Human Rights Watch Releases Five Guidelines for US-led anti-ISIS Coalition

A US airstrike in Mosul   A US airstrike in Mosul ©

On March 21, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a memorandum prepared for the conference of the anti-ISIS coalition and summarizing the recommendations for better respect for civilians.

On March 21, Human Rights Watched published a memorandum which the organization has submitted to the conference of the 68 nation US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The document expresses concern about certain practices of the coalition members and contains 5 recommendations for enhancing protection for civilians in the war-affected areas.

First, the memorandum calls on the coalition to take precautions and investigate alleged unlawful attacks. Up to 2,600 people have fallen victims of the coalition’s air strikes, which is considerably higher than the official statistics. The coalition members either do not report at all about civilian casualties or conduct only internal investigations into acknowledged civilian deaths and have no compensation mechanisms for the victims. HRW calls on the coalition to adopt unified standards on reporting civilian deaths and conducting investigations, as well as to compensate for these deaths and injuries.

Second, HRW calls on the coalition to cease support for any abusive groups which systematically violate international humanitarian law and commit crimes against humanity. The human rights activists suggest creating certain vetting mechanisms and demand to investigate the alleged abuses.

Third, the memorandum stresses the necessity to provide safe passage to civilians and sufficient support to displaced people. About 700,000 people are reported to be fleeing the battles of Mosul and Raqqa in Iraq and Syria, which aggravates the already deep humanitarian crisis. The document calls for the coalition to develop a plan for protecting fleeing civilians, not interfering though with their freedom of movement.

Forth, HRW demands justice for victims. The memorandum points out that the Iraqi legislation lacks relevant provisions for prosecuting international crimes and calls for a legal reform to make the necessary adjustments. The document also demands to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court for its thorough investigation and providing medical and psychological support to the victims of ISIS.

Fifth, the memorandum calls for intensified effort to clear landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the region. This hazard hinders humanitarian effort and prevents civilians from returning to their homes. According to some estimates, about $50 million are necessary to remove all mines in the region. HRW asks the coalition to raise mine awareness among the local population and facilitate access for demining organizations.

“What happens after ISIS is […] as important as the actual defeat of ISIS,” said the HRW terrorism and counterterrorism director during the presentation of the report.


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