Yemen – Security Situation and Human Rights Practices – January, 2018

According the Human Rights Watch world report 2018 the Saudi Arabia-led coalition continued its aerial and ground campaign in Yemen with little let-up. In September 2014, Houthi forces and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and much of the country. In March 2015, the coalition, with military assistance from the United States, attacked Houthi-Saleh forces in support of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

After clashes broke out between the former allies in Sanaa, Houthi forces killed former President Ali Abdullah Saleh on December 4 as he tried to leave the city.

The armed conflict has taken a terrible toll on the civilian population. The coalition has conducted scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes hitting civilian objects that have killed thousands of civilians in violation of the laws of war, with munitions that the US, United Kingdom, and others still supply. Houthi-Saleh forces have fired artillery indiscriminately into cities such as Taizz and Aden, killing civilians, and launched rockets into southern Saudi Arabia.

As of November, at least 5,295 civilians had been killed and 8,873 wounded, according to the UN human rights office, although the actual civilian casualty count is likely much higher.

The war is also exacerbating the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. Both sides are unlawfully impeding the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

The coalition has used cluster munitions, while Houthi-Saleh forces have used antipersonnel landmines—both weapons are banned by international treaties.

Both sides have harassed, threatened, and attacked Yemeni activists and journalists. Houthi-Saleh forces, government-affiliated forces, and the United Arab Emirates and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared scores.

None of the states party to the conflict carried out meaningful investigations into their forces’ alleged violations.

Unlawful Airstrikes

Human Rights Watch has documented 85 apparently unlawful coalition airstrikes, which have killed nearly 1,000 civilians and hit homes, markets, hospitals, schools, and mosques. Some of these attacks may amount to war crimes. In March, a helicopter attacked a boat carrying Somali migrants and refugees off Yemen’s coast, killing and wounding dozens.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia pledged to reduce civilian harm in coalition attacks. Since then, Human Rights Watch documented six coalition attacks that killed 55 civilians, including 33 children; one killed 14 members of the same family. The UN Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) office reported in September that coalition airstrikes remain “the leading cause of civilian casualties.”

Indiscriminate Artillery Attacks

Houthi-Saleh forces have repeatedly fired artillery indiscriminately into Yemeni cities and into southern Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights Watch documented attacks by both Houthi-Saleh and government-aligned forces inside Yemen that have struck populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians. Over three days in May, artillery attacks in Taizz, most of them carried out by Houthi-Saleh forces, killed at least 12 civilians, including four children, and wounded 29, including 10 children. The OHCHR called the shelling of Taizz “unrelenting.”

Arbitrary Detentions, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances

Houthi-Saleh forces, the Yemeni government, and the UAE and UAE-backed Yemeni forces arbitrarily detained people, including children, abused detainees and held them in poor conditions, and forcibly disappeared people perceived to be political opponents or security threats. The number of the “disappeared” is growing.

Houthi-Saleh forces have cracked down on dissent, closing several dozen NGOs, carrying out enforced disappearances, torturing detainees, and arbitrarily detaining numerous activists, journalists, tribal leaders, political opponents, and members of the Baha’i community. Since August 2014, Human Rights Watch has documented the Sanaa-based authorities’ arbitrary or abusive detention of dozens of people, including two deaths in custody and 11 cases of alleged torture or other ill-treatment.

In areas of southern Yemen nominally under government control, Human Rights Watch has documented more than 50 people, including four children, arbitrarily detained or disappeared. UAE-backed security forces abusively detained or disappeared most of these individuals. The UAE runs at least two informal detention facilities, where they have continued to detain people despite release orders and reportedly moved high-profile detainees outside the country.

The committee set up by the Hadi government to investigate arbitrary detention has not made any results public. The UAE has denied any role in detainee abuse. Houthi-Saleh forces do not appear to have conducted investigations into detainee abuse.

Yemeni human rights groups and lawyers have documented hundreds more cases of arbitrary detentions and forcible disappearances in northern and southern Yemen.

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Both Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Yemen (IS-Y) claimed responsibility for numerous suicide and other bombings.

After President Donald Trump took office, the number of US drone attacks in Yemen increased significantly. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US carried out 37 drone attacks in Yemen in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, but by October, the US had carried out 105 drone attacks in 2017. The US said it targeted AQAP in the majority of attacks but announced in late 2017 it carried out attacks on IS-Y that killed “dozens.”

