GENEVA INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR JUSTICE (GICJ)
13.00 – 15.00 hrs, WEDNESDAY 16th MARCH 2016
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, GENEVA
Often referred to as ‘the cradle of civilisation,’ today, Iraq has become the graveyard of civilisation. More than 550 days after he took office, Haider al-Abadi now presides over the smouldering wreckage of a once thriving nation. Abadi succeeded the deeply unpopular and sectarian Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki gave free rein to the Iranian-led sectarian Shi’ia militias, as a vehicle for ruthlessly enforcing his merciless "iron fist" genocidal policy of indiscriminate bombing, shelling, arbitrary arrests, torture and mass executions of innocent Sunni civilians. The sectarian divide fomented by Maliki opened the door for Daesh, who quickly consolidated their gains by grabbing a significant part of Iraqi territory, including the major cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit and Iraq’s second city Mosul.
The Iraqi military, shattered by corruption under Maliki, has proved to be uselessly inept in the face of attacks by Daesh. When a relatively small force of Daesh jihadists advanced on Mosul, a city of two and a half million people protected by a vast Iraqi military garrison, the Iraqi commanding general panicked and the army simply fled, abandoning a huge arsenal of modern US weaponry. Daesh still controls the city. Meanwhile Abadi has had to rely on American airstrikes and the sectarian Iranian-led militias to recapture parts of Diyala, Salahaddin and Anbar provinces, with these once great conurbations being reduced to rubble in the process, their largely Sunni populace murdered or displaced.
Indeed Iran is using the excuse of waging war on terror and the convenient fight against Daesh, to consolidate its position in Iraq and to reinforce its control of Abadi, as it did during the Maliki era.
Iran is enthusiastically behind the ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population and the destruction of Sunni mosques and businesses in Iraq, driving more and more Sunnis to supporting Daesh as the least bad option. The mass killings of the Sunnis in the city of Meghdadiya in Diyala in recent weeks by sectarian Iranian backed militias, together with America’s silence and failure to censure the Abadi government, have very much benefitted Daesh.
The city of Ramadi in central Iraq was captured by Daesh (ISIS) in May 2015. It was a city of over one million, mostly Sunni people. Recently most of the city was recaptured by the Iraqi military, with the assistance of the sectarian pro-Iranian militias, funded and led by commanders from the Iranian Quds Force – a listed terrorist organisation. Daesh were finally driven from the outer suburbs of Ramadi on 10th February 2016. Nine months under the control of Daesh was devastating enough for Ramadi, but the final onslaught during the battle for its recapture has seen virtually every building in the city destroyed; only a handful of women, children and elderly men remain. Some estimates state that the population now numbers less than 1,000. The ruthless pro-Iranian militias have waged a genocidal campaign against the Sunni population, torturing, burning and butchering at will. Thousands of civilians have been killed. The men of Ramadi have simply disappeared. Some say they are being held in secret prisons, others claim they have been murdered.
The next target for recapture is Mosul in Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq; it is Iraq’s second city and home to over two and a half million people. Daesh has held Mosul since June 2014. Strict embargoes have been placed on the local population with only trusted traders being allowed to leave and return to the city. The Sunni population of Mosul witnessed the fate of their brothers and sisters in Ramadi and must now be wondering if they are to be slaughtered like sheep during the forthcoming battle for the city. The appalling brutality of the sectarian Iranian-led militias will do little to encourage them.
Many may feel that life under Daesh, although harsh, is better than death at the hands of the pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias.
This is the dilemma now facing the West. American airstrikes assisted in the recapture of Ramadi, crushing most of the city’s buildings and infrastructure to dust. Now warplanes from a US-led international coalition have begun bombing raids on Daesh targets around Mosul. An American general in the battle for the historic city of Hué during the Vietnam War notoriously stated: “We had to destroy the city to save it!” It seems like history is about to repeat itself in Iraq.
