Legitimizing terrorism and mainstreaming sectarianism in Iraq: Iraqi Parliament approves the integration of the Popular Mobilization forces to the regular security forces

On Saturday 26th November 2016, the Iraqi Parliament approved the law recognizing the umbrella organization called Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi as a legal and separate military corps. These armed Shi’ite militias have thus been legitimized as a state-sanctioned entity, guarantying military-level wages for all their fighters. This decision, strongly opposed by the Sunni minority, will only further sectarian rivalries and fuel the current chaos destroying Iraq.

In addition to the security risks of allowing such groups to operate parallel to the police and military, this decision has the potential to boost Iran’s influence in the country. The bill will, in fact, allow the Iranian regime to expand its sectarian agenda in Iraq via the Shiite militias.

In the light of the current situation in Iraq, Geneva International Centre for Justice expresses its deep concern regarding this last legislative move of the Parliament and the grave consequences to come. Indeed, by giving a moral personality to Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi and according the rights and privileges guaranteed by military law to its fighters, this bill is a manner to legitimize all the violations perpetrated by the group against the civilian population.

Geneva International Centre for Justice has, on several occasions, warned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, about the enactment of such law following the issuance of Office Order 91 by the Prime Minister on 24th February 2016. GICJ underlined the detrimental effect of such decision on the internal political process and on the already frail security apparatus. In the overall, it would strengthen the overwhelming domination of the militias over the regular forces and allow Iran-backed groups to spread their sectarian objectives.

The endorsement of this law by the Iraqi parliament is extremely alarming. Indeed, it is to fear that it will only lead to more abuses against the civilian population, and especially the Sunni Arabs. Moreover, since the militias are heavily armed and largely independent, it is impossible to rely on the regular security forces to monitor or control them. The so-called “liberation campaigns” launched under the pretext of fighting ISIS are a striking example of the leeway given to the militias.  Most recently, the battle of Mosul showcases the extreme state of divide and chaos characterizing Iraq nowadays. All efforts to bring reconciliation and stability back in the country seem very distant and insufficient.

In this context, Geneva International Centre for Justice would like to emphasis, once more, on the fact that it is impossible to rely upon such armed groups in order to ensure the protection and the security of the civilian population. Furthermore, the impunity granted to them must stop, immediately. The perpetrators of every crime against humanity, war crime and genocide must be prosecuted and held accountable.
GICJ calls on the United Nations, and especially the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to pressure the Iraqi authorities to put a halt to this ongoing state of impunity and to hold accountable all those responsible of crimes.

The videos below show examples of violations committed by members of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) and other sectarian militias operating in Iraq against civilians:

(Warning: Graphic content – viewer discretion is advised)

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