The US has conducted at least two ground raids in Yemen since January, reportedly alongside the UAE, one of which killed at least 14 civilians, including nine children. The US may be complicit in detainee abuse by UAE forces. According to the Associated Press, the US has sent interrogators to Yemen and sent questions to and seen transcripts from UAE interrogations. The US has not made public any investigations conducted into its raids in Yemen or participation in UAE or Yemeni abuse of detainees.

In 2017, the US transferred four Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia, news agencies reported.

Blocking and Impeding Humanitarian Access

Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with at least 8 million people on the brink of famine and nearly 1 million suspected to be infected with cholera. This crisis is linked directly to the ongoing armed conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on imports have worsened the dire humanitarian situation. The coalition has delayed and diverted fuel tankers, closed critical ports and stopped goods from entering seaports controlled by the Houthis. Fuel needed to power generators to hospitals and pump water to civilian residences has also been blocked.

In November, the coalition temporarily blocked all entry points to Yemen in response to a Houthi-Saleh missile attack on Riyadh, gravely worsening the humanitarian situation. Key restrictions remain. In August 2016, the coalition suspended all commercial flights to Sanaa, “having serious implications for patients seeking urgent medical treatment abroad,” according to the UN. Since May, the coalition has blocked international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, from traveling to areas of Yemen under Houthi control.

Houthi-Saleh forces have blocked and confiscated food and medical supplies and denied access to populations in need. They have imposed onerous restrictions on aid workers and interfered with aid delivery. Aid groups have ceased working in some areas due to these restrictions. The cumulative impact of Houthi-Saleh obstruction and interference with humanitarian assistance has significantly harmed the civilian population.

Aid workers have been kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, and killed while engaged in humanitarian operations in Yemen.

Women’s and Girls’ Rights

Violence against women has increased 63 percent since the conflict escalated, according to UNFPA. Forced marriage rates, including child marriage, have increased. Yemen has no minimum age of marriage. Women in Yemen face severe discrimination in law and practice. They cannot marry without the permission of their male guardian and do not have equal rights to divorce, inheritance or child custody. Lack of legal protection leaves them exposed to domestic and sexual violence.

Key International Actors

Members of the coalition have sought to avoid international legal liability by refusing to provide information on their role in unlawful attacks. The Saudi-led coalition consists of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan; Qatar withdrew in June.

The US is a party to the conflict and risks being complicit in unlawful coalition attacks in which it takes part. The US continues to provide in-air refueling and other support to the coalition, but has not provided detailed information on the extent and scope of its engagement.

The UK has provided diplomatic support, training, and weaponry to members of the coalition. UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are the subject of ongoing litigation in the UK.

The US, UK, and France continued to provide arms to Saudi Arabia and other coalition states, despite the coalition’s use of US and UK-supplied weapons in apparently unlawful attacks. US and UK lawmakers have repeatedly challenged the continuation of these sales.

The Netherlands, joined by Canada, Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg, successfully led efforts at the UNHRC to create an international investigation. [1]

What’s been the impact on civilians?

By 29 October 2017, at least 5,159 civilians – more than 20% of them children – had been killed and 8,761 others injured, according to the UN. Saudi-led coalition air strikes were the leading cause of child casualties as well as overall civilian casualties.

The destruction of civilian infrastructure and restrictions on food, medicine and fuel imports have also caused what the UN has “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

More than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Some 17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children.

At least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare. Only 45% of the 3,500 health facilities are fully functioning. They have struggled to cope with the world’s largest cholera outbreak, which has resulted in more than 913,000 suspected cases and 2,196 deaths since April 2017.

Two million Yemenis are currently internally displaced due to the conflict and 188,000 others have fled to neighboring countries.[2]

 

 

[1] Human Rights Watch world report 2018: Yemen/Events of 2017 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/yemen [accessed on 24, January 2018]

[2] BBC News: Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom? Updated – 2 December 2017

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423 [accessed 30, January 2018]

Saudi Arabia. The status of Palestinians. January, 2018

The BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, (“an independent, human rights non-profit organization committed to protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons”) in its Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2013 – 2015 Volume VIII, mentions that in Saudi Arabia citizenship is derived from the individual’s father. Under the Saudi law, the ‘state will grant political asylum if public interest so dictates’. Despite that, the country has no mechanisms to implement this provision, though UNHCR-recognized refugees were permitted to stay in the country ‘temporarily’ pending identification of a durable solution. Generally, the government refused to accept refugees or grant asylum for settlement from third ountries. Residency permits must be obtained through sponsorship by a Saudi mployer.

