Shi'ite militiamen who fought alongside the Iraqi army in the battle for Fallujah are believed to have seized some 900 civilian men and boys and killed nearly 50. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the civilians were detained June 1 during the battle to oust ISIS from the Sunni-majority city. They were among some 8,000 who fled the outlying village of Saqlawiyah as troops moved in on the city. Fighters from Kataaib Hezbollah, one of several Shi'ite militias involved in the siege, reportedly tortured many detainees. Al-Hussein also warned Iraq could see a return to full scale sectarian violence after the July 3 Baghdad attack. (BBC News, The Independent, July 5)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will not prosecute Tony Blair for war crimes related to the 2003 Iraq invasion, according to The Telegraph. The ICC reportedly said July 2 that the decision "by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the Court's jurisdiction." The ICC also said that it will be analyzing the "Chilcot Report" for evidence of war crimes committed by British forces. Named after Iraq Inquiry Committee chair Sir John Chilcot, the report will not attempt to answer whether the invasion was legal. The report, seven years in the making, will be published on this week.
Iraqi and coalition air-strikes are carrying out air-strikes on convoys of ISIS vehicles fleeing Fallujah, as the city has finally fallen after a five-week siege. Hundreds of vehicles have reportedly been destroyed. (Rudaw, June 30) Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers were killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the battle Fallujah, which was taken by ISIS almost exactly two years ago. (MEE, July 1) Iraqi forces are said to be "screening" some 20,000 people—mostly young men and boys—detained while trying to flee the city. (MEE, June 25) Aid workers say the displacement of almost the entire city—between 60,000 and over 80,000 people depending on who is counting—has been disorganised, at best. "The entire humanitarian community has failed Iraq—from donors, to governments, to the implementing agencies on the ground," Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council told IRIN news service. "Fallujah has exposed all of our shortcomings with massive consequences for the tens of thousands of civilians displaced." He added: "When Mosul happens, God help us." (IRIN, June 28)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on June 7 urged the Iraqi government to "take immediate measures to ensure that" those fleeing the ISIS-held city of Fallujah are "treated in strict accordance with international human rights and international humanitarian laws." Zeid cited "credible reports" that fleeing residents have suffered physical abuse at the hands of "armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces." These groups have reportedly been separating migrants by gender, detaining men for "security checks," which largely amount to physical abuse for the sake of forced confessions. Zeid ended his remarks stating that while the Iraqi government has a legitimate interests in making vetting migrants to ensure that they do not impose security risks, such vetting should take place through the appropriate laws and in a "transparent manner."
Rojda Felat, a Kurdish revolutionary feminist, is leading the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces' offensive on Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate. A three-year veteran of the struggle against ISIS, she is serving as commander of 15,000 Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by US special forces and warplanes, under the banner of the SDF. "My main goal is liberating the Kurdish woman and the Syrian woman in general from the ties and control of traditional society, as well as liberating the entirety of Syria from terrorism and tyranny," she told the London Times.
Security forces opened fire on protesters storming Baghdad's Green Zone on May 20, killing three and wounding some 20. A journalist covering the protest was also killed. Thousands of demonstrators had gathered in the capital's Tahrir Square before several hundred tried to enter the fortified Green Zone, which houses government institutions and foreign consulates. Security forces responded to the breach by opening fire on the protesters, using tear-gas and live rounds. Protesters had reportedly entered the prime minister's office before they were forced to retreat. The incident marked the second time in recent weeks that protesters mobilized by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr succeeded in breaching the Green Zone, demanding reform and an end to corruption. After this new breach, Sadr issued a statement to his followers, saying: "I respect your choice and your peaceful spontaneous revolt. Curse the government that kills its children in cold blood." (Rudaw, Rudaw, Rudaw, May 20)
The ongoing terror in Iraq that has now become so routine as to win little note from the world media, today's entry was so horrifc as to win headlines and high Google rankings. Four car bombings in Baghdad claimed at least 88 lives, by the most recent count. The deadliest blast hit the Shi'ite district of Sadr City, killing at least 60 and wounding more than 100. The target was apparently a beauty salon in a crowded market, and most of the victims were women. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via social media. (Al Jazeera) The escalation of terror may be a response to the fact that ISIS is losing ground. On the same day as the blasts, the Iraqi government announced that ISIS-controlled areas have been reduced to 14% of the country's territory—down form 40% after the Islamic State's initial irruption in 2014. Over the past year, ISIS has lost control of the cities of Ramadi, Tikrit, and Hit. (Reuters) "As we have seen as the enemy loses more and more terrain, they resort to these more desperate attacks," Maj Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of combined joint land forces for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon. (Daily Beast)
One day after storming parliament, Iraqi protesters began camping out May 1 within the confines of Baghdad's International Zone, or "Green Zone." The Green Zone, a secured area that includes embassies and government buildings, was breached by protesters mobilized by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A state of emergency was declared for the city and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded arrest of protest leaders. The demonstration was launched to protest alleged corruption within the Iraqi government. Al-Sadr called on the government to speed long-delayed plans for a non-partisan, technocratic cabinet.