Daesh has become a convenient vehicle for proponents of the war on terror. The US-led international coalition has rushed to provide air cover, while the sectarian Shi’ia militias under the control of the Iranian regime provide the ‘boots on the ground’. Everyone can then puff out their chests in pride at their involvement in the campaign to drive Daesh out of Iraq. Sadly, such victories are won at a terrible cost, being borne, for the most part, by Iraq’s hounded, oppressed and brutalised Sunni population. Unfortunately, in parallel with launching airstrikes, the United States has not done much to arm and train the Sunnis in areas occupied by ISIS. These are forces that could provide strong leverage on the ground in future. The number of trained Sunnis is about 5000, which amounts to only 5% of the necessary military strength; the rest is filled by the brutal sectarian pro-Iranian militias, who are murdering criminals and follow the orders of Tehran.
Despite repeated warnings the West stood aside and allowed Nouri al-Maliki to remain in office for 8 disastrous years. He became a puppet of the fascist Iranian regime, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the bloody Bashar al-Assad regime. He became a serial thief, systematically robbing the Iraqi people of their oil wealth.
The Iraqi Commission of Integrity (CoI) told the Iraqi Parliament last year that Maliki stole a staggering $500bn (£327bn) during his term in office between 2006 and 2014. This was corruption on an industrial scale. Iraq is now considered as the most corrupt country in the Arab world, according to Transparency International. Widespread protests involving tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken place in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities. The main focus of the protests has been a general outcry against on-going corruption by government officials and the genocidal brutality of the Iranian-led militias and the failure of the Abadi government to tackle the situation effectively.
Many Iraqis wonder why, after more than 550 days in office, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has not ordered the arrest of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki who still maintains huge power and influence in Iraq. Abadi sacked Maliki as vice-president in August 2015 as part of a wider reform package. But why has he not been indicted for crimes against humanity, genocide and venal corruption? On the contrary, he still finances a private army carrying out lethal attacks on unarmed Sunni civilians. This is a disgrace and an offence against any attempt at reform and it is a sign of weakness by Haider al-Abadi. Similarly, many Iraqis are demanding the reinstatement of former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and other prominent Sunnis who were hounded from office by Maliki during his Iranian-inspired anti-Sunni pogrom.
But this is not the only area where Abadi’s leadership has been found wanting. There are still thousands of people languishing in Iraq’s network of secret prisons, including many hundreds of women. Most of the prisoners are Sunni and most have been arrested on trumped-up charges of terrorism. Few have faced even a cursory form of judicial hearing. Iraq’s heavily politicized courts, set up by Maliki to do his sectarian bidding, are still unreformed by Abadi. Tortured confessions and violations of human rights are commonplace and Iraq now executes more people than any other country in the world barring China and Iran.
Abadi had one clear opportunity to display his humanitarian principles and show the world that he could act without the control of Tehran. He could have provided full protection for the 2,000 Iranian refugees incarcerated in Camp Liberty near Baghdad. He could have cooperated with Western efforts to have these people airlifted to countries of safety. Instead, because Tehran wishes to annihilate these unarmed civilians whom they regard as the key focus of opposition to their fascist regime, Abadi did not lift a finger to improve security and accelerate the relocation process. He did not allow the residents to sell their property that they were forced to leave behind in Ashraf, which now serves the Iraqi government as a military base. Nor did he compensate the Ashrafis for the properties that were looted from them, properties worth more than $550 million dollars.
There has been a constant state of intense siege on Camp Liberty imposed by the Iraqi government. This siege involves the complete imprisonment of the residents of Camp Liberty in a small compound vulnerable to repeated rocket attacks, a sporadic blockade against fuel, food and essential equipment, a determined resistance by the Iraqi authorities against the provision of protective concrete T-walls inside the camp, a medical blockade that has cost many lives and much suffering and constant psychological torture embracing bogus ‘family members’ from Iran, who have been allowed to penetrate the security perimeter and shout abuse and threats at the residents through loudspeakers.
