ISIS Torturing Sunni Arab Women and Girls

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Monday, February 20th, reporting that Islamic State (ISIS) militants are “arbitrarily detaining, ill-treating, torturing, and forcibly marrying Sunni Arab women and girls[.]” The allegation states that ISIS fighters are carrying out such abuses in Iraq, within regions that are still in their control.

Human Rights Watch stated that Sunni Arab women’s sexual abuse is widely unreported (Photo courtesy of Middle East Monitor)

The report released by Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) was prepared based on interviews with six women in Kirkuk. Four of these women stated that in 2016, they had been detained by ISIS for a period of three days up to one month. Another indicated that her cousin, who is an ISIS fighter, had raped her after forcing her to marry him. One woman stated that ISIS fighters had attempted to forcibly marry her after burning down her house in response to her husband’s escape from ISIS. Of the six interviewed women, five indicated that ISIS militants had beat them.

One woman indicated that ISIS captured her and her three children, along with fifty other women, when they attempted to escape Hawija. She was branded a traitor by ISIS after her husband had escaped the town, and was told that she should marry the local ISIS leader. Upon her refusal, ISIS fighters “blindfolded [her], beat[] [her] with plastic cables, suspended [her] by her arms, and raped [her].” She, and the other women, were held by ISIS in an abandoned house for over one month, while being blindfolded and raped her in front of her children on a daily basis. She noted that the other women were most likely raped in the same manner, and forced to marry their rapists.

HRW’s Deputy Middle East Director, Ms. Lama Faikh, stated that the sexual abuse endured by Sunni Arab women living under ISIS’s control is widely undocumented and unknown. She urged the international community and local Iraqi authorities to take action to ensure that victims receive much needed support.

A foreign aid worker indicated seeing many cases of forced marriage and rape. She noted, however, that most victims do not report the abuse because women tend to cover it up due to fear of societal stigma or retribution. She highlighted the concern that “babies born of rape or forced marriage may also face stigma[,]” while stating that “long-term psychological support and medical treatment” are particularly noteworthy.

HRW indicated that efforts to overcome the stigma associated with sexual violence are present, yet insufficient. The rights group highlighted the “lack of awareness” with regards to services, psychosocial or mental health support, and medical professionals in Kirkuk. A psychiatrist at an international organization in Iraq’s Kurdistan region stated that men are not being adequately informed on how to support women who are victims of gender-based violence. She indicated that male relatives will typically “forbid women” from obtaining counseling.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch—Iraq: Sunni Women Tell of ISIS Detention, Torture—20 February 2017

Middle East Online—HRW says IS jihadists raping, torturing Sunni Arab women too—20 February 2017

Daily Mail—’I was raped every day for a month in front of my children’: Women reveal the horrors they endured as ISIS sex slaves… despite being SUNNI Muslims just like their captors—20 February 2017

Middle East Monitor—HRW: Daesh rapes and tortures Sunni Arab women—21 February 2017

International Business Times—Sunni Arab women raped, tortured and forced to marry Isis fighters, Human Rights Watch says—21 February 2017

PILPG: War Crimes Prosecution Watch Volume 11, Issue 25 – February 20, 2017

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Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 11 – Issue 25
February 20, 2016


Kevin J. Vogel

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Commentary and Perspectives

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: Today the UK Parliament Passed Historic Magnitsky Asset Freezing Sanctions

21 February 2017 – Today the UK House of Commons unanimously passed the UK Magnitsky Sanctions legislation.

The Magnitsky Sanctions legislation was voted on as part of the UK Criminal Finances Bill. It will allow the British government to freeze assets of human rights abusers in the UK. The Magnitsky Sanctions amendment which passed was submitted by UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

“The new Magnitsky Sanctions Legislation is going to cause perceptible fear for kleptocrats in Russia and other authoritarian regimes. They all have expensive properties in London and think they are untouchable,” said William Browder, leader of the global Magnitsky Justice Campaign and author of “Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s No 1 Enemy.”

This effort is the result of seven years of advocacy in the name of the late Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered and testified about the US$230 million corruption scheme perpetrated by Russian officials and was killed for his whistle-blowing,” said William Browder.

“Should the House of Lords pass this into law, the UK will be the second country in Europe to pass Magnitsky sanctions and will set a strong example for the rest of Europe,” said William Browder.

The new UK Magnitsky sanctions legislation introduces gross human rights abuse as part of the unlawful conduct, to which civil recovery powers can now be applied under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The UK Magnitsky legislation protects those who “have sought to expose the illegal activity carried out by a public official or a person acting in an official capacity, or to obtain, exercise, defend or promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.” (full text here).

