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Watch a short introductory video to the new report:
“Crossroads: The Future of Iraq's
Minorities After Isis”
 
 

Iraqis, Europeans Press for Support for Post-ISIS Transition

Brussels, 8 June 2017 — A conference organized to discuss the shape of Post-ISIS Iraq concluded with consensus on a broad array of steps to return displaced persons to their homes and rebuild. Noting that the impending fall of Mosul does not signify “Game Over” for European Union institutions and member states, the conference developed seven major options for Europe and Iraqi authorities for the “Post-ISIS” phase of the conflict in Iraq. As Conference Keynoter Adama Dieng, representing the UN Secretary General, noted “peace begins with peace of mind.”

This conference, convened at the European Parliament, included senior representatives of the Iraqi government, the Kurdish Region, the United Nations, European Union institutions, Iraqi and European parliamentarians, and Iraqi and international civil society representatives.

“We cannot wait. We have to start the process now,” noted Conference Co-Chair and MEP Ana Gomes. In a chairman's statement, Gomes and her fellow co-chair MEP Elmar Brok identified seven main priorities:

  1. There is a clear need to ensure that returns to retaken areas are dignified, safe and voluntary. Representatives present at the conference agreed to define security arrangements in affected areas, working to ensure that security forces are accepted by local populations, affirming that the people of retaken areas have the right to determine their political and security future, and reintegrating Popular Mobilization Units into Iraqi security structures.
  2. Ensure freedom of movement for people and relief and reconstruction assistance in retaken areas.
  3. Participants affirmed that accountability for crimes is a critical part of the Post-ISIS era. Iraqi government representatives (including the Kurdish Region) recognized the need to develop a national strategy to address violations of international humanitarian and criminal law for all perpetrators, and identify appropriate international and domestic resources. Other organizations underscored the urgent need for commitments from Iraqi authorities on accountability, including accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Because ISIS is a global phenomenon that requires a global response, the United Nations should also have a leading role. Participants called on the European Union to ensure the funding and implementation of an accountability mechanism to collect, preserve and analyse evidence.
  4. Iraq will protect its diversity. Iraqi authorities (including the Kurdish Region) at the meeting agreed to respond to the needs of Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities by promulgating and implementing legislation and take other measures to safeguard religious and other rights and pursue decentralization as necessary.
  5. Responding to the humanitarian crisis is an immediate priority. On an urgent basis, participants called on Iraqi authorities (including the Kurdish Region) to provide life-saving assistance to all persons in need and call upon donors to fully fund the Humanitarian Response Plan prepared by the UN and its partners.
  6. Reconstruction should be accelerated where possible.
  7. Efforts should be focused on protecting the most vulnerable. Participants called on Iraqi authorities, EU institutions and member states to prioritize humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for those most vulnerable, including minority groups, women and children based on assessed needs.

The conference chairs concluded that European Union diplomacy, mechanisms and resources should be better channeled to support implementation of these recommendations. Download the full statement.

The conference took place to coincide with the impending liberation of Mosul, and was designed to follow up the Paris Action Plan presented of September 2015 at the International Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East convened in Paris, and its Madrid follow up meeting, held on 24 May 2017.

“This conference was convened on the third anniversary of the fall of Mosul, and sadly over the past three years there has not been systematic, open discussion of options to enable returns and rebuild in the Post-ISIS era,” said Institute for International Law and Human Rights Executive Director William Spence Spencer. “As a result, some minority groups fear the peace even more than the war. And we must allay these fears immediately.”

The conference was organized by the Institute for International Law and Human Rights, Minority Rights Group International, No Peace Without Justice, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

IILHR Releases “Crossroads: The Future of Iraq's Minorities After ISIS”

Brussels, 7 June 2017 — The Institute for International Law and Human Rights, in partnership with three other human rights organizations, released its third annual assessment of the state of Iraq's minorities after the fall of Mosul in June 2014. The document is meant to complement other reporting on Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities; it also offers 63 specific recommendations that can help to relieve the existential pressure on these long-suffering groups.

On the third anniversary of the fall of Mosul, the focus is on the future. Minority communities in Iraq fear their ancestral lands will be stolen by government-backed forces as ISIS is pushed back, the new report finds. Territories 'liberated' from ISIS months ago remain occupied by militias, Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces while Yezidis, Christians, Shabak and Turkmen have yet to return.

