The armed conflict that spread across Iraq with the advent of ISIS at the beginning of 2014 accelerated an already existing spiral of violence to an unprecedented level. As a result, at least 30,000 civilians were killed, 55,000 injured and more than 3 million were displaced.
Currently, the main focus has been, and rightly so, on bringing ISIS atrocities to justice. However, many victims have suffered from crimes committed by individuals which will never be brought to justice either because the perpetrators are dead or unknown. It is also the case that criminal trials are generally ill-suited for awarding reparations to victims of armed conflict. Although convicting wrongdoers may be seen as a form of satisfaction, criminal justice can, at best, only facilitate awarding material compensation.
Hence, considering the scale of atrocities and the fact that individual perpetrators are often lacking resources, the prospects of victims obtaining compensation via criminal proceedings are extremely limited. It is unacceptable that a state can discharge its obligation to provide reparations only by paying relatively small sums to survivors or families of victims. Much wider engagement is necessary, designed and agreed upon in close contact with victims themselves. In addition to material compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition should be squarely addressed.
As a coalition, we hope to focus attention on the civilian victims of armed conflict and their right to reparations. In order for their voices to be heard, a coordinated response is required: a coalition of CSOs working with and championing the cause of Iraq’s diverse communities. Considering the current media spotlight, now more than ever is the time to act.