A new UN report published on Tuesday shows that while considerable effort has been made by Iraqi authorities to bring former ISIL terrorist fighters to justice, there are “serious concerns” about the fairness of the proceedings.
The joint report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN human rights office found that basic fair trial standards were not respected in terrorism-related trials, thus placing defendants at a serious disadvantage.
“A fair and just criminal justice system is a central element to the democratic way of life, and key to building trust and legitimacy, and promoting and protecting human rights”, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
“Those responsible for widespread atrocities against the Iraqi population must be held to account for their crimes, and it is important that the victims see that justice is delivered. At the same time, those accused have the right to a fair trial, and these standards must be strictly applied.”
Nearly 800 trials monitored
The terrorist group ISIL, most commonly referred to in Arabic as Daesh, waged a campaign of widespread violence against the Iraqi population between June 2014 and December 2017, holding large swathes of territory across the country, as well as northern Syria, until its military defeat.
Fighters committed atrocities, including mass murder, abductions, sexual slavery and destruction, which may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.
The report is based on independent monitoring of 794 criminal court trials mainly involving ISIL defendants held in eight Iraqi provinces from 1 May 2018 through 31 October 2019. The majority of the hearings, 619, concerned people facing anti-terrorism charges.
Overreliance on confessions
While proceedings were generally orderly and well organized, with judges who were routinely prepared with investigation files, UN human rights officers found defendants had ineffective legal representation and limited possibilities to present or challenge evidence.
Prosecutions mainly focused on “association” or “membership” of a terrorist organization, with no distinction being made between people who participated in violence and those who joined ISIL for their own survival, or through coercion.
For example, UNAMI observed a trial in Erbil where the wife of an ISIL fighter was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment based on an informer’s evidence that she used to cook meals for her husband and other fighters.
In another case, a 14-year-old boy in Baghdad was condemned to 15 years in jail based on the admission that his family was among civilians forced to act as “human shields” to protect ISIL fighters from aerial attack.
Furthermore, the report stated “the over-reliance on confessions, with frequent allegations of torture that were inadequately addressed—while constituting a human rights violation in itself—further added to the concerns”.
Strengthen criminal justice proceedings
Through its mission, UNAMI, the UN supports Iraq in promoting accountability, protection of human rights, and judicial and legal reform.
The joint report praises the efforts made by the authorities to seek justice and accountability for the crimes committed by ISIL, with more than 20,000 terrorism-related cases processed between January 2018 and October 2019, and thousands pending.
However, the authors call for a thorough review of trial and sentencing practices, aimed at strengthening criminal justice procedures.
Recommendations include revising the anti-terrorism laws to comply with international law, and ensuring defendants have sufficient time to prepare and present their cases.
“Robust safeguards for detention, due process and fair trials not only demonstrate commitment to justice: they are a necessary building block for resilience. We are well aware that a variety of grievances, including unfair trials and detainee abuse, have been exploited in the past by ISIL to fuel its violent agenda,” said UNAMI chief, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
WEF calls for new partnerships to generate private capital for fragile communities
The World Economic Forum released today a paper that calls for new collaboration between humanitarian and development organizations, businesses, investors and entrepreneurs to make a difference to the lives of the nearly 1 billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected settings worldwide.
Cultivating Investment Opportunities in Fragile Contexts: Catalysing Market-Driven Solutions to Strengthen Community and Economy Resilience outlines a practical approach to how organizations can build the capacity and strategic thinking needed to develop a sustainable business case for solutions that have the potential to unlock new sources of finance to reach impact at scale.
“It takes more than a single intervention to unleash transformational change in complex ecosystems. To truly leverage the potential for positive and sustainable social impact while meeting investor demand for returns, new ways of collaboration across sectors are needed,” said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.
The IKEA foundation is a partner of this initiative. Over the next three years the partnership will develop innovative business models and investments that strengthen local economies and increase the self-reliance and resilience of the most vulnerable communities and economies.
“We support the World Economic Forum because of our mutual goal to improve the lives of people who are affected by crises, including those who are forced to flee,” said IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes. “We believe that together we can help attract the investment needed to strengthen fragile communities and empower the people who live in them to rebuild their lives and create a better future for children and their families.”
