Iraq: Call for an immediate stop to indiscriminate attacks in Anbar province that have resulted in civilian casualties and thousands of IDPs

20140120 Iraq Fallujah Ramadi Statement(PDF)

1. Human Rights Now, a Tokyo based international human rights NGO expresses grave concern over the escalation of conflict in the city of Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq, resulting significant numbers of civilian deaths.

Violence in the Anbar Province of Iraq has been escalating rapidly since the December 28, 2013 arrest of prolific Sunni politician Ahmed al-Alwani[1]. According to several witnesses, the Iraq government has deployed the Security Force the two cities in response to the alleged attack by al-Qaeda fighters on January 1, 2014. Then Iraqi security forces surrounded the two cities and conduct indiscriminate attack by heavy mortar fire in populated residential areas throughout the Fallujah and Ramadi, without any protective measure for civilians.

2. Due to the intensified attack, many people including civilian have been killed. Local witnesses in 2 cities told HRN that the Iraqi Forces was randomly shelling and air bombing in the areas. Fallujah general Hospital recognized 25 death and 160 wounded including children and women from the 30th of December 2013 to the 13th of January 2014, however, this is a tip of iceberg and total death rate is unknown. The Anbar Peace organization for Human Rights estimates that there were 370 casualties in both Ramadi and Fallujah until January 11, 2014. According to Chairman Mohammed Ali, 73 persons were killed, including 21 children and 13 women[2]. 297 were injured, 89 of them in critical condition[3]. The casualties in Fallujah seem to be mostly civilians, local hospitals claim that the majority of the victims were injured or killed by shrapnel from the mortar rounds during the conflict[4].

According to the local witness that HRN has interviewed, it seems that hundreds death tolls recognised only within the city of Ramadi, yet independent investigation is essential to determine the exact number of causality. According to the medical staff of the Ramadi Teaching Hospital, there are a hundred remains in the morgue of the hospital. Moreover, on 13th January, a mortal shell landed at the site of the Fallujah General Hospital and at least one civilian was severely injured due to the attack. The local witnesses told us that it was shelling by the Iraqi forces. On 4th January, Mortar shells hit the private house in Fallujah city and killed 3 people. Local witnesses told us that the Iraqi Forces was randomly shelling and air bombing in that area.

3. Furthermore, a significant number of people have fled to the outskirt area of the Anbar province due to the fear of attacks. The UN and Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) gathered the information so far and reported on 14th of January that the figure of IDPs would be 13,824, which is presumed to increase due to the fluid situation[5]. Other source reported the higher number of 25,000[6]. Humanitarian responses have been struggling to deliver the aids to those in need due to the intense fighting in the region.

On Wednesday 8th January, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Mr. Nickolay Mladenov said that “The situation in Fallujah is particularly concerning as existing stocks of food, water and life-saving medicines begin to run out.”[7] The accessibility to and within the Anbar area to bring aids is limited where emergency supplies had to turn back, said Eliana Nabaa, the director of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)[8].

4. Human Rights Now stands firmly against the indiscriminate use of violence on civilians by the Iraqi government force amid this armed conflict. Especially, the use of mortar rounds on civilian neighbourhoods is unacceptable under the international law. Also, attack against hospital is clear violation of Geneva Convention. These attacks violate both international human rights and humanitarian law. The Iraqi government is responsible to protect its citizens’ lives, reduce the amount of damage to civilian property as well as an individual Iraqi citizen’s rights based on the Iraqi Constitution.

HRN recognizes that the al-Qaeda fighters are involved with the current conflict, and the Iraqi government has characterised this conflict as “war against terror”. However, “War on terror” cannot be a justification of attack against civilian and hospital, or any escalation of indiscriminative attack in residential area whatsoever. The government has primarily responsibility to protect civilian.

5. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has requested with a list of weapons to the United States to back his military[9]. According to Iraq’s diplomatic sources, Russia has already given equipment such as 24 war cannons and 32 APCs through the Om al-Qasr Port[10]. HRN expresses grave concern that providing weapons by the foreign countries will escalate more grave human rights violation against innocent civilians.

6. Thus, HRN urges the Iraqi government
-to immediately stop indiscriminative attacks against civilians and protect rights to life of civilian population,
-refrain from any intensification of conflict,
-to investigate the grave violation of human rights and humanitarian law and prosecute those who are responsible,
-to cooperate with international organisations and facilitate humanitarian aids to be delivered to those in a desperate need,
HRN also urges all party in this conflict
-to refrain from any act against international human rights and humanitarian law
HRN requests other states
-not to provide any military support or weapon supply to any parties of the ongoing conflict, so as not to cause more grave human rights violations.
HRN requests the UN
-to send independent commission of inquiry to the area in order to investigate the violation of human rights immediately