ISIS and other terrorist groups

GICJ in collaboration with the International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) and several other NGOs organized a side event during the 31st session of the Human Rights Council in the United Nations in Geneva on 16 March 2016 on the subject of ISIS and other terrorist groups. The panellists presented and described the most influential militias active in some Middle Eastern countries, and discussed the role played by regional powers in exporting terrorism through the provision of financial, military and intelligence support to them, and the responsibility of the international community regarding this phenomenon.

Presenting and elaborating on the most important terrorist groups operating in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and their extensions in other Arab countries, the distinguished panellists were: Mr Sabah Al-Mukhtar, President of the Arab Lawyers Association in the United Kingdom; Mr. Tahar Boumedra, former Chief of the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI); Ambassador Mr Ibrahim al-Adoufi, former Permanent Representative of the Republic of Yemen in Geneva; and Mr. Struan Stevenson, former member of the European Parliament and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

The side event was moderated by Mr. Gianfranco Fattorini, an expert in the field of human rights. In his introductory remarks, he explained that since the attacks of September 2001, the world is witnessing the emergence of a new form of war fought by groups who recourse to terrorist actions as a strategy to destabilize the Middle East and impose new regimes to replace existing systems. These terrorist groups are using all kinds of methods, from persuasion to intimidation, with the objective of recruiting youth from all over the world to fulfil their projects. He insisted on the fact that terrorist acts have been on the rise since the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States of America. He also stressed that terrorism is a new challenge facing modern diplomacy, particularly regarding how to deal with actors who are not willing to sit at the negotiation table, and how in these circumstances can violence and chaos be put to an end.

The first speaker, Mr Sabah Al-Mukhtar discussed the rise of ISIS in Iraq and the circumstances that allowed this group to dominate on certain areas of the Iraqi territory. To these extents, he presented the audience with a simple interrogation: are the Americans and British really targeting ISIS? The international expert and president of the Arab Lawyers Association in the United Kingdom explained that terrorist acts have been witnessed throughout the world for a very long time in history, however, they never spread in the way they are spreading today and since 2003, stressing that it is difficult to know the real goals of these organizations.

He added that ISIS has committed crimes against humanity in Iraq, as it did elsewhere. He explained that ISIS targeted the Iraqi mosaic through the forced displacement of peaceful communities and populations, the destruction of personal and private properties, of religious shrines, and of cultural monuments and heritage. ISIS is targeting Muslims, Christians and Yazidis and all those who refuse to cooperate with them or reject their extremist ideology.

In addition, he stated that ISIS was responsible for the brutal massacre and execution of Iraqi soldiers in the Speicher base, who were mostly Shiites, but also for several collective massacres against Sunni Arabs such as members of the tribe of Albu Nimr in Anbar province.

The question that arises therefore are: what is the reality of ISIS? And how can we be certain that Americans and British airstrikes are really targeting it?

There are very large civilian casualties as a result of these raids, but we can’t be certain nor are we able to verify allegations regarding the killing of ISIS members by these strikes. There are those who question the reality of ISIS, and there are those who say it is an American fabrication, and that the indiscriminate attacks or the airstrikes launched by the US serve to demonstrate that America is fighting terrorism.

Mr Al-Mukhtar concluded by saying that is now very clear that the United States were pushing local forces to fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq, that means in fact allowing everyone to fight against everyone. This of course does not address the root of the problem. He mentioned that we witnessed terrorist acts against Palestinians, or Israeli state terrorism, in a situation in which the actors are clear and distinguished. In Iraq, on the other hand, the situation is much more complicated and blurry, starting from the deployment of mercenaries during the occupation of Iraq, to the rise of new types of terrorist organisations with the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda, and, in a later stage, numerous other examples of new forms of terrorism that have emerged after the rise of ISIS. The only solution, he said, is to fight against all these organizations and all terrorist projects regardless of the nationality or religion of the perpetrator of such crimes.

