More than one year after the take-over of Mosul by the armed group calling itself Islamic State, Iraq is experiencing an unprecedented crisis. Civilians are both directly targeted and caught in the crossfire as both armed groups and state forces carry out operations.Sectarian violence has spiraled to a level not seen since 2006-2007, the worst period of civil strife in the country’s recent history. Islamic State’s territorial gains have been accompanied by widespread war crimes, including mass killings, abductions, rape and destruction. In 2014, Amnesty’s research found evidence of a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly religious and ethnic minorities, have been forced from their homes. Some 2.8 million people have been displaced by the conflict. Many are living in dire conditions, as the Iraqi central government and Kurdish authorities, as well as the international community, have struggled to provide for even the most basic needs of the growing numbers. Many of the displaced have also been denied access to safe areas by both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government acting out of security concerns, but also on sectarian and discriminatory grounds.At the same time, Shi’a militias acting with impunity and outside any legal framework, but with the backing of Iraqi government and government forces, have been carrying out reprisal attacks against Sunni communities, including mass killings, abductions and destruction of Sunni villages. All parties to a conflict must take measures to protect civilians. Failing to do so is a war crime.
News Release: Iraq: Evidence of war crimes by government-backed Shi’a militias, October 2014Report: Northern Iraq: Civilians in the line of fire, July 2014
Call on the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional government to conduct investigations:• Ensure that all allegations of abductions, hostage-taking, enforced disappearance, unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and other summary killings, torture and other ill-treatment by members of pro-government militias and members of the security services or armed forces are investigated promptly, thoroughly, transparently and independently.Call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the International community to protect displaced civilians, provide assistance and restrict the flow of weapons:• Make concerted efforts to ensure that adequate protection and humanitarian assistance including shelter, food, water, sanitation and essential medical assistance is provided to those displaced by the conflict, and that they are allowed a safe passage to safe shelter.• When transferring or receiving weapons, adopt a preventive approach and strict safeguards in order to mitigate and remove the substantial risk of the arms being used directly by the intended recipients, or through diversion, to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.