Based on extensive fieldwork in conflict-affected Ninewa and other parts of Iraq, Crossroads: The Future of Iraq's Minorities after ISIS is the third in a series of definitive annual reports on the state of Iraq's minorities, published by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Financial support for the project was provided by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

‘ISIS is not yet defeated, but the rush to grab their former territory is already well underway,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG's Executive Director. ‘East of Mosul, the Ninewa plains formerly home to Iraq's minorities are now one ghost town after another, inhabited only by militias.’

The last year has seen continued high rates of refugee flight from Iraq, particularly by minority Christians and Yezidis. With insecure conditions for internally-displaced persons, many more plan to flee.

‘With the impending liberation of Iraqi territory from ISIS forces, minority populations continue to diminish. All indications point to a post-ISIS phase that could be just as – or even more dangerous to minority groups than the ISIS occupation. Many leaders fear that the “peace” could be more perilous for their survival as communities than the “war”,’ says William Spencer, Executive Director of IILHR.

This report makes 63 specific recommendations to the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the international community tackling the humanitarian, legal, asylum, and other needs of minorities. The report warns that if their concerns are not addressed, there will be a continuing and lasting legacy of inter-communal animosity in conflict affected areas, and the ultimate departure of ethnic and religious minority populations from many parts of Iraq.

Click on the image below to download the full report.

Crossroads: The Future of Iraq's Minorities After ISIS

IILHR and Three Other Human Rights Organizations Release Updated Report on Iraq’s Minorities

William SpencerOn 4 July 2016, the Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) launched a second joint report documenting the state of Iraq’s minority components since the advance of ISIS in 2014. The report, entitled “No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance”, is a follow-up report to “Between the Millstones: The State of Iraq’s Minorities since the Fall of Mosul”, published in February 2015.

No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance documents how many thousands of persons belonging to Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, maimed or abducted, including unknown numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement, after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

Iraq’s Christian population, which before 2003 numbered as many as 1.4 million, is now under 250,000. Most of the Yezidi and Kaka’i have been forced from their traditional lands and are now internally displaced or have fled the country altogether, whilst Shi’a Turkmen and Shabak have been driven to the south. As of June 2016 there are as many as 3.4 million displaced persons, making Iraq the country with the highest number and fastest growing rate of people displaced in the world in 2015. Overall, the United Nations estimates that 10 million people have now been affected by displacement and are in need of humanitarian assistance. Minority communities have taken the brunt of this mass movement of people.

‘Families are destroyed. Homes, businesses and farms have been looted. Heritage is either demolished or sold. Survivors will have nothing to return to, unless Iraq and the international community take more robust action to address the crushing needs of minorities,’ said William Spence Spencer, of the Institute for International Law and Human Rights.

Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) forces and commanders have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, including the use of chemical weapons, summary executions, killing, mutilation, rape, sexual violence, torture, cruel treatment, the use and recruitment of children, and outrages on personal dignity, says the report. Iraqi Security Forces, Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga have also committed war crimes prohibited under international law.

Many uprooted by the violence within Iraq hoped they would be able to return home within a relatively short timeframe. However, internally displaced persons (IDPs) interviewed said that the lack of basic services and security in many locations mean that as many as one in five of them feel that they have no choice but to flee the country. The anticipated displacement from a possible effort to retake Mosul could total as many as 1 million over the next year and the international community could witness the flight of hundreds of thousands of further refugees in 2016 alone.

The report makes 54 key recommendations to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and prevent future human rights abuses, as well as making proposals on justice, reconciliation and asylum issues, and improving institutions and legislation.

Click below to download the full report.


IILHR and Three Other Human Rights Organizations Release Report on Iraq’s Minorities Since ISIS Attacks

Between the Millstones: The State of Iraq’s Minorities Since the Fall of Mosul aims to document the plight of Iraq’s minorities most affected by the violence that has gripped northern Iraq since June 2014. This report, based on extensive interviews, field work and research, seeks to complement other human rights reporting to highlight the situation of Iraq’s minorities in light of the violence that has pervaded northern Iraq since June 2014 and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe. This publication is the product of a partnership of four organizations: the Institute for International Law and Human Rights, Minority Rights Group International, No Peace Without Justice and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. The report was released on February 27 in Brussels.

