HRW: Iraq should join ICC to investigate crimes

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on human rights abuses in Iraq, especially those comitted by the Islamic State (IS) against Kurdish Yezidis (Ezidis) in northern Iraq.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on human rights abuses in Iraq, mainly focusing on crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS) against Kurdish Yezidis (Ezidis) in northern Iraq.

HRW interviewed 21 Sunni Muslim Arabs and 15 Ezidi women in January and February 2016 who had all escaped IS in 2015. The report mentions that Ezidi women were forced by IS to convert to Islam, were “kept in sexual slavery, bought and sold in slave markets, and passed around as many as four [IS] members.”

It also mentions the systematic rape of Ezidi women by the IS members that was reported in early 2015. “The longer they are held by [IS], the more horrific life becomes for [Ezidi] women, bought and sold, brutality raped, their children torn from them,” wrote Skye Wheeler, an HRW researcher.

The Sunni women who were held captive by IS revealed to HRW that the group put severe restrictions on people in general and women in particular. The interviewed women noted that due to international coalition airstrikes on IS-held territories, food shortages and fear of abuse by IS forced them to abandon the area.

The report also touched upon the alleged number of Ezidi people remaining in the hands of IS, which is about 3,500 people, according to October 2015 statistics.

“[IS] attacks on women and girls, especially [Ezidis], have created a new and terrifying crisis for women and girls in the region,” Wheeler said. “One way Iraq’s government can help these women is to change its laws and policies to better protect all women who have been subjected to rape.”

Additionally, HRW claims that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has made some restrictions on those people who flee from IS to Peshmerga front lines. Some of the escaped women reported to HRW that their freedom of movement and location have been restricted by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, especially on Kirkuk front lines.

Previously, Peshmerga commanders in the west front of Kirkuk told Kurdistan24 that the security forces need to investigate people who escape IS because they believe that terrorists try to send sleeper cells among the genuine refugees to the Kurdistan Region to conduct suicide missions.

IS first emerged in June 2014 in Mosul, northern Iraq, and then expanded to Nineveh, Salahaddin, Diyala and Anbar provinces in southern Iraq. They have imposed strict policies on the people under their control including strict female dress codes and smoking prohibition, among many other restrictions.

HRW also advises Iraq to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), “To allow court’s prosecutors to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide committed in Iraq by individuals belonging to any of the parties of the conflict.”


Reporting by Mewan Dolamari
Editing by Ava Homa and Karzan Sulaivany