According to sources, the journey takes eight to 12 hours in very hot weather through uninhabited areas without signage or paved roads. ISIL gunmen have also begun to set ambushes for people fleeing and ISIL snipers have reportedly attacked and killed those caught. In one incident, three taxi drivers were reportedly executed between 10 and 12 July in Shirqat, purportedly for assisting residents in making the passage through Hamrin. There are also reports that many other families were abducted by ISIL en route to Tikrit and Al-Alam.

ISIL continued to viciously target those perceived to be opposed to its ideology and rule, with despicable violence. On 20 July, for example, ISIL reportedly publicly killed an Imam in western Mosul following a decision by a self-appointed so-called court. The Imam was abducted on 17 July, allegedly for having criticised ISIL. On 13 July, four Imams from Qayyara sub-district were allegedly executed for performing taraweehprayers, which are not authorised by ISIL. On 10 July, ISIL reportedly killed nine people in central Mosul by running a bulldozer over them. A radio station broadcast the reasons for their killing, including that they allegedly provided information and collaborating with the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga.

There have also been an increasing number of civilian casualties across the country due to car bombs and other uses of IEDs. The particularly devastating attack in Khan Bani Saad sub-district of Diyala Governorate has been widely condemned, but there have also been daily attacks in Baghdad, killing and wounding civilians. On 21 July, an attack using a vehicle laden with explosives in front of a fuel station in Zafaraniyah in eastern Baghdad (Shi’a majority area) killed seven civilians and wounded three others. Gun attacks are also occurring with frequency.
Any intentional direct attack against civilians is considered a serious violation of international humanitarian law. All parties must ensure that civilians are protected, that they have unhindered access to medical facilities and humanitarian assistance, and that they are able to leave areas affected by violence – safely and with dignity.

(2) Libya

We are deeply disturbed at the verdicts and sentences handed down today in Tripoli in the trial of former Gaddhafi officials, in particular the imposition of the death penalty against a number of them. We had closely monitored the detention and trial and found that international fair trial standards had failed to be met. Among the key shortcomings are the failure to establish individual criminal responsibility in relation to specific crimes. There were also serious issues relating to access to lawyers, claims of ill-treatment, and trials conducted in absentia.

It is crucial to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations. However this needs to be done with scrupulous adherence to international fair trial standards and with full respect for the rights of the defendants. Failing this, injustice is only compounded.

The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. In this case, where fair trial standards have clearly not been met, we strongly deplore the imposition of the death penalty.

We urge Libyan authorities to ensure that legal reforms are introduced as a matter of urgency, to ensure that human rights are fully respected in the administration of justice and that verdicts of the Court of Assize can be appealed and are not only subject to cassation.

(3) Yemen

Between 16 and 27 July, at least 202 civilians were killed, and 353 others injured. This brings the total numbers of civilians killed and injured, since 26 March, to 1,895 and 4,182, respectively. During the same period, at least 20 civilian public installations were affected (partial or complete destruction), which brings to 207 the total number of civilian installations partially or completely destroyed as a result of the armed conflict.


For more information, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 /
[email protected]) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / [email protected]).