Based on the facts uncovered in this report, it appears that ISIS forces and commanders have committed most of the war crimes prohibited under international law, almost all of the underlying acts for crimes against humanity; and information exists which would support a prima facie case that ISIS forces have committed the crime of genocide against religious minorities in northern Iraq, in particular against the Yezidi minority. The report makes 38 key recommendations to alleviate the humanitarian burden, prevent further human rights abuses, promote reconciliation and accelerate planning for the post-ISIS era.

Click below for the English and Arabic versions of the full report.

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IILHR Speaks at Geneva United Nations Forum on Minority Issues

IILHR at Geneva UN ForumOn November 26 and 27, IILHR Iraq Director Najim Al Khaphaji participated at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Forum on Minority Issues with the support of Minority Rights Group International. The Forum took place in Geneva, Switzerland and brought together representatives from international organizations, NGOs, and countries around the world to formalize recommendations on legal and institutional mechanisms to prevent violence against religious minorities and promote and protect minority identities. In his remarks, Mr. Al Khaphaji focused on Iraq’s incremental advances in implementing its constitutional guarantees and obligations under international human rights instruments. He also emphasized the importance of continued international support for Iraq’s new High Commission for Human Rights, which can provide critical and historic protections for Iraq’s citizens in general and Iraq’s minorities in particular. Mr. Al Khaphaji stressed that, though the work of protecting Iraq’s minorities is filled with both progress and setbacks, "our experience can provide important insights into the global effort to safeguard minority rights."


IILHR Speaks at European Parliament Conference on Federalism in the Middle East

Spence at European ParliamentOn October 2, IILHR Executive Director William 'Spence' Spencer participated in the conference Exploring Federalism in the Middle East, hosted by Mr. Tunne Kelam, Member of the European Parliament, in coordination with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. The conference featured two panels of speakers to highlight the role that federalist principles can play in securing a peaceful Middle East and focused on the specific experiences in Iraq and Iran. The event took place at the European Parliament in Brussels and was moderated by Mr. Kelam and UNPO Secretary General Marino Busdachin. In his remarks, Mr. Spencer highlighted the positive role that federalism can play to bridge differences and protect minorities in Iraq's transition and outlined several practical examples from Iraq’s recent history. Mr. Spencer stressed that, while Federalism can be a powerful tool, it is not sufficient by itself to build a viable and sustainable democracy and promote reconciliation. Other tools, such as a strong legal framework rooted in a culture of respect for human rights and rule of law, are also necessary to ensure a peaceful, democratic Iraq. The day-long conference was attended by members of the European Parliament, staff, representatives of other EU institutions, and international NGOs.


IILHR Releases Study on Iraq’s Minorities and Vulnerable Groups at European Parliament?

European ParliamentOn Tuesday October 1, 2013, The Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), in partnership with No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), and with the support of MEP Ana Gomes, organized the formal launch of the book "Iraq’s Minorities and Other Vulnerable Groups: Legal Framework, Documentation, and Human Rights". Representatives from European Union institutions, the Embassy of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government Mission to the EU, Iraqi minorities associations and international NGOs attended.

William Spence Spencer, IILHR Executive Director, noted that "as attention to events in the Middle East has shifted to other nations, it is wonderful to see so many — from so many diverse organizations — come to the Parliament to highlight their support. The members of these groups are Iraqi citizens and should be able to enjoy the same rights as their brothers and sisters."

The book develops a comprehensive report examining the de jure and de facto situation of Iraq’s minority components and other vulnerable populations to support the assessment of asylum claims within countries to which Iraqi refugees apply for protection, and to complement other resources on Iraq’s vulnerable populations. It offers an analysis of key human rights, documentation, and legal challenges common to many minority components in today’s Iraq, including minority women, and suggests targeted recommendations to the central government, the Kurdish Regional Government, and the international community.


IILHR Reports on the Documentation, Human Rights, and Legal Situation of Iraq’s Minorities and Vulnerable Groups

The Institute for International Law and Human Rights has developed a comprehensive report examining the de jure and de facto situation of Iraq’s minority components and other vulnerable populations to support the assessment of asylum claims within countries to which Iraqi refugees apply for protection, and to complement other resources on Iraq’s vulnerable populations.