The second speaker at the event was Mr. Tahar Bomedra, former Chief of the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), who presented his testimony about the human rights violations he witnessed during his office in Iraq. In relation to prisons and the judiciary, he explained that children, aged 12, are thrown in prison for different and unknown periods of time. He added that those aged between 18 to 25 stay at least three to five years in prison without charges, but face the ugliest forms of persecution.

Mr. Bomedra delivered an analysis on the basis of his experience and spoke about Iran's role in fuelling terrorism in the region, explaining the ways by which the Iranian authorities contributed to the set-up and financing of militias in Iraq, and the responsibility of Iran regarding gross violations of human rights that have been and continue to be committed in Iraq, as well as in other Arab countries. As a high level UN servant, Mr. Bomedra shared his belief on the fact that Iran takes a direct and active part, together with the United States, in the decision-making process in Iraq.

He then developed an argument on the fact that the United States governments are trying to justify what they have done in Iraq by claiming that they have put in place a government that respects the rule of law and democracy while at the same time practices the worst and ugliest forms of violations. Mr Bomedra then said that the major crime committed by the United States was that of having not handed over the sovereignty of Iraq to its people, but to a single individual: al-Maliki, who possessed all the key powers in his hands, such as the Prime Minister office, the army, the judiciary, the country’s revenues, armed groups and militias, and even the Human Rights Commission in Iraq, which the Iraqi authorities claimed to be independent. He reminded the assembly that al-Maliki also owned and ran numerous secret prisons whose location remains unknown, and that he is accused of a large number of cases of enforced disappearances. He added that one can only laugh and cry at the same time when finding out that one of these secret prisons, which was brought to the attention of the world, was called “Honor prison”.

Mr. Bomedra went on to explain how he has been able, during the exercise of his work within the United Nations in Iraq, to reach the conclusion that there was no independent judicial system in the country: judges are manipulated by the executive branch; the TV is used to present the defendants and to direct accusations against them, then issuing sentences that often include death penalty. He stressed that all of this comes in response to requests from politicians and in particular from people involved in al-Maliki’s circles.

Mr Bomedra then talked about the United Nations, heavily criticizing their work in Iraq, saying it does not have any credibility, and that there is a need for serious reform. He explained that all the reports of the United Nations Mission in Iraq are released only after they are sent to the Iraqi authorities who write-off any criticism which regards them. He also stated that any displacement within Iraq was subject to approval from the authorities and that this applies to all organizations operating in Iraq.

He concluded his presentation by saying that the situation has become a major challenge for the United Nations; in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and in other countries, vigorous attempts by entities linked with and funded by Iran are taking place in order to extend its domination over these countries, in accordance with the doctrine of “velayat el faqih” incorporated in the Iranian constitution.

The third speaker, Former Permanent Representative of Yemen to the United Nations, Ambassador Ibrahim al-Adoufi, for his part focused on the set up and rise of the Huthi militia in Yemen. He stressed that all militias, whether called ISIS, or al-Huthi, or Boko Haram or al-Qaida, are terrorist groups committing crimes against humanity and they therefore must be treated on this equal basis by the United Nations and the international community. He then said that the Houthi militia is a fundamentalist movement that, by using hatred political and religious speeches, prone the extermination of those who oppose their political views. He added that the Houthi militia does not recognize nor abide to the rule of law.

Mr al-Adoufi spoke in details about the destructive role played by the Huthi militia in Yemen, which undermines civil peace. He noted that despite negotiations and peaceful solutions, agreed through the National Dialogue, were bringing to excellent results between the various parties, including the rebels, such as a peaceful transfer of power and the formation of a government of national unity based on new efficient institutions, the Houthis decided to put an end to the peace process in September 2014 when they took the capital (Sanaa) by force and changed the entire system.

