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Iraq: MRG’s call for a stronger engagement of the UN Human Rights Council

22 September 2015

UN Human Rights Council, 30th session

General Debate on item 4, September 2015

Thank you Mr. President,

Minority Rights Group (MRG) would like to draw the attention of the Council to the ongoing persecution of minorities in Iraq.

The enduring conflict has resulted in continued targeting of minorities by parties to the conflict, whilst pre-existing attitudes towards many of the country’s diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic groups have allowed discrimination to prevail in civil society.

Our research in Iraq has highlighted an ongoing threat of attacks against minorities. Mass killings of Yezidi men and boys by Daesh have been reported as recently as late April in Tal Afar, and thousands of Yezidi women and girls remain in captivity. Members of the Shabak community have also been the target of killings and looting whilst many Sabean-Mandaeans across Iraq have suffered kidnappings and threats aimed at destroying their livelihood. Incidents of torture, abduction, false arrests and unlawful detention of Christians have also been documented, as well as violations of the rights of other minority communities.

Displaced minorities have not escaped discrimination and abuse. For instance, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, many Yezidis find themselves harassed and in some cases abused by Kurdish security forces. In Zakho, restrictions on entry and leave in the Gamishko camp have rendered the facility prison-like. According to documented reports, Yezidi activists who protest or publically campaign against the conditions of such camps have been beaten, arrested and detained by Kurdish security forces.

Across Iraq, there are serious failures in relief services and humanitarian aid to IDPs. Yet a major issue faced by displaced minorities is a lack of access to education. Even where temporary learning facilities have been created, the schooling environment has proved too different and challenging for many children who have ceased to attend. Considering the extent of internal displacement, this curtailed access to education affects the future of almost an entire generation of the Iraqi minority populations.

The recent dissolution of the Ministry of Human Rights and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is of serious concern given the need to adhere to international legal standards in Iraq.

The scale of human rights abuses and the gravity of the crimes being committed call for stronger engagement by the Human Rights Council. More than ever, a mechanism to independently monitor and report back to the Council on the abuses occurring in the region is needed. Such a mechanism should be mandated to monitor violations committed by all parties, and to ascertain the truth in order to pave the way for future judicial efforts in establishing individual criminal responsibility.

I thank you.