BAGHDAD / GENEVA (27 November 2017) – The Government of Iraq must ensure that the military defeat of ISIL translates into a victory for accountability and an end to impunity, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, has urged after an official mission.
“As the military threats from ISIL recede, the country has now entered a transitional phase which is both complex and fragile, presenting the opportunity to break with the past,” said Ms. Callamard in a statement at the end of her first visit to the country.
“There is a risk that old tensions arise where these have not been mended, and that grievances that were set aside for the duration of the conflict may return.”
Of the many urgent issues to be dealt with, Ms. Callamard urged the Government to ensure that all illegal deprivations of life – including those not related to the conflict – are promptly investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice.
“The Iraqi people have been subjected to inconceivable suffering at the hands of ISIL,” said the UN expert, whose visit took place from 14 to 23 November 2017.
“Justice for victims demands that the possible crimes against humanity be investigated. I welcome the government’s commitment to this. But hasty judgment and execution of ISIL members for acts of ‘terrorism’ is a disservice to the country.
The people of Iraq, the victims and survivors of the conflict, deserve a legal framework and a judicial response that properly reflect the nature of the crimes committed, which are on a par with atrocity crimes investigated and tried in other parts of the world. Such a role cannot be performed by a counter-terrorism law.”
Ms. Callamard urged the government to rapidly initiate legal reforms and equip domestic courts to try international crimes.
Ms. Callamard met victims of ISIL’s violence, visited camps housing people forced to flee their homes, and talked to expert teams working on the identification of the thousands of Iraqis buried in mass graves.
“I will always carry with me the voice of a young woman in a camp. ‘We don’t have to be like them,’ she told me. ‘We have seen enough killings. Do not execute more people.’ She had lost several family members to ISIL and insisted on accountability and prison sentences for ISIL members, speaking out against revenge,” Ms. Callamard stated.
The UN expert acknowledged that the military defeat of ISIL would open a new phase for Iraq. “To help ensure the promise of peace is secured on strong foundations, extrajudicial killings and disappearances in retaliation for ISIL’s crimes, such as those which occurred in the liberation of Fallujah and Mosul, must cease immediately and all must be investigated,” she said.
“Building a new Iraq requires the confidence of all communities. That will be achieved only if all allegations are thoroughly investigated, victims’ voices are heard and perpetrators are promptly brought to justice. It also demands prompt reparations and remedies for the victims.”
The Special Rapporteur also spoke to people particularly vulnerable to killings, such as journalists and people from the LGBTI community, whose protection she said had to be a priority for the Iraqi Government.
Ms. Callamard said so-called honour crimes remained a grave problem in Iraq, and Article 409 of the Penal Code – which reduces punishment for men who kill women for “honourable motives” – should be amended in line with changes already introduced in Iraqi Kurdistan, to end impunity for such acts.
Her preliminary findings also highlight the urgent need for the management of mass graves, the plight of families of people who have disappeared, and the role of religious and tribal leaders in the transitional phase and accountability.
Ms. Callamard urged the international community to support the transitional justice process, including by providing comprehensive and impartial assistance, and by paying equal attention to international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, no matter who had committed them.
“The ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court would allow the Government to obtain international support in ensuring accountability for international crimes committed in Iraq,” she added.
The Special Rapporteur, who visited the country at the invitation of the Iraqi authorities, thanked the Government for its cooperation. She will present a comprehensive report containing her findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018.