Work: Palestinians are dealt with as other foreign workers.

Education: Public schools are free for citizens and non-citizens.Higher education is free only for Saudi citizens. The children of foreign workers are not allowed to access higher education institutions unless they are granted scholarships.

Healthcare: Saudi Arabia follows a free-care policy which covers Saudis as well as expatriates in the public sector. In the private sector, medical care for expatriates is the responsibility of the employer, and employees in private companies that do not provide healthcare benefit instead from governmental policy which states that medical care should be offered regardless of sponsorship.

Property: Article 2 of the Regulation of Ownership and Investment in Real Estate by Non-Saudis stipulates that: ‘[n]on-Saudi natural persons enjoying normal legal residency status in Saudi Arabia may own real estate for use as a personal residence, subject to obtaining a permit from the Ministry of Interior’.

Travel: Palestinians are not allowed to travel outside the city of their employment or to change their work place without the permission of their sponsor.

Palestinians who leave Saudi Arabia for six months or more are not allowed to return without acquiring a new employer or sponsor, which is almost impossible from abroad.[1]

The website of the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry (MOI) states that employers should apply for a residence permit for their employees so they can move freely around the city where they work. Upon departure of the employee on a re-entry visa, the employer must keep the residence permit until his return. In order to obtain a visa for the final departure, the residence permit must be sent to the passport authority with a final exit visa application form. A residence permit must be extended three days before expiry, otherwise fines would threaten, with three violations of this provision was intended as a punishment deportation. The residence permit of the head of household also includes a permit for his wife and minor children. Children over the age of 18 must have their own passport and apply for a separate visa. The relatives are not allowed to work without the consent of the authorities.

The Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI), an independent research institute in Bergen, Norway, writes in a report of January 2016 that the “Kafala” system in Saudi Arabia would bind migrant workers to their respective employers as sponsors in order to be resident. The written consent of the sponsor is required if employees change jobs or want to leave the country. Employers often misuse this power – even though it violates Saudi law – and confiscate passports, withhold wages, and force workers to work either against their will or under exploitative conditions. Migrant domestic workers are often sexually abused or brutally abused.

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) wrote in a Query Response on the case of a Palestinian national born in Saudi Arabia in April 2002, whose parents have a residence permit in Saudi Arabia, that the Consular Section of the Saudi Arabian Government According to the Arab Embassy in Ottawa, the concept of permanent residence in Saudi Arabia does not exist. Foreign workers would be issued a residence permit for the duration of their employment contract with their Saudi Arabian sponsors and they would not be allowed to sponsor their family members. The consular section further stated that Palestinian residents were not allowed to be the sponsor of their family members – not even for their children born in Saudi Arabia – to give them the status of resident: „Exit / Re-Entry Visa.

„Foreigners residing in Saudi Arabia need to obtain an exit permit before leaving the country. If the foreigner wishes to leave the country for a specific period of time during the given period of residence, he can request an exit and re-entry permit valid for a period of six months from the date of departure. If sponsored by an employer, the foreign worker needs to obtain the permission of his employer to obtain the exit permit. At the end of the employment contract, a foreign worker needs to obtain the approval of his employer in order to be able to obtain a final exit visa. The foreigner may then remain in the country for a period of two months after the issue of either type of visa: exit and re-entry or final exit. If the foreigner is a dependent, then s/he may obtain an exit and re-entry visa upon the request of the head of the family (the sponsor) valid for one trip only and for a period of nine to twelve months for study purposes.“[2]

 

[1]BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights/ Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons; Vol VIII 2013-2015 

[accessed 10 January 2018]

[2] ACCORD – Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation; Query response on Saudi Arabia: Entry and residence status, especially for long-term resident Palestinians. Residence permits for family members; Exit visa with period for re-entry; 6. Juli 2016

[accessed 10 January 2018]

Sudan. Eritrean Refugees in Sudan. January, 2018

Tesfay arrived in Sudan less than two years ago. He is one of 1,000 Eritreans who make their way to Sudan every month according to UNHCR statistics. Sudan has hosted Eritrean refugees since the Ethiopia/Eritrea conflict began in 1968 making the Shagarab refugee camp, which is the largest refugee camp in Eastern Sudan hosting Eritreans one of the oldest refugee camps in Africa. The refugees fleeing Eritrea are mostly young men and women who are escaping the military service which often extends to years and even decades.