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who uncovered the massive corruption perpetrated systematically by Russian officials and organized criminals, which included thefts from the Russian treasury, including the theft of US$230 million in 2007. Instead of pursuing the officials who approved the thefts, the Russian government arrested Sergei Magnitsky and put him in pre-trial detention, where he was tortured for 358 days and killed at the age of 37. All officials implicated in his torture and the multi-million dollar thefts have been exonerated.

In response to the impunity demonstrated by the Magnitsky case in Russia, the US passed the Russia-focused Magnitsky Act enacting US asset freezes and visa bans in 2012 and the Global Magnitsky Act which applies to human rights violators around the world in 2016. Estonia passed its Global Magnitsky Act legislation in 2016. Currently, Canada and the EU are considering their own versions of Magnitsky sanctions as well.

“The new UK Magnitsky Legislation deals with asset freezing on human rights abusers. We will continue to campaign for visa sanctions on human rights abusers in the UK under separate legislation,” said Magnitsky campaign leader William Browder.


For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777


Kenya Declares Drought a National Disaster

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

NAIROBI, Kenya– Kenya declared a national disaster on Friday February 10th due to an ongoing drought that started in October.  By declaring a national disaster, Kenya will be able to receive aid and has called for international aid in order to help people across the country.  According to reports 2.7 million people are in need of food aid in the country.

Samburu pastoralists are allowed access on January 24, 2017 to dwindling pasture on the plains of the Loisaba wildlife conservancy

Herding cattle in Kenya. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

Kenya is not due for another rainy season until April, meaning that the drought will most likely remain in place until then.  Aid organizations fear that they will not have enough to contribute to Kenya’s needs.  The United Nations World Food Programme is running $22 million short for 6-9 months.  The World Food Programme works to provide children around the globe with a meal that is sometimes their only substantial meal of the day.

Kenya is also contributing its own funds to alleviate the drought.  President Uhuru Kenyatta released $70 million to be used to combat the drought while local governments released close to $2 billion total.  The country is also dealing with the loss of agricultural land and access to water.  Kenya is facing increased desertification and is experiencing a loss of access to water in the Mau Forest Complex due to human activity.

Kenya is not alone in their struggles with food insecurity and the effects of the long lasting drought.  All of East Africa continues to struggle with the effects of the drought.  The International Federation of the Red Cross stating that 11 million people across East Africa have been affected.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta declares drought a national disaster – 10 February 2017

News 24 – Kenya declares worsening drought a national disaster – 10 February 2017

Sputnik International – Kenya Appeals for International Aid as Drought Threatens Mass Famine – 12 February 2017

Yahoo News – Kenya  declares drought a national disaster, seeks help – 10 February 2017

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: British Parliament To Vote on Magnitsky Asset Freezing Legislation on Tuesday

20 February 2017 – Tomorrow, on the 21st of February 2017, the UK House of Commons will vote on the Magnitsky legislative initiative which seeks to impose asset freezes in the UK on human rights violators from anywhere in the world.

The initiative is presented as an amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill which was introduced to the parliament last October to strengthen and improve the enforcement of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The Magnitsky initiative comes in two forms – the Dominic Raab MP version (supported by a cross-party coalition of MPs), which allows both the British government or third parties to go to court to seek asset freezes of human rights abusers; and the government’s version, which keeps the asset freezing power solely in the hands of the government. Both versions cover conduct which occurred outside UK and would be illegal in the UK.

“This legislation hits kleptocrats where it counts. Nearly every tin-pot dictator who tortures and kills in their own country has an expensive home in London. These people shouldn’t be given sanctuary in the UK. This legislation is also an important tribute to the legacy of Sergei Magnitsky and a powerful instrument protecting whistleblowers,” said William Browder, leader of the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign.

On Tuesday, the 21st of February 2017, the Bill will be considered at the report stage and third reading of the Bill.

Should the Magnitsky initiative pass into law, the UK will be the third country in the world to impose Magnitsky type sanctions.

The new legislation will protect whistleblowers and human rights defenders identified as those “seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by a public official” or “obtain/defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The proposed Magnitsky legislation modifies the current definition of unlawful conduct under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act to include human rights abuse. This allows for civil recovery proceedings to be brought with regard to property belonging to human rights violators.

The proposed Magnitsky legislation will also apply to individuals who financially profited from or materially assisted the human rights violations. It applies to torture whether it occurred before or after the law is enacted.

The US passed the Russia-focused Magnitsky Act imposing US asset freezes and visa bans in 2012 and the Global Magnitsky Act which applies to human rights violators around the world in 2016. Estonia passed its Global Magnitsky Act in 2016. Currently, Canada and the EU are considering their own versions of Magnitsky sanctions as well.

The UK’s Magnitsky amendment was sponsored by Dominic Raab MP (Conservative), Dame Margaret Hodge MP (Labour), Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat), Ian Blackford MP (SNP), Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), and Sammy Wilson MP (Democratic Unionist), and supported by a total of 50 MPs.

For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777