Evidence of Forcible Displacement by Iraqi PMF Militants
Officials, camp management, and three international organizations have confirmed that in early January 2018, Iraqi forces forcibly displaced at least 235 families of suspected affiliates of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported this week (February 4).
Most have been forced to go to Daquq camp, in the Kirkuk governorate, and a smaller number to two other camps in the area.
Nineteen of the 220 families brought to Daquq camp by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were interviewed by HRW. All except one person of the 24 interviewed, admitted that they had relatives who joined ISIS.
They said that the PMF and army forces had lists of names and they rounded up the families with no warning. They said they asked why they were being taken and the soldiers told them they were innocent but had to move to the camp because their relatives had joined ISIS.
Not only were they forcibly displaced, but observers say that when they arrived, there was evidence that both men and women were beaten. One family was forced to leave their children behind. Another had all his livestock taken by the troops.
Three families told Human Rights Watch that as they were being forced to leave their towns, they saw men wearing PMF uniforms destroying their homes with bulldozers and setting them on fire.
Another man reported that after being detained by PMF for questioning, he returned to his home to find it demolished.
On January 24, a lawyer and a human rights worker in Hawija told HRW that there were no federal or provincial decrees or orders to displace these families, and a Hawija judge reiterated that from a legal perspective, these families had done nothing wrong and should not be sanctioned.
“It is a basic international standard that punishment for crimes should only be imposed on people responsible for the crimes, after a fair trial to determine individual guilt. Imposing collective punishment on families, villages, or entire communities is strictly forbidden and can itself be a crime, especially if it results in forced displacement,” stated HRW.
Under the laws of war, forced displacement of civilians is strictly prohibited except in the limited cases in which displacement is necessary to protect civilians or for military necessity, and then only for as long as it is needed, they also said.
Moreover, HRW stresses, “Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is a war crime to order such unlawful displacements of civilians during a conflict. Widespread or systematic unlawful forced displacement imposed as a policy of the state or organized group can amount to a crime against humanity.”