For decades, Eritreans coexisted with Sudanese communities, in fact two major tribes of Eastern Sudan live on both sides of the border making it common for Sudanese families in Eastern Sudan to have family members from Eritrea. In recent years, especially since 2013, the situation has become more difficult for Eritreans as the economic situation in Sudan deteriorated and anti-migrant sentiment increased.

“Sudan was our safe haven, now everyone in the community tells you that you can’t be safe in Sudan,” said Tesfay.

Salih Ammar, a Sudanese journalist specializing on human trafficking said that deportation of Eritrean refugees has increased in recent years as Sudan is increasingly using the Passport and Immigration Law.

“Sudan uses Article 30 of the Passport and Immigration Law which punishes illegal entry into the country with deportation, although refugees are smuggled into the country, the law is not sensitive to one’s refugee status which should give them protection as opposed to normal migrants,” said Ammar.

Sudan, as a host country as well as a transit country and part of an age-old route for many Horn of Africa refugees who make their way to Europe became a main EU partner and as a result, the Khartoum process was born and this put Sudan at the center of a new deal with the EU.

In April 2016, Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development travelled to Sudan and announced a grant of €100 million for Sudan.

“After we heard that the European Union was going to give money to Sudan, we noticed that the authorities began treating us more harshly. The sweeps by the police increased and they were raiding our houses, churches and picking us up from the streets,” said Tesfay in an interview in Khartoum.

Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean-Swedish activist who specializes on Eritrean refugee rights, said that she is concerned about the escalation against Eritrean refugees.

“Now we are seeing the authorities arresting refugees house to house, they are being rounded up from their houses in Khartoum, Kassala, Halfa and other cities. They are not protected by the government or by the UNHCR,” said Estefanos.

Estefanos told that all Eritreans in Sudan walk around with a certain amount in their pocket that they know they will have to pay as a bribe if they are arrested, but now, extortion has reached a whole new level.

“Eritreans pay up to 4,000 Sudanese pounds to the police officers to bail themselves out, they can arrest you from your house now and force you to pay for your freedom,” said Tesfay.

Now instead of receiving a bribe from Eritrean refugees to remain in the country, the authorities will soon receive a bribe from the EU to stop Eritreans from making the journey by sea.

“The message that was sent by the EU to Sudan is to stop migration to Europe at any cost,” said Estefanos in an interview.

“The EU is supporting the Sudanese government they are supporting the police and other institutions with equipment in a public away, even though reports show that security and police officers are involved in human trafficking,” said Ammar.

A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed through testimonies that Sudanese police officers played a role in facilitating the trafficking of refugees in Eastern Sudan especially Eritrean refugees.

In Eastern Sudan, which is the first destination for Eritreans as they cross over to Sudan, the refugee camps are in dire conditions and there is not enough food.

“When I recently visited the camps, the authorities were telling us that it is not our responsibility to feed them, but to give them land to stay and protect them, the living conditions were terrible” said Ammar.

Only a small proportion of Eritrean refugees make their way to the refugee camps though, the majority make the big cities their homes, however, they face other problems there.

Not only are they forced to pay regular bribes, but they are also subjected to harassment by the authorities and the government refugee body, the Commission on Refugees (COR).

“COR makes it difficult for refugees to be protected, they deny them refugee status and confiscate their refugee cards making them vulnerable to arrests by the police. They are also exploited and blackmailed by the police forces and women refugees working in informal sector are targeted, for example, women tea sellers have their equipment confiscated,” said a Sudanese lawyer working with refugees who preferred to remain anonymous.[1]

(Nairobi, May 30, 2016) – The Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, to Eritrea in May 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. Sudan denied the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to identify those who wanted to claim asylum.

“Sudan is arresting and forcing Eritreans back into the hands of a repressive government without allowing refugees to seek protection,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “Sudan should be working with the UN refugee agency to protect these people, not send them back to face abuse.”

No international agencies are able to monitor the treatment of Eritreans deported to Eritrea or Ethiopia.[2]

Police in Kassala detained fifteen Eritrean refugees and prepares to bring them to trial, for illegally entering eastern Sudan.

On Tuesday the police arrested the group of Eritrean asylum seekers during border control activities. The group is being held in a prison in Kassala, awaiting trial, a source from Kassala told Radio Dabanga yesterday.

