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Justice and reconciliation key to ending long-term Iraq's internal displacement: UN expert

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 A UN human rights expert has urged Iraq to redouble its efforts to assist and protect internally displaced persons, and support them in achieving lasting solutions, with particular care for the most vulnerable.

“I commend the Government of Iraq for the measures it has taken to address internal displacement that have been instrumental in promoting returns,” said Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, at the United Nations Human Rights Council where she presented a report on her recent visit to Iraq from 15 to 23 February 2020.

Approximately six million people were internally displaced between 2014 and 2017 in Iraq because of the conflict against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Since then, 4.6 million have returned home.
“Premature, coerced and forced returns were also reported, particularly in the context of camp closures and consolidations,” she said. “I call on the Government to ensure that returns are always safe, informed, voluntary and dignified.”
The Special Rapporteur voiced concern for the humanitarian needs of the 1.4 million people who remain displaced within Iraq and the challenges faced by humanitarian organisations to have access to them.

With COVID-19, their humanitarian needs have increased and humanitarian organisations have had additional trouble delivering services. “Internally displaced persons also face numerous barriers to obtain or renew civil documentation outside their area of origin, and civil documentation is fundamental to the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights,” she said.

She was alarmed about reports of sexual and gender-based violence against internally displaced persons, mostly women and girls.

Her report highlights the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, some of whom were subjected to extreme levels of brutality by ISIL and had been displaced for many years.

“I am concerned by the discrimination and abuse suffered by families of internally displaced persons, including women and children, who are perceived as being associated with ISIL,” she said.  

“One of the most tragic legacies of the ISIL conflict I witnessed during my visit is the situation of internally displaced children – a generation traumatised by violence, deprived of education and opportunities,” said Jimenez-Damary.

“Unlocking protracted displacement in Iraq is a real challenge”, she added. “I call for enhanced measures to promote social cohesion, reconciliation, justice and reparation in Iraq, always ensuring the participation of internally displaced persons themselves.”
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