On 25 March 2015, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in conjunction with the Initiative of Yazidis Around the World delivered an oral intervention at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council, on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. During the oral intervention, the organisations welcomed the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation in Iraq, in which was laid out the violations committed by ISIL between June 2014 – February 2015.
CIHRS and the Initiative of Yazidis Around the World urged the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to monitor and document violations committed by all parties to the conflict in Iraq.
Despite their welcoming of the report, it should be noted that the Council’s resolution on Iraq adopted on 27 March 2014, and which provides technical assistance to the Iraqi government, was disappointing. This resolution is not an appropriate response to the situation in Iraq, which continues to worsen daily, and in which all parties to the conflict are engaging in violations, some of which amount to international crimes, all operating in impunity. While providing assistance to the government is needed, the language of the resolution does not present avenues for much needed monitoring and investigation of crimes, threats on human rights defenders, or journalists, nor does it set up effective mechanisms for investigations or to ensure accountability.
The OHCHR report noted that the gross violations committed by ISIL in Iraq could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It also noted that the violations committed by Iraqi security forces and government affiliated armed groups could also amount to war crimes.
During the oral intervention, the organizations argued that “the Government of Iraq has the primary legal responsibility to exercise due diligence in protecting persons under its jurisdiction,” and that it has the obligation to ensure effective and immediate psychosocial and medical support for survivors of sexual violence and other criminal acts as well as effective resources for the thousands displaced as a result of the conflict across the country”, especially the most affected minority groups.
In this context, the oral intervention shed light on the dire situation of the Yazidi community: Around 5,000 Yazidi men have been killed while another 3,000 persons, mainly Yazidis, remain in ISIL captivity. This is in addition to over 5000 women and girls who have been kidnapped and sold as sex slaves, both inside and outside Iraq. The ones released are left without any adequate psychological or social rehabilitation by the state, with the majority suffering from serious post-traumatic stress or other dire health problems. Also, so far 85 % of Yazidi population is internally displaced, living in camps in dire need of adequate humanitarian support. In light of this, CIHRS and the Initiative of Yazidis Around the World called on the Iraqi government to immediately investigate international crimes, including those committed by Iraqi security forces that could amount to war crimes, as stated in the UN report.
The Oral Intervention also provided a good opportunity for the organisations to remind the Iraqi government that any short-term or long term efforts to combat violence and extremism relies on efforts exerted by both the international community and the Iraqi government, and to call on the Human Rights Council “to urge the Security Council to address the situation in Iraq with the utmost concern and act without delay to refer potential crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Iraq to the International Criminal Court.”
On 19 March, during Iraq’s Universal Periodic Review, CIHRS also collaborated with the Initiative of Yazidis Around the World to deliver an Oral Intervention on “the unprecedented situation faced by ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq today.” They noted that despite Iraq accepting 11 UPR recommendations on providing adequate and effective protection to minorities, “the violations against Yazidis continue unabated, with the government of Iraq paying little attention to address ongoing violations, amend legislations to protect minorities, or guarantee proper investigations with the view of ensuring justice for victims.”
During the Oral Intervention, CIHRS and the Initiative of Yazidis Around the World added: “The grave situation that presents itself on the ground in Iraq is one that is escalating daily before our eyes. It is a fight against time, but also against our own humanity and those principles we hold very sacred. Now more than ever, we have to realize that we cannot win the current war against violent extremism and terrorism without prioritizing human rights and dignity.” The organisations called on the UN to take measures to “protect Yazidi men, women, and children from imminent death, rape, torture and kidnapping.”
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