As reported by Radio Dabanga this week, Sudanese courts deported 104 Eritrean refugees in August, and sentenced others to imprisonment for their ‘illegal infiltration into the Sudanese territory’.[3]

Sudan has shut its eastern border with Eritrea, state media reported on Saturday, days after Khartoum declared an emergency in the neighbouring state of Kasala.

“The governor of Kasala issued a decree to close all border crossings with Eritrea from the night of January 5,” the official SUNA news agency reported.

It did not explain why the border was closed but said the decision comes after President Omar al-Bashir declared on December 30 a state of emergency in Kasala and in North Kordofan state for six months.

Officials have said that decision was part of a government campaign to collect illegal arms in those two states.

Apart from Kasala and North Kordofan, a state of emergency is in place in Sudan’s war-torn regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.[4]

[1] Africa Monitors – Eritrean Refugees in Sudan Coming Under Attack, 20 August 2016, available at: https://africamonitors.org/2016/08/20/eritrean-refugees-in-sudan-coming-under-attack/ (accessed on 9 January 2018)

[2] HRW – Human Rights Watch, Sudan: Hundreds Deported to Likely Abuse, 30 May 2016, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/30/sudan-hundreds-deported-likely-abuse (accessed on 9 January 2018)

[3] Reliefweb – Eastern Sudan police arrest Eritrean refugees, 8 September 2017, available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/eastern-sudan-police-arrest-eritrean-refugees (accessed on 9 January 2018)

[4] News24 – Sudan shuts border with Eritrea: state media, 7 January 2018, available at: https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/sudan-shuts-border-with-eritrea-state-media-20180106-2 (accessed on 9 January 2018)

Sudan. Security Situation. January, 2018

According to the World Report 2017 on Sudan by Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s human rights record remains abysmal in 2016, with continuing attacks on civilians by government forces in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile states; repression of civil society groups and independent media; and widespread arbitrary detentions of activists, students, and protesters. The ruling National Congress Party proceeded with a national dialogue process to pave the way for a new constitution and government, following the independence of South Sudan in 2011, despite a boycott by several opposition parties.

Conflict and Abuses in Darfur

In January, Sudan’s armed forces, including the Rapid Support Forces and allied militia, launched coordinated ground and air attacks on populated villages in Jebel Marra, the rebel stronghold in Central Darfur. These attacks continued for much of the year, following Sudan’s “Operation Decisive Summer” campaigns in Darfur in 2014 and 2015.

Government forces killed civilians, raped women and girls, and destroyed hundreds of villages. In September, the United Nations found the violence had displaced up to 190,000 people, many of whom are not accessible to humanitarian agencies. Elsewhere in Darfur, attacks on civilians by government forces and inter-communal fighting over land and resources also resulted in deaths, destruction and displacement.

Amnesty International alleged that the government used chemical weapons against civilians. However, Sudan, a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1999, denied the findings and limited the scope of investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Government authorities continued to block the African Union/United Nations peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, from much of the Jebel Marra region, undermining the mission’s ability to protect civilians.

Conflict and Abuses in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile 

For the fifth year, armed conflict continued between government forces and armed rebels in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, despite a declared ceasefire. In the Nuba Mountains, government forces and allied militias attacked civilians in villages and other populated areas in ground offensives and through indiscriminate bombing, particularly from March through June.

In May alone, attacks killed six children in Heiban, injured several more at their funeral and destroyed part of a school in Kauda, wounding a teacher. Government forces burned crops, looted food, and displaced people from farming areas. The attacks caused unjustified civilian deaths, including children, many injuries and destruction of civilian property.

The government has barred humanitarian agencies from working in rebel-held areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and has failed to agree terms for humanitarian access with the rebel group (SPLM-N).

Arbitrary Detentions, Ill-Treatment, and Torture

Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)—known for its abusive tactics, including torture, against real or perceived political opponents—detained activists, students, lawyers, doctors, community leaders and those perceived to be critical of the government.

Many detainees were beaten and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment. Some female activists reported being sexually harassed by national security officers while in detention—exemplifying a pattern Human Rights Watch has documented of authorities using arbitrary detentions, sexual violence and public order codes to restrict or silence female human rights activists.

Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly, Association, and Expression

In January, security forces used live ammunition to disperse a protest in West Darfur over an attack on a village there. At least seven people including a child were killed in the incident.

In April, security forces violently suppressed student protests, using rubber bullets and tear gas to break up protests at the University of Khartoum and used live ammunition to disperse protests in North Kordofan and Omdurman, killing two students and injuring dozens.

