GICJ calls on the UN to investigate on the training of children for armed combat in Iraq by the Islamic Supreme Council (ISCI)

The Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) addressed a letter to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Ms. Virginia Gamba to call the attention on ongoing cases of recruitment of children for combat in Iraq. In addition to being a grave violation of the country’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, of the Geneva Conventions and of Security Council resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009), the forcible recruitment of children in armed conflict is exacerbating the plight of the Iraqi civilian population.

Public Announcement by Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) for children and kids to join the military training.

In the past few years, the human rights situation in Iraq has dramatically worsened: abuses and widespread violence have become common, and the political and economic instabilities have had a dire impact on the enjoyment of fundamental rights and basic freedoms in the country. The deterioration of the overall human rights situation in the country is overly affecting children and could have dire consequences for the entire society and the future of Iraq.

Moreover, the advance of the Islamic State and the subsequent war on terror – which is conducted in indiscriminate and brutal ways – have further exacerbated the suffering of the population. While countering terrorism is imperative, the Iraqi government – supported by the pro-governmental militias and international coalitions – has worsened the situation on the ground by allowing security forces and militias to commit brutal abuses.

Furthermore, whilst it is widely known that ISIS recruits and uses children in armed conflict, it is not often mentioned that similar techniques are employed by pro-governmental forces, in particular the al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias. Such militias – which are supported by religious leaders – are forcing the families to send their children to the training camps to be ready for combat. Since 2014 these armed groups have been recruiting hundreds of children as young as 14-15 years of age, while enjoying total impunity.

The most recent and alarming case concerns the recruitment of children for military training at the hands of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). According to GICJ sources, the ISCI has set up a training camp for children in the Imam Ali Stadium in Najaf province to teach them how to use light and medium weapons. The ISCI – one of the leading parties with 31 members in the parliament and four ministers in the government – has publicly advertised the camps in the streets, inviting children to “register” their names “quickly.”

Fearing for repercussions at the hands of the militias associated to the ISCI, parents cannot prevent their children from joining the trainings. As such, due to the subtle coercion imposed on the parents and to the inability of children to realize the gravity and the consequences of the situation, the training advertised by the ISCI may amount to forcible recruitment for combat. The pictures attached to this letter, show that the children participating in the training are younger than 10. Forcing children as young as 8-9 years to undergo military training inevitably has a devastating effect both on them and on the society at large.

In light of the overall situation in Iraq, and with respect to the newly acquired information concerning cases of child recruitment for combat, Geneva International Centre for Justice requested the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to urge the Iraqi government to immediately halt the affiliation of children with terrorist militia groups, and stop all forms of participation of children in armed conflict. Instead steps must be taken to rehabilitate them and provide them with adequate education; and to work alongside the UN office in Iraq to investigate on the training camps organized by the ISCI.

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Links to GICJ articles on Iraq:

GICJ Calls to Investigate Violations in Mosul GICJ Calls to Convene Special Session on Iraq Mosul - Next on "Liberation" Agenda Mosul - War Crimes by Iraq Security Forces and Militias Mosul - The Terrors of "War on Terror" Human Rights in Iraq - New Torture Images Out

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