Iraq’s Minorities and Other Vulnerable Groups: Legal Framework, Documentation, and Human Rights provides an overview of key human rights, documentation, and legal challenges common to many minority components in today’s Iraq, including minority women, and suggests targeted recommendations to the central government, the Kurdish Regional Government, and the international community. It then provides information on how Iraqi identity documents are processed and the requirements for issuance of documents including birth certificates, passports, and national identity cards, drawing from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry’s Consular Handbook and other sources. The book then offers an analysis of Iraq’s legal framework as it relates to citizenship, personal status, criminalized behavior, voluntary return to Iraq, and issues specific to particular components.

Finally, the report provides detailed information on the situation of 16 Iraqi components and vulnerable groups, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex persons. Details on ethno-religious minorities and other populations include historical background, approximate demographics, security situation, human rights challenges, humanitarian situation, diaspora and returnees, and the situation of women and children.

Click below for the English and Arabic versions of the full report.

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IILHR Releases Human Rights Commission Toolkit at Iraqi Parliament?

From the Iraqi Council of Representatives website, posted 14 September 2012

Iraqi Parliament"On Sunday, October 14, 2012, the Council of Representatives Human Rights Committee, chaired by Member of Parliament Dr. Salim Al-Jbouri, held a ceremony to distribute a new book to support the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights titled Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights: Bylaws, Regulations, and Legal Framework, prepared by the Institute for International Law and Human Rights.

The ceremony was attended by Ms. Ibtihal Zaidi, Minister of State for Women's Affairs, Ms. Liqa'a Al-Wardi, Chair of Parliament’s Displacement and Migration Committee, Ms. Intissar Al- Jubouri, Chair of the Family Women and Children Committee, and other members of the Council of Representatives, in addition to members of the High Commission for Human Rights and members of the Committee of Experts and representatives of the Diplomatic Corps operating in Iraq.

Dr. Salim welcomed all attendees and expressed his thanks and gratitude to the Institute for International Law and Human Rights for their generous initiative. He noted the Institute’s partnership and support, and praised their work to disseminate information about the work of human rights commissions in different countries of the world."


IILHR Develops Comprehensive Toolkit to Support Iraq’s New High Commission for Human Rights

The Institute for International Law and Human Rights has developed a wide-ranging resource tool and reference guide that can provided needed support to fully establish the new Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights: Bylaws, Regulations, and Legal Framework starts with international standards and the Commission’s enabling legislation as a framework, and then considers over 30 country examples to support the process of developing an infrastructure, rules of procedure, complaints handling regulations, financial and procurement regulations, staffing regulations, codes of conduct, and a host of other issues.

The toolkit is organized by topic and each section considers the current legal framework as well as country examples relating to how each task may be accomplished. It also includes recommendations tailored to the new Commission and the Iraqi context for stakeholders to consider.

The toolkit also addresses the importance of collaboration with civil society and potential mechanisms for coordination with government, parliament, donors, and other groups. Where appropriate, IILHR provides sample regulations and procedures for each issue as a starting point for development and consideration.

Though there is extensive research on national human rights institutions, much of it is theoretical and specific comparative examples are seriously lacking. IILHR developed this book over the last two years to fill that research gap and provide tangible examples for consideration that can be used not only by the Iraqi Commission, but also by other national human rights institutions worldwide.

Click here for the English and Arabic versions of the Executive Summary.

Click below for the English and Arabic versions of the full report.

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PRESS RELEASE: European ?Parliament? Plays? Host ?to? Landmark? Visit ?of Deputies? from? Iraq’s ?Minority ?Communities?

Brussels, 4 October 2011 — Travelling from Baghdad, representatives of Iraq’s ethnic and religious communities will be meeting with the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq on Wednesday, 5 October 2011 in the first meeting of its kind since the occupation of Iraq in 2003. Read full press release.


Minorities and the Law in Iraq

IILHR has also produced Minorities and the Law in Iraq, which offers a groundbreaking analysis of the body of Iraqi law as it affects Iraq’s minorities, as well as recommendations to bring Iraqi law into compliance with international standards and Iraq’s Constitution. To download Minorities and the Law in Iraq in Arabic or English, click below:

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Women and the Law in Iraq

IILHR also released a comprehensive overview of Iraq’s legal framework as it pertains to gender and the laws' compliance with international standards. To download Women and the Law in Iraq, click below.

