Iraq

Mosul offensive: UN rights expert warns of potential worst-case scenario displacement in Iraq

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GENEVA (19 October 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, today expressed deep concerns about the plight of internally displaced persons following intensification of fighting and its potential humanitarian consequences as Iraqi forces launch a military campaign to retake Mosul from the so called Islamic State.

As many as 1.5 million women, men, girls and boys may be impacted by the military campaign, and 200,000 people are expected to be displaced in the first weeks, according to UN agencies. In a worst-case scenario, one million people could be displaced and 700,000 could be in need of emergency shelter.

“While humanitarian agencies have put in place preparedness measures ahead of the offensive to ensure that protection needs are met and humanitarian assistance is ready to be distributed, arrangements for safe exit in dignity have not been given enough attention,” Mr. Beyani said.

The expert underscored that the parties to the conflict have a responsibility to protect internally displaced persons in accordance with the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement*. He called on all actors to respect their obligations under international law relating to the protection of civilians, including women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons. “All personnel engaged in military operations must comply with applicable standards in this regard,” Mr. Beyani emphasised.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that access to safety for IDPs is a fundamental right and a paramount concern that must be addressed urgently. Checkpoints must not be used to prevent internally displaced persons to access places of safety throughout the country.

“Appropriate systems must be put in place for emergency evacuations of civilians at risk from areas where the conflict is taking place or from areas that remain insecure, and their access to emergency lifesaving assistance such as provision of food, water and medical care must be guaranteed,” he added. 

“IDPs have a right to move freely and to choose where to relocate, as prescribed in international law,” Mr. Beyani said. “Measures should be taken to facilitate that right and to assist their movement in safety, irrespective of their ethnic or religious identity, as well as to provide all necessary assistance to them.” 

“While legitimate security concerns exist, security measures such as the screening of civilians must not infringe on IDPs’ human rights, including their freedom of movement,” the Special Rapporteur underscored.

In this context, the human rights expert called on the Government of Iraq to issue clear orders to all personnel engaged in military operations to grant unhindered access to humanitarian organisations to all facilities where security vetting is being conducted and where IDPs and civilians are located.

He also stressed that contingency plans must be activated for the protection and transportation of civilians where numbers of civilians exceed planned capacity of IDP locations, or outflows of civilians do not happen in areas anticipated. 

“UN humanitarian agencies and other international organizations on the ground are facing a shortfall in funding that hampers their work,” the expert said. “The international community must not turn a blind eye to the situation in Iraq and needs to remain a consistent and reliable partner in providing humanitarian assistance.” 

Mr. Beyani visited Iraq on an official visit in May 2015.

(*) Check the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/Standards.aspx

Mr. Chaloka Beyani, Professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as 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. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Iraq: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/IQIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Harriet Hirst (+41 22 739 8110 / hirst@unhcr.org) or write to idp@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)   

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