The joint discussion paper is an evolution of the work initiated by the Forum’s Humanitarian and Resilience Investing (HRI) Initiative, which was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
As a first step, the initiative will operationalize the Organizational Readiness Playbook launched in 2020, and bring together a cohort of pioneers from humanitarian and development organizations, donor governments and development finance institutions to increase organizational capacity for HRI.
The initiative will also support investment opportunities targeting HRI to meet investor criteria and attract the commercial capital needed to reach scale. It will further facilitate the development of new tools, research and resources, including the standards, common terminology and analytic frameworks that allow for systems-level impact measurement.
Von Der Leyen Condemns ‘Russia’s Blackmail’ on Food and Fuel
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, denounced Russian aggression and its use of “hunger and grain to wield power”, in a special address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.
“Global cooperation is the antidote to Russia’s blackmail,” she said.
Her message focused on strategic priorities for Europe since the invasion. Boosting military spending is one such initiative. “We have to invest much more in solid European defence capabilities,” von der Leyen said. While NATO remains the world’s strongest military alliance, European spending on defence has not kept pace with recent increases by the United States, Russia or China, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis.
Increasing that spending – with a particular focus on the interoperability of nations’ defence investments – can help strengthen the region’s ability to defend itself from such threats.
She pointed to other key initiatives such as promoting green power, ensuring the resilience of supply chains and promoting food security. In terms of energy, she said, the crisis in Ukraine has galvanized Europe’s embrace of renewable sources and diversification of its energy supply.
RePowerEU, a €300 euro plan launched last week by the European Commission, aims to accelerate the green transition by nearly doubling Europe’s energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030.
Ultimately, “hydrogen is the new frontier of Europe’s energy network”, von der Leyen said.
Europe must respond to additional knock-on effects of the war, such as rising food prices, as Russia has confiscated Ukrainian grain and blockaded other food exports. Europe is helping by providing revenue, increasing its food production and supporting other regions such as Africa in becoming less dependent on food exports.
Technology can be a part of the solution to food insecurity to boost “climate-smart” agriculture. Vertical farming and precision irrigation are among the initiatives that can improve access to food in climate-responsible ways.
In a conversation with Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman and Founder, World Economic Forum, von der Leyen noted that she could see a long-term future in which Russia found a path back to alignment with Europe.
“This brutal invasion is standing up against the leadership in Russia,” she said. The people of Russia, who ultimately will control the nation’s future, are the ones who will decide the nation’s way forward. If, in the future, the nation embraces “rule of law and respect for the international, rules-based order, it’s a clear yes”, she said.
Stoltenberg: Freedom Must Come Before Trade
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in a keynote speech to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, told participants that the brutal war of aggression on Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe, triggering an historic enlargement of NATO.
“NATO has two fundamental tasks in response to Russia’s aggression: providing support to Ukraine and preventing the war from escalating,” he said.
“Since Russia’s invasion, NATO has significantly stepped up support – with billions of dollars of weapons and other assistance to help Ukraine uphold its right to self-defence as enshrined in the UN Charter.”
“We may have been shocked by Russia’s brutal invasion. But we should not be surprised,” he said.
Stoltenberg pointed out that the invasion was one of the “best predicted” acts of military aggression ever, adding that NATO shared intelligence and made it public for months “to warn about Putin’s plans”.
“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is part of a pattern over many years – the use of military force to achieve its political aims: the destruction of Grozny; the invasion of Georgia; the annexation of Crimea; and the bombing of Aleppo.”
“In response we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” he said.
He laid out a series of significant actions taken by NATO – increased defence spending, deployment of combat battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance and placing 100,000 troops on high alert. And, for the first time ever, a US Amphibious Ready Group has been placed under NATO command.
“NATO’s response is not to provoke conflict but to prevent conflict and preserve peace,” he said.
Referring to Finland and Sweden’s historic decision to apply for NATO, he said: “President Putin wanted less NATO on his borders and launched his war – and now he is getting more NATO on his borders.”
“Today, close to 600 million Europeans live in a NATO country, with the alliance protecting about 93% of the EU population,” he added.
In a question-and-answer with Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum, after his speech, Stoltenberg pointed out a key lesson of the war in Ukraine that economic relations with authoritarian regimes can create vulnerabilities.
“Freedom is more important than free trade,” he said, and “the protection of our values is more important than profit.”
He said the World Economic Forum has brought the global community together for half a century to address some of the world’s most difficult problems. “Today we need this spirit of Davos more than ever.”
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