• Press Release

Iraq: Fears for safety of civilians during battle for Mosul

October 17, 2016

Every effort must be made to protect civilians from the onslaught of war and potential revenge attacks in Mosul, said Amnesty International today as the operation to recapture the city from the armed group calling itself the Islamic State gets under way.

Tomorrow, 18 October 2016, Amnesty International will launch a major new report ‘Punished for Daesh’s crimes’: Displaced Iraqis abused by militias and government forces which documents serious human rights violations – including war crimes committed by Iraqi militias and government forces against displaced civilians during past military operations. The report warns against a repeat of such violations on an even greater scale in the Mosul offensive.

“Iraqi authorities must take concrete steps to ensure there is no repeat of the gross violations witnessed in Falluja and other parts of Iraq during confrontations between government forces and the Islamic State armed group,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi’s instructions to exercise ‘caution and vigilance’ to ensure protection of civilians must be more than token words. The Iraqi authorities must exercise effective command and control over militias, and they must ensure that personnel implicated in past violations do not take part in the Mosul operations. All parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties during their attack on Mosul.”

Iraqi and Kurdish authorities involved in the planning of the military operation must ensure that civilians fleeing the fighting are provided with a safe route.

“The authorities must spare no effort to avoid leaving civilians trapped in the crossfire with no way out,” said Philip Luther.

“Civilians fleeing the fighting must also be protected from revenge attacks and provided with shelter and humanitarian assistance. With up to a million people possibly to be displaced from Mosul and the surrounding areas, the situation could rapidly deteriorate into a humanitarian catastrophe. The Islamic State armed group must allow civilians to leave, and not use them as human shields.”