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The Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR) helps states in transition to democracy develop the capacity to strengthen the rule of law and build respect for human rights. With a staff of diplomats, parliamentarians, human rights activists, and attorneys, IILHR has a strong track record of implementing successful programs that help local partners build support for human rights and the rule of law. Members of IILHR’s staff have participated in legal, legislative, and civil society capacity-building programs in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe.

IILHR believes that domestic implementation of international legal and human rights standards can help states transitioning from conflict to democratic rule to manage and resolve differences. IILHR deploys legal and human rights experts to provide hands-on, on-the-ground advice to legislators, opinion leaders, and civil society. Working with its local partners – both in and out of government – IILHR draws on best practices and lessons learned from around the world to suggest approaches grounded in international law and universal human rights principles. IILHR attorneys and experts present options in a careful, consultative manner that builds its partners’ capacities and leaves final action in their hands.

IILHR is a 501(c)3 non-profit charity registered in Washington, DC and Brussels, Belgium.

Our Programs

IILHR’s Iraq program works with leaders in both the Iraqi government and civil society to strengthen approaches to human rights and rule of law issues by: (1) developing draft legislation and Constitutional amendments; (2) working to enact them; (3) helping local partners in and out of government develop the capacity to advocate on specific issues, as well as assess, develop, and draft legislation; and (4) building consensus on priorities, tactics, and strategies.  By providing hands-on, focused assistance, combined with sound international research and expertise, IILHR helps Iraqis develop a sustained capacity to draft legislation that fosters respect for human rights and the rule of law.

IILHR deploys both short- and long-term missions, and is known for its rapid, flexible, and responsive approach.  IILHR plans to implement similar human rights-based programs in other states emerging from conflict, and to develop a worldwide network of experts capable of providing assistance to their government and civil society leaders.

Our Partners

IILHR draws upon an extensive network of international legal specialists, and enjoys close relationships with international human rights and activists from around the world. The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center’s Human Rights Institute, and Baghdad University’s College of Law advise IILHR on a wide variety of human rights and legal matters, including drafting legal memoranda and legislative commentary. These partnerships provide a tremendous reservoir of expertise and dramatically expand IILHR’s ability to deliver consultative assistance quickly and effectively.  

Our Leadership

IILHR Executive Director William “Spence” Spencer (wspencer_at_lawandhumanrights.org) has more than 22 years of professional experience in international diplomacy, human rights, democracy and governance, international law, and crisis response, both in and out of government. He is intimately familiar with building democratic institutions in post-conflict states having worked in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In 1996 Spencer, serving as Senior Political Advisor at the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, helped to configure Bosnia’s first post-war elections and oversaw implementation of human rights components of the Dayton Agreement. As a career foreign service officer, Spencer worked closely on human rights monitoring and protection and the rule of law in Kosovo, Chechnya, Macedonia, and Albania. He also coordinated policy and resource support for human rights initiatives in the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia.

IILHR Washington Director Charles J. Brown has spent the past 20 years promoting human rights and democratic governance around the world. From 2004 to 2007, Brown served as President and CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions. From 2001 to 2004, he served as Deputy Executive Director at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). From 1998 to 2001, he was Chief of Staff to Assistant Secretary Harold Koh in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the U.S. Department of State. From 1988 to 1998, Brown served in a variety of roles at Freedom House, including Director of Program Development. He is co-author of The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba and co-editor of Judges and Journalists in Transitional Democracies.

IILHR Brussels Director Nicola Giovannini also serves as President of Droit au Droit (Right to Law), an international non-governmental organization committed to the promotion of human rights and rule of law in judicial and penal procedures. From 2005 to 2009, he served as European Public Affairs & Media Coordinator for No Peace Without Justice. From 1999 to 2004, he served as Senior Political Advisor to the Lista Bonino, a European Parliament bloc. From 1993 to 1999, he served as Advocacy Advisor to several international NGOs committed to the promotion of human rights and international justice. He is the author as well as translator of numerous books and articles on political and legal theory, as well as co-editor of The Use of Solitary Confinement in European Prisons.