ISIS family members being victimized, says Iraqi chief for Human Rights Watch

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In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch underlined that the relatives of ISIS members in Iraq are undergoing group punishment. They relatives of ISIS members have become victims of a stigma even though they haven’t done anything wrong.

The ill-advised governmental policies have aggravated the problems of those who have been displaced from their homes and properties and moved to camps for the displaced.

In this context, the president of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, Mustafa Saadoun, told Al that: “About 20,000 families or the equivalent of 100,000 people living in scattered camps in the provinces of Nineveh, Saladin and Anbar, are victims of constraints set by the local governments in their regions.”

Saadoun explained that there are other causes that may hinder the return of these families such as tribal issues as well as revenge problems.

He said some took advantage of this situation to take over the homes of these families. In fact, some people even changed the documents of ownership of these houses. “The Iraqi government must intervene to stop these acts which are non-compliant with human rights as well as charging the wrongdoers and the violators of private rights.

Saadoun emphasized that all these bigoted practises are capable of creating a favorable environment for the creation of extremist groups that would take advantage of the injustice suffered by the people of these camps to establish another version of ISIS. This was the case in 2014 as a result of the restrictive policies and injustice endured by the people of Nineveh and other provinces under the supervision of the previous government. Consequently, these areas have become a safe incubator for the emergence of ISIS.

Human Rights Watch reported that Iraqi security officers refused to hand over security permits to direct relatives of suspected ISIS members that the families needed to regain the houses they lost or to seek compensation.

The report also disclosed that security forces destroyed and seized some property in a form of group punishment.

Iraq families. (Supplied)
Iraq families. (Supplied)

Human Rights Watch warned against such violations stating that these families deserve the same protection provided by the Iraqi courts for all citizens. The courts must ensure non-discrimination, because if not, this will only lead to more sectarian divisions in the country and would delay the desired reconciliation.

The circle of revenge

Besides, a number of local officials in Mosul stated that they are in an embarrassing situation. This social dilemma can expand the circle of revenge and retaliation in the emancipated areas.

The local administration in the province of Nineveh did not take any action to address the rights of these families while the city council of Mosul simply issued a decision to prevent the return of ISIS- related family members, and transfer them to camps in eastern Mosul for rehabilitation before finally enabling them to reintegrate into mainstream society again.

In this context, a special source from the camps reported that “the living and health situation is afflictive. The security forces are holding these families without them knowing the charges against them nor the time they will spend in those camps, noting that International law dictates that punishment should only be imposed on persons responsible for crimes after a fair trial to conclude the guilty parties.”

He emphasized that the imposition of a collective punishment on families, villages and communities constitutes a war crime.
In contrast, the deputies from the province of Nineveh abstained from making any statement in this regard, given the sensitivity of the case and the upcoming elections.

While waiting for a lasting solution and a categorical intervention by the Iraqi government, the families of ISIS who did no wrong - apart from being linked to them - live in deplorable situations. These families are faced with the dilemma of how to escape the imposed reality they have to deal with and the society prejudices against them that sees any integration with them as dangerous.

They are waiting in vain for the governmental institutions and civil society organizations to take action in order to support them and bring them justice by recovering their properties and integrating them into their communities.

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