These serial violations of the basic human rights of the civilian residents of Camp Liberty have been ignored by the UN. The management team in charge of the camp consists of the same individuals who played major roles in the massacres against these refugees in Camp Ashraf. Additionally, until the end of Maliki’s tenure Liberty had been the target of numerous rocket barrages.
This has continued under Abadi with the latest such attack on 29 October 2015, involving 80 massive rockets fired at Liberty leaving 24 residents dead.
The UN must demand an investigation to find and arrest the perpetrators behind the recent rocket attack. Humanitarian personnel trained by the UN, should replace those currently managing the camp. The siege on the residents must be lifted and they should not be deprived of the rights they enjoy under international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially from a medical perspective. To protect the residents’ lives Liberty must be recognized as a refugee camp and the UNHCR flag should be raised above this site until the residents are transferred to third countries. Bearing in mind the presence of American and coalition troops near Camp Liberty and the US obligations towards the Liberty residents, aerial protection of the camp must be provided by the United States and could be achieved without much difficulty.
Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader has faced a humiliating climb-down over his efforts to secure a nuclear weapon. Iran’s economy was crumbling under the combined weight of international sanctions and the collapsing oil price, forcing them to seek a deal with the West. In a bid to buttress his beleaguered regime, Khamenei is trying to extend Iran’s influence in the Middle East. His efforts to shore up the gore-encrusted regime of Bashar al-Assad have fuelled the civil war in Syria for the past five years, creating the perfect environment for Daesh to exploit and expand. Khamenei, in turn, uses Daesh as his excuse to provide money, men and equipment to bolster the scorched earth campaign by the sectarian Iranian-led militias in Iraq. Iran’s biggest export is terror; it is a regime which funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the brutal sectarian Shi’ite militias in Iraq.
Western silence at this carnage has simply contributed to the spiralling sectarian war, which threatens to tear Iraq apart and turn the Middle East into a total war zone.
The most murderous militia organisations affiliated with Iran are the Badr Corps, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and Iraqi Hezbollah (Kata’ib Hezbollah). These militias suppress and massacre Sunnis and any Shi’ites who oppose the Iranian regime’s interference in Iraq. Currently, the commander of the Badr militias is Hadi Ameri. The commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah is Abu-Mahdi Mohandess and the commander of AAH is Qais Khazali. All three militias fall under the command of the terrorist Iranian Qods Force.
In view of the fact that in recent weeks the most prominent religious leaders and Shi’ia and Sunni political figures have called for the disarming of the militias affiliated with the Iranian regime, it is imperative that the UN should show firmness vis-à-vis these terrorists and save Iraq from plunging into a dilemma that will certainly lead to its demise. The United States, the United Nations and the countries in the region should designate the militias affiliated with Iran, especially the Badr, AAH and Kata’ib Hezbollah along with their commanders, as terrorists and the Government of Iraq should disarm them and bring their commanders to justice.
For the past 6 months Abadi has been talking about reforms and changing his cabinet but in fact little change has taken place. He needs to take control. He needs to hold new elections under the supervision of the UN in which all of the Iraqi people can participate so that he can form a government of national unity that involves Sunnis and their real representatives and all other ethnic groups in Iraq. He needs to aim for an inclusive society that involves the Sunnis and all ethnic groups in the police, army and government services.
He needs to clear out the corrupted judiciary and reform the courts. He needs to close the secret prisons and release the political prisoners. He needs to end the wanton use of torture and the death penalty and to end corruption and start using Iraq’s oil revenues for the benefit of the people.
But of immediate and primary importance, Abadi needs to outlaw the genocidal pro-Iranian militias and prevent all further Iranian interference in Iraq. He should then rehabilitate those people like Dr. Tariq al-Hashemi who are in exile because of Maliki's policies and return them to political life. These steps will surely receive the support of the Iraqis, the Arab world and Europe and may prevent the final collapse of Iraq.