International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and Partners Draw Attention to Violations of International Humanitarian Law in Iraq
Grave violations of International Humanitarian Law in Iraq must be at the centre of the European Commission’s discussions this September on developing worldwide respect for this law, said the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps and seven other aid and rights groups active in Iraq today.
The coalition highlighted the issue in a September 12 letter to panellists, including Bernard Kouchner, Antonio Guterres and Louis Michel, due to speak at the Commission’s conference “Promoting Compliance with International Humanitarian Law: A Major Challenge, A Global Responsibility” at the European Parliament in Brussels on September 16, 2008.
“This conference should be an opportunity to discuss what the international community and the European Union (EU) should do to urgently respond to these violations and respect humanitarian principles in Iraq,” said Mervyn Lee, Executive Director of Mercy Corps.
The letter points out the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by armed groups in Iraq in clear breach of humanitarian law, adding that since 2003 the country has been facing one of the worst protection crises in the world. Direct targeting and indiscriminate attacks have led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths, thousands of kidnappings, illegal detentions, torture, the displacement of over four million people and an overall intensified humanitarian crisis, it said.
“The sad reality in Iraq remains that civilians continue to account for the majority of casualties and fatalities and that the population still lives in fear of violence. In many areas of the country civilians have little access to such basic necessities as food, water and medical supplies. It is crucial that humanitarian agencies like the International Rescue Committee have regular access and are able to deliver lifesaving relief and development assistance,” said George Rupp, President of the IRC.
The ongoing violence in Iraq and poor security environment have restricted the flow of humanitarian assistance while the coalition forces’ role in reconstruction and development assistance has led to the blurring of lines between military and humanitarian aid actors, reducing access to affected populations. “The EU should become a strong advocate for humanitarian law and principles, by upholding the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, which clearly states that military assets should be used for humanitarian missions only as ‘last resort’,” said Valerie Ceccherini, European Policy and Advocacy Advisor of Mercy Corps.