Iraq: Pillaging and Destruction of Homes in Tikrit may constitute a War Crime

Iraq: Pillaging and Destruction of Homes in Tikrit may constitute a War Crime 28 April 2015

The International Gulf Organization (iaIGO) for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the present state of affairs in Tikrit, Iraq after the ousting of IS militants from the city.

The present condition of Tikrit is deplorable as Iraqi semi-governmental militia are said to have been looting and causing violence in the city. The Iranian-backed militia assisted Iraq government forces to recapture the northern city from IS militants. But only hours after taking over the city, the militia men were reported to be looting and burning abandoned houses of Tikrit residents. About 50 shops were looted and damaged while 20 houses were set ablaze by this group. This militia is also believed to have carried out a series of executions of both civilians and rebels which is a violation of the right to life of these individuals. They slaughtered and butchered as many as 76 people without any trial and dragging their bodies through the streets of the city.

iaIGO denounces these acts of crimes and looting by these semi-governmental forces and stresses that this may amount to sectarian violence and war crime condemned by international laws. The Additional Protocol (Article 4) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 explicitly prohibits the looting of civilian property during wartime. The Hague Conventions of 1954 (Articles 28 and 47) obliges military forces not only to avoid destruction of enemy property, but to provide protection to it. Additionally, under the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), “pillaging a town or place, even when taken by assault,” constitutes a war crime in non-international armed conflicts. Iraq is a party to all these conventions and is also a member of the ICC.

The recapturing of Tikrit from IS militants by Iraq government forces and the paramilitary forces was a great victory until the later embarked on a looting and burning spree. This violence is against the rule of law and fosters fear in Iraqi citizens who are already been terrified by terrorists groups in the region. The act also threatens and seeks to undermine the government’s victory in the city.

The militia leaders had vowed to seek revenge for the massacre of at least 700 soldiers, mostly Shia, at Camp Speicher near Tikrit in June 2014. Thus, the recent pillaging and destruction of homes in the city is a way of getting back at its residents and preventing them to never return to the city.The Iraq government have formed an investigative committee to probe into all the violations and atrocities committed by the group.

Therefore, iaIGO calls on the Iraqi semi-governmental forces to immediately stop the looting and destruction of houses in Tikrit. iaIGO further urges the Iraqi government to take immediate action and necessary measures to hold accountable all those involved in this sectarian violence and summary execution carried out by the militia group. The Iraqi government also needs work collaboratively with the UN and other regional human rights bodies to solve the present crisis both in the country and in the region.