Justice essential to help Iraqi victims of ISIL
Justice essential to help Iraqi victims of ISIL’s sexual violence rebuild lives – UN report
GENEVA (22 August 2017) - The Iraqi Government needs to ensure that the thousands of women and girls who survived rape and other forms of sexual violence by ISIL fighters receive care, protection and justice, and that children born as a result of such violence do not face a life of discrimination and abuse, a UN report published today says.
“Women and girls under the control of ISIL, in particular women from the Yezidi and other minority communities, have been especially vulnerable to abuses of human rights and violation of international humanitarian law,” the report by the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights Office says. Victims have been subjected to rape and sexual assault, forced displacement, abduction, deprivation of liberty, slavery, forced religious conversion, and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
“The physical, mental, and emotional injuries inflicted by ISIL are almost beyond comprehension. If victims are to rebuild their lives, and indeed those of their children, they need justice and they need redress,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
The Iraqi Government has the obligation, under domestic law and international human rights law, to ensure all victims have access to justice and reparations. This obligation includes ensuring accountability of the alleged perpetrators through trials before independent and impartial tribunals, conducted in a gender-sensitive manner so as not to perpetuate victims’ suffering.
The report notes that the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have taken some positive steps to promote women and children’s rights and to address the needs of those who have suffered abuses at the hands of ISIL. However, the criminal justice system largely fails to ensure the appropriate protection of victims. Significant legislative and institutional changes are needed, the report says, to facilitate access to justice and to ensure the care and protection of victims in such proceedings.
“Steps must also be taken to ensure the active participation and engagement of women and girls in ending conflict, in building peace for the future, and supporting and facilitating their full and equal participation in the public, political and economic life in a post-ISIL Iraq,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Ján Kubiš.
Despite government efforts to alleviate the suffering of victims and provide services, huge challenges remain. The report stresses the need for women and girls to have access to appropriate medical, psychosocial, financial, livelihood and other means of support.
The report also voices serious concern with regard to tribal agreements reached by representatives of tribes in a number of governorates, which include provisions allowing for forced evictions of families connected to ISIL and their property transferred to victims as reparation.
The situation of hundreds of children born to women in ISIL-controlled areas without birth certificates or whose ISIL-issued documents are not accepted by the Government of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government is also deeply troubling. Birth registration requires the parents to present proof of marital status and two witnesses must confirm the circumstances of the child’s birth – exceedingly difficult in the case of children whose parents may be dead or missing; where the father’s identity is not known; where a child has been abandoned due to stigma or for those who live in IDP camps where no civil status offices or courts operate.
“Children who were born in ISIL-controlled areas have the same legal rights as any other Iraqi citizen and the Government must ensure they are protected from marginalisation and abuse, neither exposed to discrimination through references on their birth certificate that they were born out of wedlock or have a father linked to ISIL, nor left unregistered and at risk of statelessness, exploitation and trafficking,” the High Commissioner stressed.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including regarding access to justice; provision of support and care for victims; information and counselling services to reunite separated families, and the importance of birth registration.