To date, there has been no accountability for the victims of the violent crackdown on protests that took place in September 2013, when more than 170 individuals were killed, many by gunshot wounds to the chest or head.

Security officials restricted media freedom, threatened journalists, and regularly confiscated newspapers throughout the year. In May, editions of the daily newspaper Al Jareeda were confiscated five times, most likely because of its reporting on the student demonstrations. In October, al-Watan was confiscated for its coverage of a countrywide medical workers’ strike.

Sudan also restricted religious freedoms and detained clerics. Three pastors and a Darfuri activist detained since December 2015 face espionage and other charges that carry the death penalty.[1]

In October 2017, the United States lifted decades-long economic sanctions on Sudan, following a January executive orderciting improvements in a number of key areas that did not explicitly include human rights reforms. Human Rights Watch has urged the US to put human rights benchmarks at the heart of its engagement with Sudan. Chief among them should be ending the practice of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture.

“Torture and prolonged, arbitrary detention are still routine practice in Sudan, used as a means to stifle dissent and dialogue,” said Jehanne Henry, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These tactics are further evidence of Sudan’s appalling rights record.”[2]

 

[1] HWR – Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Sudan, available at: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/sudan (accessed on 09 January 2018)

[2] HRW – Human Rights Watch: Sudan: Charge or Release Rights Activists, 19 December 2017

 (accessed on 9 January 2018)

Kuwait. Human Rights Protection and Security Situation. January, 2018

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by the Al Sabah family. While there is also a democratically elected parliament, the emir holds ultimate authority over most government decisions. The parliamentary elections held on November 26 were generally free and fair with several members of the opposition winning seats.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Principal human rights problems included limitations on citizens’ ability to choose their government; restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, especially among foreign workers and a stateless population referred to as “bidoon”; and lack of enforcement of laws protecting labor rights within the foreign worker population, especially in the domestic and unskilled service sectors, resulting in higher risk of human trafficking.

Other human rights problems included reports of limitations on freedom of religion; and restrictions on freedom of movement for certain groups, including foreign workers and bidoon. Kuwaiti and noncitizen women, as well as bidoon and other noncitizens, faced social and legal discrimination. Domestic violence against women remained widespread and unreported, as did violence against domestic workers, all of whom were noncitizens. There were frequent reports of arbitrary arrest and extrajudicial deportation of foreign workers.

The government took steps in some cases to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Impunity was sometimes a problem in corruption cases.[1]

Freedoms of expression and assembly

The authorities tightened restrictions on freedom of expression. A new cybercrime law that took effect in January further restricted online expression, penalizing peaceful criticism of the government, the judiciary and others with up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Also in January, Parliament approved an electronic media law regulating all online publications, including electronic news services, online newspapers, television, social media and blogs, placing them under a legal obligation to obtain a government licence to operate. The authorities began implementing the new law in July. In February, the Law on Print and Publications was amended to cover online publications. In June, a new law came into force prohibiting anyone with a confirmed conviction on charges of insulting God, the prophets or the Emir, from running for Parliament, in effect barring some government critics from being elected.

Abdulhamid Dashti, a Shi’a opposition MP, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in March. He then went abroad but faced prosecution and separate trials on an array of charges – including some arising from his peaceful criticism of the governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in social and other media – and possible prison sentences totalling over 40 years. In December, an appeal court overturned his acquittal in one case and imposed a 10-year sentence. He was unable to lodge an appeal while he remains outside Kuwait.

Musallam al-Barrak, a former MP and leading government critic, continued to serve a two-year prison term for criticizing the government in a speech and faced separate trials on other charges. In November the Appeal Court upheld the suspended prison sentences of 13 people for publicizing or reciting extracts from Musallam al-Barrak’s speech.

In February, the Appeal Court confirmed the one-year prison sentence followed by expulsion from Kuwait imposed on Bidun rights activist Abdulhakim al-Fadhli in 2015 for participating in a peaceful “illegal gathering”. He was arrested in April to serve his sentence, which was confirmed in May by the Cassation Court. In June, on appeal, the Misdemeanours Cassation Court ordered his release pending review, and in September it upheld the initial verdict. The authorities released Abdulhakim al-Fadhli in August after he completed a three-month prison term in a separate case but he handed himself to the authorities in September following the Misdemeanours Cassation Court’s verdict.

