After regaining Mosul, Iraq continues steadfast prosecution of ISIS

By:Justin D. Santabarbara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Iraqi Security Forces Detain a suspected ISIS fighter (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch). 

Since the Iraqi government regained control of Mosul and much of its northern provinces from the Islamic State in recent weeks, much emphasis has been placed on rebuilding the punitive institutions of government. In rebuilding its criminal justice capacity, Iraq has sought the counsel of the United Nations Human Rights reports, which began implicating the Islamic State human rights abuses in 2015. Together, with independent militia groups, Iraq’s Executive Office, under Haider Al-Abadi and the United Nations, launched an investigatory campaign in 2016. In August 2017, the Iraqi government charged a number of ISIS fighters in absentia with crimes against humanity. Al-Abadi is expected to formally address the United Nations Security Council in the coming weeks. He will likely request that the Security Council adopt a formal resolution to aid in the charging and capture of ISIS fighters.

The Iraqi government and the United Nations have focused the majority of its attention on balancing the sectarian divisions that continued to exist throughout the country. Since the Islamic State divided much of Iraq, the Shia-backed Iraqi military was forced to alienate many of its previous Sunni allies in pursuit of repelling ISIS. Additionally, Yazidis and Kurds have been historically persecuted by both Sunni and Shia. Until Al-Abadi gained the aid of western military forces in recovering Mosul, much of the Northern provinces were neglected, which left Yazidis and Kurds with little support. Al-Abadi’s most arduous challenge will continue to be regaining the trust of these religious sects, while also being successful in repelling ISIS fighters from the region. Human Rights Watch has been highly critical of the Iraqi government’s response to many of these groups, citing their continued detention and torturing of minority sects as a mechanism for screening their loyalties to ISIS.

The Iraqi investigation has faced much criticism from Human Rights Watch. It reports that ISIS fighters continue to be tried arbitrarily and with prejudice. While the imperative for national security remains a central priority for the government, Human Rights Watch has nearly 2,000 trials that have universally resulted in convictions and stringent sentences. Moreover, Human Rights Watch reports that Iraqi security forces have begun prosecuting lawyers, both domestic and international, that are representing the alleged ISIS fighters. Additionally, Iraqi courts do not issue different sentences for minor involvement or otherwise. The sentences have near universally been undisclosed, or death. Iraq continues its roundup by seeking additional avenues of criminal conduct. Among them include the possibility of charging doctors and other officials working under the Islamic State, but not directly toward their combative interests.

For more information, please see:

CBC News – Sectarian divisions exploited by ISIS still endure in Iraq – 5 September 2017

Human Rights First – Iraq Finally Holds ISIS Responsible for Crimes Against Humanity – 1 September 2017 

Human Rights Watch – The Justice Question After ISIS – 25 August 2017

String of Bombings Rock Central Nigeria

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa 

Bombing in Jos, Nigeria on December 24. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).
Bombing in Jos, Nigeria on December 24. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

JOS, Nigeria – On Friday, December 24, extremists detonated a number of bombs in the Nigerian city of Jos, killing dozens. Nigerian officials believe at least 38 people were killed in the attacks and more than 78 were wounded. In response to this act of terrorism, the Nigerian government stepped up patrols and instituted a curfew in Jos, and barred people from carrying guns in the city. Yet despite these restrictions, there are reports of more violent outbursts in Jos on Sunday, December 26, as angry citizen’s reacted to Friday’s bombings.

The attack on December 24 consisted of a series of four bombings; two bombings occurred at a large market as people were doing last minute Christmas shopping. A third bomb was detonated in a predominately Christian part of the city, and a fourth bomb was detonated on a road leading to a mosque. The central government blames the violence on sectarian fighting between Christians and Muslims.

Furthermore, on December 26, several buildings in the city of Jos were set on fire and there were armed clashes between Christians and Muslims. News agencies claim at least one person was killed in the fighting. The Nigerian government has stepped in to prevent any further bloodshed.

Nigeria is a country where roughly have the population is Christian, while the other half is Muslim. The Christian residents dominate the southern half of Nigeria while the Muslim population is concentrated in the northern half of the country. Jos is the capital city in the state of Plateau. Plateau is located in a region called the Middle Belt, which separates the northern and southern regions.

Friday’s attack on Jos was not the first time the city has been embroiled in sectarian conflict. There were similar bombings in 2001, and in 2008 when religious tensions boiled over. Additionally, in March of this year over 490 people were killed when Muslim herders attacked a Christian village in the state of Plateau.  Although the most obvious tension between these two factions are religious differences, other factors such as economic and political control, poverty, and lack of access to land and other resources also contribute to the unrest. Nigerian government officials believe the most recent attack was intended to produce more sectarian violence.

For more information, please see:

AFP —  Clashes in Nigerian city after deadly Christmas bombings – 26 December 2010

BBC — Nigeria: Jos sees renewed clashes after bombings – 26 December 2010

Bloomberg — Nigeria Imposes Curfew on City After 32 Die in Christmas Eve Explosions – 26 December 2010

Reuters — Christmas Eve attacks kill at least 38 in Nigeria – 26 December 2010

VOA News — New Clashes in Central Nigeria After Deadly Friday Bombings – 26 December 2010