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Open Letter to the UN Security Council on the Government of Iraq's Prosecutions of ISIS Fighters

June 13, 2018

UN Security Council 

Informal Experts Group


Re: Open Letter to the UN Security Council on the Government of Iraq’s Prosecutions of ISIS fighters

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are writing to express our grave concern about the manner in which the Government of Iraq is carrying out prosecutions of ISIS fighters. As you know, ISIS fighters have committed egregious acts of sexual and gender-based violence, beheadings, stonings, and burnings of women, men, and youth. They have coerced women into sexual slavery and forced marriages. They have executed women for serving in professional jobs, including politicians or journalists. They have tortured and killed women for not following rigid dress codes and men for not growing beards. 

Yet in Iraq, ISIS fighters are being prosecuted under counter-terrorism laws in trials that often only last 10 or 20 minutes, and where conviction is based on ties to ISIS, rather than on the specific nature and type of crimes committed. This low bar for mass conviction means that courts are not investigating these most egregious crimes, including gender-based crimes. They are also not distinguishing between the guilty and the victims in some situations, with some perpetrators going free and some victims—including those forced into marriage—being sentenced to death. 

Community members and victims who want to see their perpetrators brought to justice have no recourse. They cannot rebuild their lives without confronting the violence and destruction that was visited on them. Transitional justice in Iraq must meaningfully account for the suffering of the vast numbers of women and girls who were raped and enslaved, in order to send the message that gender-based violence is unacceptable, that it will not occur with impunity, and that survivors’ rights that will be enforced. We also need fair and transparent justice in Iraq to rebuild trust in state institutions, prevent future mass atrocities and lay the ground work for sustainable peace. To this end, we call on the international community to:

  • Acknowledge the genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq; 
  • Support the inclusion of sexual and gender-based crimes and other internationally recognized crimes in prosecutions of ISIS fighters;
  • Ensure that domestic trials are conducted under international supervision, since these trials concern an international terrorist organization. Alternatively, ISIS fighters should be prosecuted under international tribunals; 
  • Since the International community had helped Iraq to defeat ISIS, we also ask you help Iraq to reach justice and prosecute ISIS for its crimes and the violations of human rights;
  • Ensure international judges and prosecutors with experience working on genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes assist domestic judges and prosecutors with trials;
  • Ensure the presence of international observers in ISIS trials;
  • Support the retrial of those who underwent 10-minute trials to ensure fair justice;
  • Ensure punishments proportionately fit the crimes committed;
  • Ensure the safety of witnesses and victims participating in trials or filing for assistance from any retaliation;
  • Support compensation and reintegration programs for ISIS victims and the families of victims including victims left disabled;
  • Protect civil society organizations and human rights defenders supporting victims and their families; 
  • Financially support local NGOs who are helping the victims of ISIS;
  • Implement UN Security Council Resolution 2379 and include civil society in these measures and in all aspects of implementation; 
  • Ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance, protection, and integration of women and children who are of ISIS families that have no link with ISIS;
  • Support the review and reform of Iraqi laws, including the law combating terrorism, to ensure they are in compliance with the international treaties Iraq is party to;
  • In addition to charges brought under anti-terrorism law, support Iraq in bringing charges of and passing adequate laws that criminalize rape and slavery as a crime against women as gender-based crimes; 
  • Ensure the rights of victims abused by ISIS are upheld by supporting the reformation of Iraqi law, including the abolishment of article 398 of the Iraqi Penal Code No. 111 of 1969, which allows rapist offenders to escape punishment.

We thank you for your commitment and support to remedying violations against women, girls and other marginalized persons affected by the ISIS conflict and urge you to consider our call for justice. To this end, we respectfully request that you take the necessary action to support real justice and build real peace for the Iraqi people.


Respectfully Submitted,

Iraqi NGOs

  1. Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)
  2. ASUDA 
  3. Baghdad Women’s Association
  4. Sawa Human Rights Organization
  5. Awan for awareness and capacity building
  6. Etana Women’s Organization 
  7. Rasan Organization
  8. Handicap Union of Kurdistan
  9. Al-Taqwa Association for Women and Children Rights
  10. The Women’s Legal Assistance Organization (WOLA)
  11. My Rights humanitarian organization 
  12. Progressive Youth for Ability Development Organization (PYADO)
  13. Iraqi foundation for business leading
  14. Women's Justice Organization (Diwaniya)
  15. Organization of Ata' Al-Narjes for Relief and Development
  16. Tema Center for Relief Iraqi Families
  17. Bisharat Al-Kheir Organization for Relief and Development
  18. Qabas Muthanna Organization for Human Rights
  19. Al-Weam Organization for the Defense of Human Rights in Muthanna
  20. Organization of Voluntary Work in Saladin
  21. Hanan Organization for Human Development (Diyala/Baqubah)
  22. Farah Foundation for Women in Karbala
  23. Maitha Organization for Family and Child Protection (Dhi Qar)
  24. Iraqi Woman Foundation
  25. Iraqi Society for Marshes Restoration and Development (ISMRD)
  26. Ashour Foundation for Development and Human Rights (Wasit)
  27. Madny Independent League (Kufa University)
  28. Safaa Organization for Development and Reconstruction
  29. National Peace Center for Human Rights (Kirkuk)
  30. Al Teeba Organization for Relief and Development
  31. Al-Monem Foundation for Relief and Development (Diyala)
  32. Al-Safwa Cultural Foundation (Diwaniya)
  33. The Best Pearl of All Pearls Organization for Family and Child Care
  34. South Youth Organization
  35. Al-Fayhaa Organization for Development
  36. Ana (Wasit)
  37. Al-Kawthar Association in (Wasit)
  38. Women's Association for Women's Welfare
  39. Dhi Qar Forum for Civil Development (Dhi Qar)
  40. Women's Association for Rural Women in Wasit (Wasit)
  41. Organization of Iraqi Widows in Diwaniya
  42. Yazidi Organization for Documentation
  43. Green Development Foundation (Basrah)
  44. Iraqi Women Association (Basrah)
  45. Qurna Feminist Organization (Basrah)
  46. Sana for Women and Children's Rights (Basrah)
  47. Organization of love and peace (Basrah)
  48. Progress Center for Women
  49. Skilled Iraqi Women's Foundation
June 13, 2018  / Middle East / Iraq