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Iraq: training on humanitarian norms for members of the Shia Popular Mobilization Units

Following several meetings, Geneva Call held its first training sessions on international humanitarian law (IHL) for fighters, officers and members of the Iraqi Shia armed actor, the Popular Mobilization Units – Ashura Saraya. The first meeting took place on 27 February 2016 in Baghdad.

As many of the 29 participants were officers involved in the planning of military operations, participation was excellent and led to many debates and fruitful discussions. In particular, participants raised the issue of the violations of IHL perpetrated by the Islamic State group (ISg) and they asked whether these norms applied to the ISg.

They also asked questions about the legality of targeting a military hospital where wounded enemy officers or fighters are hosted. The trainer explained that military hospitals—just like civilian hospitals—are protected by IHL.

There was also a debate on the minimum recruitment age—some participants stated that it should be 15 whereas others defended a minimum age of 18. Geneva Call’s trainer explained that the organization advocates for the total prohibition of using children under 18 in combat-related activities, in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This training session was a first step in the process of engaging with this actor on humanitarian norms, and more training sessions and meetings are planned soon. Earlier in February, Geneva Call also held a training session on humanitarian norms for members of civil society representing all the communities in Iraq, including Shia, Sunni and Christians.


This programme was developed with the support of the European Union in partnership with the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action.

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