> Iraq: Killings, Expulsions on the Rise in Kirkuk
> U.S. Not Fulfilling Duties of "Occupying Power"
>
>
> (April, April 15, 2003) - Dozens of civilians have been killed in the
> northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk since April 10, and looting and forced
> expulsions are continuing, Human Rights Watch said today.
>
> Human Rights Watch said that U.S. and coalition forces have failed to
> bring law and order to Kirkuk and ensure the security of civilians, and
> therefore contravene the Geneva Convention provisions specifying the
> obligations of an occupying power.
>
> Widespread looting and destruction of property are affecting all ethnic
> groups in the city, while the situation outside of Kirkuk appears even
> more precarious, Human Rights Watch said. A Human Rights Watch team
> documented the expulsion of Arabs living in villages south of Kirkuk, on
> the basis of what one official said were policy decisions by the
> Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
>
> "Kirkuk right now is a tinderbox," said Hania Mufti, London director of
> the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "U.S.
> troops must stop the violence. And PUK leaders should take immediate
> steps to halt any expulsions of Iraqi Arabs from their homes."
>
> Human Rights Watch said that the U.S. and interim Iraqi authorities,
> including Kurdish  representatives, should take steps to establish as
> soon as possible a mechanism to settle claims over disputed property and
> other assets.
>
> Human Rights Watch researchers spent four days in Kirkuk following the
> withdrawal of Iraqi forces from the city on April 10, documenting
> civilian deaths, forced expulsions, and other abuses committed by all
> ethnic groups. The researchers interviewed Arab families forcibly
> expelled from their homes, eyewitnesses to reprisal killings, and
> Kurdish and Turkoman officials. The researchers also examined hospital
> and morgue records.
>
> Killings of Civilians
> Since April 10, at least 40 civilians have been killed in the city. Many
> of them appear to have died as a result of clashes between armed
> civilians and Ba'ath Party officials. According to forensic records, at
> least two died from close range single gunshot wounds to the head, and a
> third, whose hands were bound, bore lesions on the neck consistent with
> hanging.
>
> Forced Expulsions
> On April 13, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed Arabs from the
> al-Shummar tribe who had fled four villages south of Kirkuk soon after
> Kurdish forces had taken control of the area. Some of the villagers said
> a local Kurdish official had given them written notification to leave
> their homes within three days.
>
> Soon thereafter, nearly 2,000 residents from the villages of
> al-Muntasir, Khalid, al-Wahda and Umar Ibn al-Khattab took refuge in
> tents and homes of fellow tribal members in the village of Sa'ad bin Abi
> Waqqas and its vicinity. Several of the displaced said they had been
> forced from their homes at gunpoint, while their possessions, including
> cars, tractors, and household goods, were taken away. "They would have
> killed us if we hadn't left," an elderly woman said.
>
> Human Rights Watch investigators found the village of al-Muntasir
> abandoned and ransacked. The doors of several homes in the village had
> been spray-painted with the names of Kurds to whom the Kurdish
> authorities had evidently given permission to eventually occupy the
> homes. When Human Rights Watch questioned a PUK official in the nearby
> town of Daqouq about the expulsions, he said they had been carried out
> on the basis of a policy decision taken by the PUK's Political Bureau.
>
> This policy, according to the official, stated that all persons who had
> been resettled from their original homes to other parts to the country
> by the Iraqi government in the past should return to these homes. This
> policy, the PUK official said, "has been approved by U.S. and coalition
> forces."  No independent confirmation or denial of these forces'
> approval was immediately available.
>
> While senior PUK officials in Arbil told Human Rights Watch researchers
> that they had given assurances to representatives of the al-Shummar
> tribe that they need not vacate their homes, this does not appear to
> have been implemented on the ground.
>
> Human Rights Watch said that the United States, as the occupying power,
> has a responsibility to act to prevent human rights abuses. According to
> international law, an occupying power has a duty to restore and ensure
> public order in the territory under its authority. Under the 1949 Geneva
> Conventions (Fourth Geneva Convention article 6), the duty attaches as
> soon as the occupying force exercises control or authority over
> civilians of that territory.
>
> Military commanders must prevent and where necessary suppress serious
> violations involving the local population under their control or subject
> to their authority. The occupying force is responsible for protecting
> the population from violence by third parties, such as newly formed
> armed groups or forces of the former regime. Ensuring local security
> includes protecting persons, including minority groups and former
> government officials, from reprisals and revenge attacks.
>
> Background
> In 1973, as part of the Iraqi government's policy to permanently settle
> Arab nomadic tribes from central and southern Iraq, families from the
> al-Shummar tribe were resettled in the al-Iskan area, some 28 kms south
> of Kirkuk city. They were given homes as well as agricultural land that
> belonged to forcibly displaced Kurds. A small number of families had
> settled there following the 1991 Gulf war. They had been living in
> Kuwait and were part of that country's bidun community, to whom the
> Kuwaiti government had denied nationality. Some of these families fled
> to Iraq prior to the war, and the Kuwaiti government later refused to
> re-admit them after the cessation of hostilities.
>
> In 1975, following the collapse of the Kurdish revolt led by Mulla
> Mustafa Barzani, the Iraqi government embarked on an extensive
> "Arabization" program of the northern Kurdish provinces, expelling tens
> of thousands of Kurds, Turkomans and Assyrians from their homes and
> replacing them with Arab families from southern Iraq. At least 120,000
> people belonging to these ethnic minorities were expelled since 1991,
> most of them Kurds. For a detailed report on the expulsion of ethnic
> minorities from the Kirkuk region, please visit
> http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/iraq0303/
>
> To read recent Human Rights Watch documents on the war in Iraq, please
> see: http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/iraq/