As the military operations around Mosul enter their 16th day, Geneva Call is continuing in its efforts to raise awareness about the protection of civilians with the main armed actors involved, particularly the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces.
Training of trainers for Peshmerga forces
From 10–20 October 2016, Geneva Call trained 17 Peshmerga officers on international humanitarian law (IHL) and the protection of civilians. The training session—held in Erbil—was based on Geneva Call’s 15 rules of behaviour for combatants and included two days of IHL simulation exercises in a camp. During a ceremony to mark the end of the course, all the trainees received a certificate. The ceremony was attended by Geneva Call’s Executive President, Elisabeth Decrey Warner, the Consul of France in Erbil, Dominique Mas, and Commander Salar, Deputy Chief of Staff of Peshmerga Forces.
The graduating officers are now in charge of disseminating humanitarian norms to all units. This training course was the result of several workshops with Peshmerga leaders, in which measures were identified to increase Peshmerga forces’ compliance with humanitarian norms.
“The Peshmerga forces have recognized and identified some gaps in complying with the rules of war. This training of trainers constitutes a first positive step towards reducing these gaps and we are ready to continue our support to make sure that every Peshmerga fighter knows and respects the rules of war,” declared Elisabeth Decrey Warner.
Visit to the Popular Mobilization Forces in Baghdad
From 22–24 October, Geneva Call’s delegation to Iraq met several leaders of the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), including Ahmad al-Assadi, the PMF’s official spokesperson, Kareem Al-Nouri, leader of the Badr Brigade, and Sayyed Amar Hakim, Head of the Islamic Council and Head of the Iraqi National Alliance.
The delegation and PMF representatives discussed the PMF’s needs, and a joint action plan to increase the respect for humanitarian norms among the 40 different PMF brigades is now in preparation. While Geneva Call has been training more than 150 fighters from different PMF brigades on humanitarian norms since the beginning of the year, during these meetings, the PMF leadership formally announced its decision for a high-level collaboration with Geneva Call on the protection of civilians.
Geneva Call’s delegation also met in Nadjaf, Sayyed Ahmad Al Safi and Sayyed Ali Bachir Al Najaffi, two representatives of the Shia religious authorities close to Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani, the most influential Shia religious leader in Iraq. They agreed to support Geneva Call’s engagement with the PMF on respecting humanitarian norms. The PMF were created in 2014 following a call issued by Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani to mobilize the Shia community against the Islamic State group, in support of and with the support of the Iraqi government. According to their own figures, they number more than 100,000 fighters.
“It’s more important to save a civilian than kill an enemy fighter,” affirmed Sayyed Ahmad Al Safi. “Even if we already have issued rules for the Shia fighters, their respect can always be improved. We are aware that violations sometimes occur, and we are ready to work with Geneva Call on that.”
The current military operations in Mosul, led by an Iraqi and international coalition, may put at risk more than 1 million people still living in the city.
This programme is supported by the Government of Switzerland and European Union Humanitarian Aid, in partnership with the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action. The training of trainers for the Peshmerga forces is supported by the Government of France.