Last week, a delegation led by PAFI President Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari testified before the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) during a seminar about violence in Iraq.
The delegation included MP Ahmed al-Masari, head of the Sunni parliamentary bloc, and MPs from Diyala province, Raad al-Dahlaky and Nahda al-Daini, and Iraqi human rights activist, Nagham al-Jubouri.
The seminar, which was held in the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, focused on human rights violations committed by Daesh (ISIS) and government-aligned militia groups in Iraq.
Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari and the delegation provided testimony to the commission regarding events in Sunni-majority areas such as Diyala province. Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari also presented the commission with official documents regarding the urgent need to investigate the crimes and violations by militias targeting Sunni civilians in Iraq.
Below is the official letter presented by PAFI President Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, His Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, concerning human rights violations and government oppression in Iraq.
While the world’s attention has become focused on the scourge of ISIS and its atrocities, another form of violence in Iraq has gone unnoticed by many, yet, it is a fundamental source of the political and social tension manifesting itself today in Iraq.
For many years, going back to the period of rule under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sunni Iraqis have come under assault and become victims of unlawful violence by the Iraqi government.
Sunni civilians, feeling increasingly marginalized and forgotten by their government, began to voice their concerns and protest on behalf of their grievances. These peaceful protests were met with a disproportionately violent response. Over time, the oppressive measures continued to target innocent civilians.
Now, with the rise of Iranian-backed, Shia-majority militias that have become more power that Iraq’s armed forces, Sunnis are under continued threat of unlawful violence and murder.
In areas that are now being liberated by militia forces, there are accusations of war crimes and extrajudicial killings. The communities that need to be protected from ISIS forces are now also suffering from violence by government-aligned forces. This only serves to imperil innocent Iraqis and drive them into the arms of ISIS.
Peace Ambassadors for Iraq considers the issue of government oppression and militia violence to be of the utmost importance because without addressing these issues and bringing justice to these communities, ISIS and its ilk will never truly be defeated.
PAFI Delegation: (from L to R) Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari, MP Raad al-Dahlaky, MP Ahmed al-Masari, MP Nahda al-Daini, and Nagham al-Jubouri
His Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein | United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI) is honored to be able to discuss our findings before the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.
We would like to present the tragic picture of the reality of life in Iraq. Particularly, we would like to highlight the many human rights abuses, systematic oppression, and acts of injustice that have targeted the Sunni Arabs of Iraq.
For several years, Iraqis have attempted to exercise their constitutional rights by voicing their concerns through peaceful means about the oppressive measures that were being taken by the Iraqi government.
Let me specifically address a series of events that highlight the oppression to which I am referring. Sunnis in Iraq began peaceful demonstrations in six provinces on Fridays of each week throughout the country. Many of those who sent out to protest were Sunni civilians who had experienced oppression by the central government. These demonstrators did not use any violence to harm others or attack public property. Their goal was to make their legitimate grievances heard through non-violent means.
In response, the Government reciprocated with excessive use of force and violence that targeted these peaceful protesters. Among those who were known to have taken part in the violent counter-measures, were members of various government security agencies, the police, and armed forces. Rather than using their weapons to defend the borders of Iraq, they turned them against their own people.
There were many victims of the violence that the Government perpetrated. Men, women, children, and the elderly were severely injured and killed. Security forces targeted the peaceful demonstrators without any justification.
Our presence in the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights is to officially register these violations, which have continued until this very day. The events that we have described to you, unfortunately, have become an all too common occurrence in the lives of Iraqi civilians, particularly those who are Sunni and have suffered from years of oppression and marginalization.
These human rights violations are in complete contravention to the Charter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law, and Iraqi law. These violations have occurred in the cities of: Fallujah, Ramadi, Hawija, Tikrit, Mosul, Tal Afar, Samarra, Muqdadiya, Beiji, Amirli, Suleiman Bek, and Abu Ghraib. Among the victims of these violations in these various cities have been women, children, and the elderly. Tragically, there have also been extrajudicial killings in many of these instances and these killings have been documented by the international organization, Human Rights Watch. Including this violence to innocent civilians, we have seen the targeting of Sunni mosques, homes, hospitals, critical infrastructure, and stores which are meant to intimidate and isolate those who wish to return to these areas and speak against the Government.
The recently announced measures to build a wall around the capital city of Baghdad are concerning because they seem to be a similar pattern of oppression that will directly affect those seeking safe harbor from military operations. This has rendered many of these areas outside Baghdad as Sunni-majority prisons, unfit for those who need vital assistance.
Your Highness and the High Commission, we would like to turn your attention to these events which have claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people over the course of many years. These violations must not go unreported and unpunished because they are in complete violation of Iraqi and international law.
Our organization, PAFI, comes with this message in hand and we have presented a summary of events including reports from victims and eye witnesses. We hope to bring to light the events that have transpired and with your help we can begin to bring justice to those who have been harmed.
Iraq is a country that has suffered through too many years of violence and bloodshed and now, more than ever, we must support the Iraqi people who are being hurt and killed before it is too late.
We extend our sincere appreciation to your Highness and to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.
With our great thanks,
Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari
President | Peace Ambassadors for Iraq