This approach of KRG towards HR is illustrated by continuation of detention of the journalist Niaz Aziz Saleh, held since January 2012 for allegedly disclosing details of election rigging, without charge or trial. Asayish Gishti in Erbil reportedly repeatedly refused to take him to court to stand trial. Serious concerns have been expressed by partners on the incommunicado arrest of Mr. Fikret Igrek Chairman of the of the Yazidi Diaspora Council (17-6-2015) and 400 Sinjar activists by KRG military and security forces for their political attitudes.
On 10 June 2015 the EP Delegation invited Said Hassan, Chairman of the Temporal Self-Government of Sinjar and Nouri Mirza, representative of the Yazidi Self-Defence Force to their delegation meeting in Strasbourg. They were forced to go to Baghdad for their visa. On 10 October 2015 NRT, an independent satellite channel critical against KD party, was raided by Asaysh, staff members were arrested and the offices in Erbil and Dohok were closed down.
But also in Rojava, where democracy, pluralism and respect of Human Rights represent the basis of the Fundamental Charter, there are signs of concerns for what happens in the areas liberated from ISIS. In a new report released in October 2015 Amnesty International accuses the Democratic Self Administration of Rojava and its military forces of Human Rights violations and crimes.
In a 38-page report,”‘We Had Nowhere Else to Go’: Forced Displacement and Demolition in Northern Syria,” Amnesty International catalogues allegations of forced evictions of Arabs and Turkmens and the destruction of their homes and property.
“In some cases, entire villages have been demolished, apparently in retaliation for the perceived support of their Arab or Turkmen residents for the group that calls itself the Islamic State,” Amnesty International noted.
Villagers said they were ordered to leave at gunpoint, their livestock shot at. The watchdog used satellite imagery and video footage to verify the claims.
In the Arab village of Husseiniya near Tell Hamees, for instance, only a single house was left standing. Residents said the YPG had razed their homes in February. In Raneen, near Tell Abyad, locals said YPG forces had threatened to shoot them if they failed to leave.
One person said, “They told us we had to leave or they would tell the US coalition that we were terrorists and their planes would hit us and our families. In Raneen, where some people were with IS, there were lots of problems but we had nothing to do with anything.”Alleged YPG threats of calling in US airstrikes against villagers if they didn’t leave are repeated throughout the report.
Kurdish officials consistently reject all such claims, saying that villagers had been evicted for their own safety because they were in militarized zones and could get caught in the fighting or hurt by improvised explosive devices planted by IS. In an interview with Al-Monitor, PYD co-chair Salih Muslim called the findings of a previous Amnesty International report on arbitrary detentions in Rojava “unfair and misguided.” He said, “We are talking about individuals who mercilessly slaughtered our people, or were complicit in the carnage.”
Sipan Hemo, General Commander of YPG forces denied in an interview these accusations.
It’s important that the new DSA, which is clearly committed to democracy and pluralism, cooperate with international HR bodies, civil society and Mandate Holders to clarify these accusations as soon as possible and punish the people involved in criminal acts, no matter of their ethnic or religious group. The DSA need to racognize that its credibility as reliable partner of the Alliance is at the stake.
The situation of HRDs was very serious before 2013 as documented by the UN Special Rapporteur for Syria and Iraq (A/HRC/25/55, pps. 32, 56, 57) with allegations of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, killing and torture (Case SYR 9/2012 and IRQ 6/2012, SYR 1/2013), alleged acts of reprisal, and ill-treatment of HRDs for their cooperation with the UN (SYR 3/2013) and assassinations of media professionals for their HR activities (IRQ 6/2013).
Although the 2005 Iraqi Constitution acknowledges that the country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious (Article 3), minority rights are neglected in practice. In 2014 there was a marked deterioration in human rights as armed conflict intensified and ISIS gained control of large parts of central and northern Iraq as well as large portion of Syria, including key territories historically populated by minorities such as al-Hasakeh Governorate, Nineveh Plain and Sinjar Mountain.
IS fighters committed widespread abuse, war crimes, including ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities through a campaign of mass killings of men and abduction and sexual and other abuse of women and girls. With the ISIS insurgency the situation of the minorities worsened dramatically as documented by the summarily killings of hundreds of men and boys as young as 12 in Qiniyeh, Kocho and other villages, hundreds Yazidis, possibly thousands, including entire families remained missing.
The full picture of the situation is difficult to assess (latest UN report is A/HRC/30/48) because country visits of UN mandate-holders were hindered. In this environment minorities and vulnerable groups (women, children, elderly men and IDPs) suffered dramatic persecution by insurgent groups and the governmental army. Sensational cases are those of Sait Cosar, killed during an incommunicado arrest in al-Qamashly, that of the Yazidi women from Mount Sinjar or the abduction, deportation and recent (August 2015) killing of Christian families from the Khabur Valley and the Homs Governorate for ransom.
The establishment of the Democratic Self Administrations in 2014 changed positively the HR context. However the political-tribal-ethnic and religious divides still represent a serious concern for the full application of HR mainstream principle as demonstrated by the case of the killing of David Jendro, head of the Khabur Guards and victim of Kurdish militia and by the documentation produced by Amnesty International.
Since the days of March, 22nd to 28th, 2015 when a small group of representatives of important organisations who belong to different political and cultural milieus of the Syrian civil society came together in the framework of the World Social Forum, the international initiative www.peaceinsyria.org has been active organising an All Syrian Peace Congress in Derik, one of the principal towns of the Kurdish province of Cizre/Al Jazeera.
During September 2015 four Indipendent jouranlists and activists carried out a counter-investigation in Syria to assess the elements denounced by Amnesty. The four activists are Dr. Leo Gabriel – independent journalist and coordinator of www.peaceinsyria.org in the framework of the World Social Forum; Martin Lejeune, independent journalist for German and Swiss newspapers; Dr. Ralf Leonhard – independent journalist for ORF-Radio and “Die Tageszeitung”, Vienna and Berlin, Fernando Romero-Forsthuber – independent filmmaker and founding member of the www.peaceinsyria.org initiative and Alba Sotorra Clúa – independent filmmaker.
The Team cames to very different results: “Beyond our efforts to discover through a quite exhaustive although (owing to the lack of time and resources) not complete fact finding process we realized that the facts by themselves can be interpreted in different ways, according to the side the different actors belong to.” In the Report’s conclusion the Team mentions specific facts: “The massacre of Hajjia for instance, the burning of the villages can, with the same right, be attributed to Daesh and to the YPG, depending whether you give the Kurds the benefit of the doubt or want to see these violations as part of a “Kurdish conspiracy”.
The refugees may have fled from violence as such or from fear of being killed by Daesh or YPG.” Shadows emerged in the counter-report concerning the methodology Amnesty used to compose its piece of work:”This difference in the cultural perceptions also has a deeper root in the political prejudice that the Kurds are in reality “allies of the regime”, an accusation the PYD itself will never accept. We therefore can speak about a relationship characterized by a deep mutual distrust, which has to be overcome, if “peace in Syria” is accepted as a common goal.”
The battle for Rojava goes beyond the regional boundaries and has an International meaning. It’s therefore necessary and urgent that the representatives of the Arab and the Kurdish communities get together to talk about the different points of the model of governance of an area that may represent a model for the future balance in the Near East.
Today it’s in the interests of the newly established DSA to take a clear position on these accusations and pave the way for a new Rights-Based Approach in their governance, if they want to have the support of the Western Alliance and if the Alliance wants to have reliable partners for the future Syria and Iraq.