So far, only one bill has been formally proposed by the Iraqi authorities – Presidency: The Yazidi Female Survivor’s Bill.
This bill addresses the plight of Yazidi women liberated from ISIS captivity but is silent on other genocidal acts which were committed. Indeed, it does not refer to other gross human rights violations committed against Yazidi men and boys, women that were not taken captive as well as individuals belonging to many other groups that suffered under ISIS, including Turkmen, Christians, Shia and Sunni.
Kurdistan parliament passed a Resolution on Yazidi Genocide Remembrance Day on 3rd of August 2019. Although passing this resolution is commendable, no tangible assistance or reparative measures for survivors have been envisaged.
Law No. 20 (Compensation for Victims of Military Operations) 2009 was designed to compensate Iraqis affected by terrorism. Beneficiaries are civilian victims of war or their family members in cases when the direct victim is no longer alive. Despite offering an avenue for enforcing at least some forms or reparations for victims of ISIS conflict, it has considerable flaws:
• The bill is compensation-focused, and does not envisage rehabilitation services. Nor is there any provision of ‘satisfaction’ measures, such as truth-telling or memorials or guarantees of non-repetition.
• Compensation is to be provided in case of death, kidnapping , disability, injuries, damaged property and/or disadvantage related to job or education. Therefore, the most common violations and their shattering consequences such as conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), slavery, child recruitment as well as their large-scale and systematic nature amounting to atrocity crimes, including but not limited to genocide, do not fall under Law No. 20.
• Victims need to submit a great deal of documentation and incur relatively high costs before compensation is awarded. This proved to be problematic for displaced individuals, who did not have those documents at hand, or who may have lost this evidence during the armed conflict.
• Finally, insufficient amount of financial means for compensation allocated annually, shortage of qualified staff, scarcity of compensation sub-committee offices at the local level, exclusion of certain groups of victims due to their perceived affiliation to ISIS, protracted and unclear procedures hinder effective implementation. These shortcomings taken together probably constitute an insurmountable obstacle for most of those residing in camps wanting to file a claim.
We believe the Iraqi authorities, both federal and regional, should be the principal sponsor of a national reparation program. However, international actors should be encouraged to contribute to reparations by making monetary or in-kind donations.
Too often in post-conflict situations victims’ needs are ignored. After the mass crimes committed in the Balkan and Rwandan conflicts, too much focus was placed on criminal accountability, and not enough on helping victims rebuild their lives. We know from previous experience that there is only a brief post-conflict window in which international attention is focused on victims. Only with a clear, unified message can we deliver on this momentum.
Given the already high burden the armed conflict with ISIS has placed on Iraqi minorities and the entire society, as a coalition we need to focus our priorities on this conflict. Currently, the after-effects of ISIS have a great deal of media attention, presenting a great opportunity to develop a culture of reparations in Iraq. Once this is established, it will be easier to successfully advocate for crimes committed in other conflicts.