FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—October 17, 2016
[NEW YORK, NY] - As the operation to liberate Mosul begins, all coalition actors should ensure that they uphold their obligations under international law to protect civilians and minimize the harm caused to them. Iraq is a party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. These treaties define how Iraqi forces, including the Peshmerga, must carry out military operations.
Reports show that there may be as many as 1.5 million civilians currently in Mosul. The Geneva Conventions require that Iraq refrain from indiscriminate attacks and distinguish at all times between civilian objects and military objectives. Amidst reports of gross violations of human rights by Iraqi forces in the operations to retake Falluja and Ramadi, Iraq must refrain from such acts in the present offensive. Furthermore, civilians in Mosul are considered protected persons under the Geneva Conventions who have fundamental guarantees, including to humanitarian assistance, to be treated humanely and to be given all care they are due based on their condition, without discrimination.
Reports also indicate that there are potentially thousands of Yazidi women and children under Daesh captivity in Mosul. Daesh has been engaged in a genocidal campaign against the Yazidi since August 2014 and those who remain in captivity continue to be subject to genocidal acts daily, including sexual slavery, forced marriage and forced conversions. Iraq, as a party to the Genocide Convention, must take all possible measures to prevent, suppress and punish genocide. This includes proactive efforts to rescue and ensure the safety of Yazidis currently under captivity in Mosul.
Too long the world has been forced to watch Daesh’s heinous crimes against civilians in Iraq and Syria. As the operation to liberate those under Daesh’s control begins, the rights of these terrorized civilians must be first and foremost.
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