Geneva – The escalation of “security” measures, such as closure of provinces and cities by Iraqi forces and their allied militias, is turning population centers into large prisons, warns the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
"Such practices ignore residents’ basic needs and are not supported by security concerns serious enough to warrant closing entire provinces for several days," says Rimal Saed, a Euro-Med Monitor researcher.
Iraqi forces impose tight restrictions on cities once they are liberated from Isis control. Restrictions include preventing entry of food and other goods, as well as the departure of individuals needing to leave for medical treatment, work or studies.
This was the case for the city of Falluja, for example, on June 24. Tribal leaders and other residents appealed to Qasem Al-A’rajy, the minister of the interior, to allow them to leave, to no avail. The closure lasted for several days.
Even when government forces announced the city would open during a specified time, a sudden closure occurred for three hours, with residents allowed to leave Fallujah for Baghdad only within a 12-hour window through one crossing.
In Al-Anbar province, residents are allowed to move only to and from nearby cities. Civilians are given a paper passport they must show when traveling within the governorate. The residents of each destination are given a specific passport available only after a lengthy, complicated security check.
These restrictions have been imposed in the cities and governorates of northern Iraq; areas north of Baghdad, such as Tikrit and Baiji in Salah ad Din and Diyali provinces; and other areas around Baghdad like Al Tarmiyya, Al Mahmudiyya and Jurf al Sakhr. Militias and government forces control these towns and cities, close their entrances and prevent the movement of civilians. These practices escalate following every bombing or assassination of a military official or militia commander.
"These practices against civilians are a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of movement protected by international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” says Sa’id.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Iraqi government to ease the lives of civilians by providing necessary services, allowing the entry of food and other vital goods, and ensuring the safe exit of patients seeking health care.