Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
We are extremely concerned at the situation of civilians in Mosul where fighting is becoming ever more intense and concentrated as Iraqi Security Forces, supported by the international coalition, push to retake the whole of the city from ISIL. We remind all parties to the conflict that they must abide by the principles of humanity, distinction, proportionality and precaution in carrying out military operations.
As Mosul is increasingly liberated from ISIL, we are seeing an alarming rise in threats, specifically of forced evictions, against those suspected of being ISIL members or whose relatives are alleged to be involved with ISIL – threats that have also been made in other areas.
We have received reports of so-called night letters left at families’ houses or distributed in neighbourhoods, including in Sharqat in Salahadin Governorate, Al Heet City in Al Anbar and Al-Qayyarah in Ninewa Governorate, as well as in Mosul City. These letters typically warn people to leave by a particular date or face forced expulsion. Many of these threats are the result of tribal agreements that explicitly demand that families of affiliated ISIL members be excluded from the area.
Hundreds of families have been threatened with forced displacement and such developments are extremely worrying. People are at real risk of forced eviction from their homes and losing access to basic necessities, including adequate housing, food, access to health services and education.
Illegal forced evictions and forcible displacement may amount to collective punishment and are in clear contravention of the Iraqi Constitution, international human rights and international humanitarian law. Criminal liability is strictly personal to the individual involved in the commission of the crime for which she or he has been convicted by a court of law, according to the facts. In no way can responsibility for crimes be transferred to any another innocent person.
We urge the Iraqi Government to take action to halt such imminent evictions or any type of collective punishment, and to reinforce the formal justice system to bring perpetrators to justice. Illegal forced evictions are acts of vengeance that are detrimental to national reconciliation and social cohesion.
For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466/ email@example.com )
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