IRAQ: New Zealand needs to prove human rights leadership in Iraq engagement

4 May 2015, 09:24 UTC | Iraq, New Zealand
At the end of last year, more than two million people in Iraq had been displaced by ongoing violence and as a result they are living in ill-equipped camps without proper shelter, inadequate toilets and clean water. © Amnesty International.

The New Zealand government must ensure that any engagement plan in Iraq has the protection of civilians at its cornerstone, said Amnesty International.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al-Ja'afari will arrive tomorrow in New Zealand amidst heightened global concern due to the spread violence by the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS).

“With New Zealand looking to make the United Nations Security Council relevant and effective in times of crisis, now is the time to step up and properly support those suffering the most, said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director of Amnesty International in New Zealand.

“In the case of Iraq it is the civilians who are caught up in a trap of spiralling violence and mayhem.”

As the New Zealand government considers what role it will have in Iraq, Amnesty International is calling on the Government to ensure that any military assistance is in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government must make sure that safeguards are in place to prevent future violations resulting from military engagement.

“Amnesty International has continually raised concerns about the ongoing crisis in Iraq, highlighting in its research atrocities committed not only by Islamic State but also by Iraqi government forces. These have resulted in a large number of civilian deaths and include ethnic cleansing by IS, revenge attacks on civilians by militias, and indiscriminate shelling of residential communities by the Iraqi military.”

Amnesty International fully recognises the immense challenges currently facing the Iraqi people and the Government and the Organisation has repeatedly condemned in the strongest terms the war crimes committed by the IS.

“However we have also expressed concern that the actions of Iraqi armed forces in the fight against the IS have led to the deaths of civilians and therefore we urge that any action taken to tackle the IS must abide fully with international law,” said Grant Bayldon.

“Countering terrorism will not be successful if the human rights of civilians are not respected and
protected. Human rights are an essential component of the rule of law and have been recognised by the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as the “fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.

“As the world looks to be heading towards another conflict we must learn from the mistakes of earlier engagements.”

If New Zealand is to have any involvement in Iraq, the Government must first be able to ensure that their assistance is in no way used to perpetrate or facilitate human rights violations.

Amnesty International is also calling on the Government to ensure that any further assistance also addresses the shocking gap in humanitarian assistance that has resulted in untold hardship for those displaced by the conflict.

“At the end of last year, more than two million people in Iraq had been displaced by ongoing violence and as a result they are living in ill-equipped camps without proper shelter, inadequate toilets and clean water,” said Grant Bayldon.

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