|War in Iraq and the Kurds|
KHRP takes no position on the legality of the current war in Iraq; its mandate pertains to the promotion and protection of human rights within Iraq and neighbouring regions.
According to information from KHRP sources on the ground in Iraq, large numbers of innocent people have been killed and civilians' rights have been severely violated during clashes since the war began in March 2003.
The international community must urgently ensure that international human rights and humanitarian law is upheld by all parties to the conflict. Despite the many governmental and intergovernmental organisations professing a commitment to human rights, there has been a widespread failure to take effective action against the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein. It has been fifteen years since 5,000 Kurdish civilians were gassed to death during a chemical weapons attack on Halabja in 1988. This attack was only part of a systematic six-and-a-half month 'Anfal' campaign, in which 180,000 people "disappeared". To this day, their relatives do not know their whereabouts.
Britain, France and the United States undertook a radical act of humanitarian intervention in March 1991, invoking Security Council Resolution 688 to establish a "safe haven" in Northern Iraq. The "safe haven" significantly improved democracy and the protection of human rights, yet was never formally recognised by the international community.
The international community's litany of failures
It is imperative that the international community does not pass over the opportunity to find a lasting solution to the Kurdish situation as a whole following war.
It is not only the Kurds of South Kurdistan who live in uncertainty of their future. KHRP is concerned at reports that neighbouring countries have closed borders; denying refugees the possibility of escaping the war. The impact of the war on refugees and neighbouring countries Turkey, Iran and Syria must not be ignored.
Currently, more than 60,000 Turkish troops and heavy artillery are stationed near to the border of South Kurdistan. The Turkish State intends to prevent Kurds from seizing control of oil capitals Kirkuk and Mosul; to fight with Kurdish rebels; and to deter Kurds from establishing further regional autonomy. KHRP is concerned that the deployment of Turkish troops within the Iraqi borders would result in further extra-judicial killings, mutilations, "disappearances" and village destructions. Turkish troops have already violated international human rights and humanitarian law during cross-border incursions into Northern Iraq. There have been frequent reports of Turkish bombers flying over the "safe haven", and there are documented cases of mutilations and killings committed by Turkish troops in Northern Iraq. One case currently pending at the European Court of Human Rights concerns the killing and mutilation of seven Kurdish shepherds by Turkish troops during cross-border incursions in 1995 (Issa v. Turkey). The case, assisted by KHRP, is a legal precedent, affirming that Turkish troops are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights even while operating outside Turkish territory. Turkey has indicated that it wished to reinstate State of Emergency (OHAL) within the Southeast Kurdish regions in the event of war: a fundamental aspect of the human rights violations in the regions over the past 15-years.
The international community must ensure access to Iraq and the Kurdish regions to human rights monitors including NGOs. Concrete measures to address the human rights situation in Iraq must be considered an international priority.
Kerim Yildiz, KHRP Executive Director, says, "There must be human rights monitors on the ground to observe the military's conduct. Turkish incursions into South Kurdistan would concern Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, provoking further instability in the region. History has shown us that there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East without resolving the Kurdish situation. We hope that the rights of Kurds will be guaranteed and fully recognised within the new Iraq."
Reports on the human rights situation within Iraq are available from KHRP.