Note by the Secretariat
The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues on her visit to Iraq from 27 February to 7 March 2016.
Minority ethnic and religious communities in Iraq, which have been an integral part of the population and cultural heritage of the country for millenniums, are facing an unprecedented crisis that threatens their continued existence in the country. Iraq is at a crossroads, and the actions of the Government now will determine the extent to which the country maintains its rich ethnic and religious diversity, or whether conflict and neglect of minority rights will contribute to depriving it of that diversity in the future. Seeking security and seeing few prospects for protection of their human rights in Iraq, many have left the country, resulting in a dramatic decrease in minority populations. Without urgent action, many thousands more may follow.
The genocidal terror campaign perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, has had a particular impact on regions with large minority populations, resulting in communities fleeing their homes and many thousands being killed or held captive, including women and children held in sexual slavery. Many remain captive and at risk of violence or death. Allegations of genocide against the Yazidi and possibly other ethnic and religious communities must be fully investigated. The Government and the international community must also act decisively and in accordance with their commitments under international law to protect civilians and to prosecute those suspected of such crimes.
The challenges include ensuring that vulnerable ethnic and religious groups can return to their historic homelands should they so desire, and providing long-term support to rebuild shattered lives and communities. The issues faced by minorities are long-standing and deeply entrenched in Iraqi society. The defeat of ISIL is only one important step among many needed to address the concerns of communities that are vulnerable to attack, subject to deeply entrenched discrimination and excluded from economic, political and social life.
Trust in national authorities and hope for the future must be rebuilt on a foundation of consultation, participation and legal, policy and institutional frameworks for minority rights, which are currently absent.