Mr al-Adoufi then spoke about UN Security Council resolution 2266 issued on 24 February 2016 in respect of Yemen, urging rebels to give up violence and to restore peace and dialogue between the various parties, noting that the Houthi militia did not comply with any of these decisions, but continued instead to commit the most heinous crimes against unarmed civilians in clear international humanitarian law violation. They persist in their violations by recruiting child soldiers and this has become a very worrisome phenomenon in Yemen. He concluded by saying that peace cannot be achieved in the country before the militias are disarmed, and pressure must be exerted to activate international law and international humanitarian law to put an end to all terrorist acts carried out by armed groups.

The fourth and last speaker at the conference was Mr Struan Stevenson, former member of the European Parliament until 2014, who was also chairman of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, and he is currently President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, based in Brussels.

In his contribution, he spoke about the influence of Iran over the situation in Iraq and in particular their involvement in supporting and backing some of Iraq’s main militias. He reminded the assembly about the bloody role played by these militias during the 8 years of power of former prime minister al-Maliki, and explained that despite many promises, the new prime minister al-Abadi did not take the necessary measures to address the dangerous situation that Iraq is facing today.

Mr Stevenson said that the unleashed militias loyal to Iran in Iraq are perpetrating crimes in total impunity, executing citizens on the basis of their identity or ethno-sectarian origin. He stressed that it was in fact al-Maliki who was to blame for having opened the doors to ISIS, and ordered the Iraqi army not to fight but to withdraw in the face of the terrorist group.

He added that Iran and al-Maliki collaborated on the slaughter of Sunni Arabs in Iraq, and engaged in ethnic cleansing and sectarian large-scale displacement operations in several areas. He added that the US policy at the time of the invasion and occupation of the country laid down the basis for the grave violations that happened during al-Maliki’s office and at the hands of Iran- baked militias to occur. He stressed that al-Maliki should be arrested, as he stole more than 500 billion US dollars from the treasury of the State of Iraq between 2006 and 2014, making the people of Iraq even poorer than they already were. As a result of such actions, Iraq is one of the most corrupted countries in the entire world.

Mr. Stevenson said that most disappeared persons and people held in secret prisons are also mostly Sunny Arabs, who get imprisoned after the fabrication of charges of terrorism against them. He also spoke about the practices of the Iraqi authorities against Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf who have been subjected to several attacks from Iran and forces loyal to al-Maliki resulting in the refugee camp getting transferred to Camp Liberty near Baghdad.

He added that Western silence at this carnage has simply contributed to spiralling sectarian war, which threatens to tear Iraq apart and turn the Middle East into a total war zone.

At the end of the event, reports and data documenting human rights violations and terrorist acts carried out by militias linked and supported by Iran were distributed.

Participation of GICJ at Human Rights Council Sessions

Human Rights Council - 35th regular session (6 June - 24 June 2017)

Human Rights Council - 34th regular session (27 February - 24 March 2017)

Human Rights Council - 33rd regular session (10 September - 30 September 2016)

Human Rights Council - 32nd regular session (13 June - 1 and 8 July 2016)

Human Rights Council - 31st regular session (29 February - 24 March 2016)

Human Rights Council - 30th regular session (14 September - 2 October 2015)

Human Rights Council - 29th regular session (15 June - 3 July 2015)

Human Rights Council - 22nd special session on the human rights situation in Iraq in light of abuses committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups - 1 September 2014:

Human Rights Council - 21st special session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem - 23 July 2014:

Human Rights Council - 26th regular session (10 - 27 June 2014):

Human Rights Council - 25th regular session (3 - 28 March 2014):

Human Rights Council - 24th regular session (9 - 27 September 2013):

Human Rights Council - 23rd regular session (27 May - 14 June 2013):

Human Rights Council - 22nd regular session (25 February - 22 March 2013):

Human Rights Council - 21st regular session (10 - 28 September, 5 November 2012):

Human Rights Council - 19th regular session (27 February - 23 March 2012):

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