On 12 December 2018, the Ninewa Guards – an armed actor from Mosul – and the Ezidkhan Protection Forces – a Yezidi armed actor from Sinjar – each signed a “Unilateral Humanitarian Declaration to Respect Humanitarian Norms during and in the aftermath of Armed Conflict or Military Operations” in the presence of Geneva Call’s Director General, Alain Délétroz.
In the declaration they “commit not to deport or forcibly move civilians against their own will” or “to the ban of the recruitment and use of children under 18 years old”. By signing it, they pledge to respect the relevant international laws protecting civilians, children, displaced people and humanitarian access.
While major armed operations in Iraq have now mostly come to an end, some pockets of violence do remain. According to the United Nations, 8.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, mostly in the Ninewa, Kirkuk and Anbar governorates. There remain 1.9 million displaced people in the country whereas millions of returnees are facing insecurity or a lack of basic services in areas that have been dramatically affected by the conflict.
“Iraq is still facing the consequences of the armed conflict, violence between communities is rampant, and many armed actors are still active, even though armed hostilities have ceased” says Atif Hameed, Geneva Call’s Head of Mission for Iraq. “These armed actors have a role to play to protect displaced people, returnees and the civilian population.”
This year, Geneva Call had already trained 90 senior commanders of the Ninewa Guards as well as some officers from the Ezidkhan Protection Forces on the law of armed conflict. More training sessions are planned for next year, including for 15 trainers of the Ninewa Guards.
Geneva Call maintains a dialogue on the protection of civilians with a number of the main armed actors in Iraq including the Peshmerga forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces. Through regular mass-media campaigns awareness continues to be raised among the population of their basic rights.