As Iraqi troops prepare Mosul assault, ISIL forcibly relocates thousands of civilians closer to city, UN warns

As Iraqi troops prepare Mosul assault, ISIL forcibly relocates thousands of civilians closer to city, UN warns

Oil wells set alight by ISIL are visible from the newly retaken Iraqi town of al-Hud, outside Mosul, where IOM distributed 350 non-food item kits to recently displaced families. Photo

1 November 2016 – The United Nations human rights wing today received reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) is attempting to forcibly transfer tens of thousands of civilians closer to Mosul, including near its own military installations, which could be targets as the Iraqi Government’s offensive to retake the city intensifies.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that early this morning, ISIL attempted the forcible transfer of some 25,000 civilians towards locations in and around Mosul. While coalition flights patrolling the area foiled the effort, some buses did reach Abusaif, 15 kilometres north of Hamam Al-Alil City, south of Mosul.

“We have grave concerns for the safety of these and the tens of thousands of other civilians who have reportedly been forcibly relocated by ISIL in the past two weeks,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters at the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva, explaining that ISIL brought dozens of long trucks and mini-buses to Hamam al-Alil City – most of which were prevented from proceeding towards Mosul by coalition flights.

Responding to questions, she said OHCHR had observed a pattern: ISIL was taking people closer and closer to Mosul city, and putting them close to their offices and to military installations which could be targets.

“That would support the assertion that they are planning to use those people as human shields, and to make sure the area was heavily populated with civilians to frustrate a military operation against them,” she said, noting that ISIL is also killing some people that they are abducting, particularly those having formerly belonged to the Iraqi Security Forces.

“Using civilians as human shields is a war crime,” she explained, citing relevant Articles of the Rome Statute, founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which state, respectively, that taking hostages in a non-international armed conflict is a war crime, and that ordering civilian displacements for reasons non-security or imperative military reasons is also a war crime.“We urge parties to the conflict to ensure that international law is strictly observed,” continued Ms. Shamdasani, “in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid and minimise the loss of civilian life and injury to civilians.”

The OHCHR spokesperson elaborated on further reports of mass killings by ISIL, noting that this past Saturday, 40 former Iraqi Security Force soldiers were killed and their bodies thrown in the Tigris River. The soldiers were reportedly among the civilians who had been abducted earlier from al-Shura sub-district of Mosul and from villages surrounding Hamam al-Alil.

According to Ms. Shamdasani, there have also been reports that ISIL has been threatening relatives of people they suspect are supporting the Iraqi Security Forces

Syria: UN decries shelling of schools, Russian embassy

October 29, 2016, 10:31 am

UN and relief agency workers saw starving people, malnourished children in two besieged Syrian areas this year [Xinhua]
The United Nations Security Council on Friday condemned in the strongest terms the shelling of the Russian Embassy in Damascus, Syria and attacks on schools in the country.

Two mortar shells struck the embassy compound on Friday and caused material damage, Moscow said. This is the second time this month the embassy has come under fire.

Security sources said the mortar shells were fired from the rebel held district of Jobar.

The UNSC called for all warring parties to abide by the “fundamental principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises”.

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms another mortar shelling on 28 October of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic), which caused significant material damage,” the council statement read.

The UNSC also strongly condemned attacks on schools in Syria following deadly attacks in Idlib and Aleppo and said that if these are proven deliberate would constitute war crimes.

On Wednesday, an attack on a school in Idlib killed at least 22 children and teachers. Another attack on a school on Friday left an as yet undetermined number of casualties.

The UNSC said that “parties to the armed conflict may not make civilians the object of attack or use them as human shields.”

The UN and various groups have decried the dire humanitarian situation in Aleppo and other cities in Syria, with particular condemnation of the killing of children.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien lambasted the Security Council for failing to prevent the carnage in Syria.

“This council has been charged with the responsibility for ending this horror. The buck stops with you,” he said.

“Peoples’ lives [have been] destroyed and Syria itself destroyed. And it is under our collective watch. And it need not be like this – this is not inevitable; it is not an accident … Never has the phrase by poet Robert Burns, of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ been as apt. It can be stopped but you the security council have to choose to make it stop.”

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies