International Rescue Committee Urges Coalition to Restore Order in Iraq; Agency Re-Issues Recommendations for Protecting Iraqi Civilians
The International Rescue Committee today urged Coalition leaders to take steps to end lawlessness in Iraq and protect the civilian population. The IRC also re-issued its discussion paper “Protecting Iraqi Civilians From a Security Vacuum,” which was first released in January and offers recommendations aimed at minimizing victimization of vulnerable Iraqi populations following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“In reissuing the paper, we are joining other voices in the humanitarian community to urge Coalition forces in Iraq to use all available resources to fulfill their responsibility for restoring public order and security and protecting Iraqi civilians,” said George Rupp, president of the IRC.
“We understand that the Coalition forces have many duties,” he said. “But at this time, none of them is more important than protecting the lives of 27 million Iraqi civilians and restoring law and order so that a new democracy can take hold.”
The IRC urged Coalition forces to take the following steps immediately.
Fill Security Vacuums. The fall of Saddam’s regime has caused the collapse of Iraq’s internal security framework. At this time only Coalition forces can restore law and order in Iraq and they must do so quickly before lawlessness and impunity further empower hardliners, spoilers and radicals seeking to grab power left by the fleeing Ba’ath party. Coalition forces are bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians and restore law and order.
Restore the Rule of Law. The police and courts are not functioning in Iraq, jeopardizing the entire security situation. Criminals are roaming free, which means the rule of law cannot take hold, the most ruthless will become the most influential, humanitarian assistance will be diverted, and every reconstruction effort is at risk. Given the disparate skills and tasks of the Coalition military, it is not feasible to believe that any soldier can undertake policing actions. Accordingly, there will have to be a mix of soldiering and community policing in its most basic sense.
To facilitate this difficult task, clear rules of engagement must encompass arrest procedures, treatment in detention, management of detention facilities and access to detainees by counsel, family members, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and these rules must be conveyed to local leaders in order to build confidence.
Identify and Protect Vulnerable Populations. Coalition forces must quickly map out ethnic boundaries of the neighborhoods in Baghdad, Kirkuk, the Shi’a villages and in other geographic areas where potential fault lines for communal violence and ethnic division may erupt. Extra security must be given to these vulnerable areas to prevent reprisals and power grabs.
Those perceived to be Ba’ath party members, collaborators or perpetrators of past abuses will also require protection from reprisals and frontier justice. Moderate and emerging political and community leaders remain vulnerable to attacks by radicals and spoilers and must also be given protection.
Forty-eight percent of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. History continues to remind us that women and children remain the most vulnerable in times of conflict and transition - they too must be given protection.
Engage Local Leaders. Coalition forces must reach out quickly to local political, religious and community leaders to establish needed trust to bring the chaos under control and to manage the crisis and prevent reprisals. Local leaders must be encouraged to speak out against the violence.
Protect Public Records. Years of forced displacement have rendered millions of Iraqis without access to their homes and property. Untangling and resolving property disputes and conflicting claims will affect the rights of returning refugees and the internally displaced. To facilitate this process it is critical that property records be located and secured quickly by Coalition forces. Courthouses, police stations and the offices of security forces often contain documentation essential for clarifying property interests and the status of those displaced. The same places house records relating to those Iraqis who “disappeared” under Saddam’s regime and remain missing.
The full text of IRC's discussion paper "Protecting Iraqi Civilians From a Security Vacuum" can be found here (.pdf format).