BAGHDAD/GENEVA (27 February 2020) – A UN human rights expert urged Iraq to redouble efforts to address the human rights concerns of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially children, calling for increased measures in humanitarian assistance, development, social cohesion and reconciliation.
“The 2014-2017 conflict with the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has resulted in the displacement of about 6 million people. Over 4 million have since returned to their places of origin, a development in which the policies of the Government of Iraq have been instrumental,” Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said at the end of a visit to the country.
“However, this needs to be further complemented with building the conditions to ensure that they can resume normal lives. Absent these conditions, a large number of these returnees risk falling back into secondary displacement.”
While commending the Government for the measures it has already taken, the expert said that the assistance needs of the remaining 1.5 million IDPs remain acute. She called for durable solutions for IDPs and for a national peace and reconciliation plan.
“The Government announced its intention to return all IDPs home by the end of the year. However, numerous obstacles remain, including destroyed and damaged housing, contamination of lands by mines, restrictions on the freedom of movement and lack of livelihood opportunities. Returns have to be safe, informed, voluntary and dignified; and IDPs have the right to decide whether they will return home, integrate where they currently are, or settle elsewhere.
“Among the most tragic legacies of the ISIL conflict I have witnessed during my visit is the situation of internally displaced children – a generation traumatized by violence, deprived of education and opportunities,” Jimenez-Damary said.
“I am very concerned at the extent to which internally displaced children in and out of camp settings are deprived of education. Unable to enroll in the formal education system due to lack of civil documentation or restrictions on movement, a generation of marginalized children is emerging.”
The UN expert expressed concerns about the numerous barriers faced by IDPs to obtain and renew the civil documentation they need to access basic services, education, healthcare and social security benefits, housing, land and property rights, and freedom of movement.
She also highlighted the situation of ethnic and religious minorities (or “components” of Iraqi society as many prefer to be called) displaced due to persecution in territories controlled by ISIL, specifically highlighting the plight of Yazidis. “They have suffered enormous losses and human rights violations, and most of them have remained in camps for many years. All alternatives for their durable solutions must be considered with the communities themselves.”
Jimenez-Damary also expressed concerns about the situation of families perceived as affiliated to ISIL. “These families face widespread discrimination by authorities and communities. They have been subject to threats, harassment and violence, both in areas of displacement and in areas of origin, and they have been deprived of basic services including health care and education.”
During her nine-day visit, from 15 to 23 February 2020, the expert met with Government representatives at the national, regional and local levels, UN agencies, civil society, humanitarian and development actors, and other key national and international stakeholders. She also met with IDPs in and out of camp settings.
Her full findings and recommendations will be included in a report to the Human Rights Council.
Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, a human rights lawyer specialized in forced displacement and migration, has over two decades of experience in NGO human rights advocacy. She was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2016. As a Special Rapporteur, she is part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization, and serve in their individual capacity.