UN rights chief deplores terrorist attack in Baghdad; calls on Iraqi authorities to protect civilians

5 July 2016

The United Nations human rights chief today deplored the terrorist bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that reportedly killed more than 150 people, calling on Iraqi authorities to do more to protect civilians as well as halt uncontrolled militias from continuing to take revenge on civilians fleeing towns recaptured from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh).

“I utterly condemn this latest horrendous ISIL atrocity, targeting innocent civilians who were celebrating Ramadan in the heart of Baghdad,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a news release issued by his Office (OHCHR). “Along with other recent abominations associated with ISIL in Dhaka, Istanbul and Orlando, the sheer unrestrained viciousness of these people defies belief.”

The High Commissioner warned, however, that “acts of revenge and hasty, injudicious policy decisions in reaction to such attacks are simply helping ISIL carry out its strategy to divide societies and promote hatred.”

Emphasizing that ISIL “needs to be defeated, and defeated soon,” Mr. Zeid stressed that in trying to defeat them, the international community must be careful not to react to their provocations in the way ISIL predicts and wants the community to react.

“We need not just to be stronger than they are, but cleverer than they are. And in this we are failing badly, not just in Iraq but in a variety of responses all over the world, enabling them to tap into resentments about heavy-handed or unlawful responses to recruit more followers, create more fanatics and suicide bombers,” he said.

The High Commissioner said that following the loss of Ramadi and Fallujah, with Mosul likely to be the next big battleground, he fears there will be more of such atrocities by ISIL, as they “seek to make Iraq implode once more.”

“The way we react, in Iraq and elsewhere, will in many ways decide whether ISIL benefits from its indiscriminate acts of mass murder, or is ultimately destroyed by them,” the UN human rights chief said.

Mr. Zeid also urged the Iraqi authorities to take immediate action to locate and free more than 600 men and boys reportedly abducted by a militia group involved in the recapture of Fallujah from ISIL in June.

On 1 June, according to various witnesses interviewed in Iraq, approximately 8,000 civilians, including some 1,500 men and boys over the age of 14, left their village in Saqlawiyah, near Fallujah, the High Commissioner said. Nearly all belonged to the Albo Akash clan of the al Mahamda Tribe. In the distance they saw what appeared to be a line of government forces, who hailed them with loudspeakers, saying the villagers had nothing to fear from them. However, once they reached the line, witnesses said that hidden behind the Iraqi flags they saw the flags of a militia called Kataaib Hezbollah.

The militia fighters immediately separated the men and teenage boys from the women and children, who were transferred to government-run camps for displaced people near Amiryat al Fallujah. On 5 June, the males were separated into two groups – one consisting of 605 men and boys, and the other of around 900, and the fate of the larger group is currently unknown, the High Commissioner said.

Noted that “this appears to be the worst – but far from the first – such incident involving unofficial militias fighting alongside government forces against ISIL,” the UN human rights chief urged the Government of Iraq to take serious action to prevent further occurrences, including bringing those responsible to account.

“These crimes are not only abhorrent,” Mr. Zeid said, “they are also wholly counterproductive. They give ISIL a propaganda victory, and push people into their arms. They increase the likelihood of a renewed cycle of full-throttle sectarian violence.”

“People who escape from ISIL should be treated with sympathy and respect, not tortured and killed simply on the basis of their gender and where they had the misfortune to be living when ISIL arrived,” he added.

Later in the day, the UN Security Council strongly deplored “the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack [in Baghdad] which resulted in at least 200 people killed and many injured, for which ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da'esh) has claimed responsibility.”

In a press statement, the members of the Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, to the people and Government of Iraq, and they wished speedy and full recovery to those who were injured.

Reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, the Council stressed the need to take measures to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism, terrorist organizations and individual terrorists, in accordance with its resolutions 2199 (2015) and 2253 (2015).


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