Deprivation of nationality

In April, the Administrative Cassation Court rejected a ruling of the Administrative Appeal Court that a case brought by former MP Abdullah Hashr al-Barghash against a government decision to strip him of his Kuwaiti nationality was outside its jurisdiction. In December the Cassation Court rejected his appeal.

Discrimination – Bidun

The authorities continued to withhold citizenship from more than 100,000 Bidun residents of Kuwait, who remained stateless. In May, Parliament approved a draft law that would grant Kuwaiti citizenship to up to 4,000 Bidun and referred it to the government; it had not been enacted by the end of 2016. The government of the island state of Comoros said in May that it would consider granting “economic citizenship” to Bidun if it received an official request from the Kuwaiti authorities.

Women’s rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and in practice. In May, the Committee for Legislative and Legal Affairs approved a proposed amendment to the citizenship law that would allow Kuwaiti women to pass their nationality on to their children, regardless of the father’s nationality. The amendment had not been enacted by the end of the year.

Migrant workers’ rights

Migrant workers, including those in the domestic, construction and other sectors, continued to face exploitation and abuse under the official kafala sponsorship system, which ties workers to their employers and prevents them from changing jobs or leaving the country without the employer’s permission. In July, the authorities issued a decree setting minimum wages for domestic workers, most of whom are women.

Death penalty

Courts handed down death sentences for offences including murder and drug-related charges. No executions were reported.[2]

Women’s Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Kuwaiti personal status law, which applies to Sunni Muslims, the majority of Kuwaitis, discriminates against women. For instance, some women require a male guardian to conclude her marriage contract; women must apply to the courts for a divorce on limited grounds unlike men who can unilaterally divorce their wives; and women can lose custody of their children if they remarry someone outside the family. The rules that apply to Shia Muslims also discriminate against women.

Adultery and extramarital intercourse are criminalized, and same-sex relations between men are punishable by up to seven years in prison. Transgender people can be arrested under a 2007 penal code provision that prohibits “imitating the opposite sex in any way.”[3]

[1] U.S. State Department:2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-Kuwait https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2016/nea/265506.htm [accessed 04 January 2018]

[2]Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Kuwait https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/kuwait/report-kuwait/ [accessed 04 January 2018]

[3] Human Rights Watch: World Report 2017/Kuwait/Events of 2016  https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/kuwait [accessed 05 January 2018]

Russia. Treatment to Jehovah Witnesses. January, 2018

Briefly about the source of the response – This response is largely based on information from Forum 18 News Service. Forum 18 is a Norwegian human rights organization that works for religious and religious freedom. Their news service, Forum 18 News Service, is a Christian news service that reports on threats and actions that counteract the right to freedom of belief through the Internet and e-mail. Reporting is done regardless of religious affiliation. The news service concentrates mainly on states in the former Soviet Union, including Central Asia and Eastern Europe, but has also published reports on Turkey, Myanmar, China (including Xinjiang), Laos, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam (Wikipedia 2017).

Forum 18 is one of the few actors who closely follow the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and regularly report on their situation. It is Landinfos assessment that Forum 18 is very well updated. Landinfo has supplemented with information from other sources, including the Russian Organization SOVA (Center for Information and Analysis), a Moscow-based organization that conducts research on, among other things, nationalism and racism. Landinfo has previously had meetings with the organization in Moscow and has great faith in the organization’s work.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, Number and Residence

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’s website, Jehovah’s Witnesses have 171,828 members in Russia (Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.).

The Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters, the administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, is located just outside St. Petersburg (Reuters 2017). The center has been registered as a “centralized religious organization” since 1999. Jehovah’s Witnesses were first officially registered under Soviet law in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, but have been present in Russia since the late 19th century (Arnold 2016). The organization was banned during the Soviet era, but, as other religious groups, drove its activity in secret. After their activity became legal, they could initially drive their activity everywhere. Especially in St. Petersburg, which has been known as a liberal city, they could run their activity without problems (diplomatic source, email October 2017).

Supreme Court decision

The Russian Supreme Court ruled on April 20, 2017, declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses administrative center to be an extremist organization. At the same time, the organization was declared banned with 395 other local Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia after the Ministry of Justice had submitted a request to the Supreme Court (SOVA 2017). The Jehovah’s Witnesses administrative center received a formal warning that “involvement in extremist activity is not allowed”, from the deputy head of the Federal Prosecuting Authority of the Russian Federation on May 10, 2016 (Arnold 2016).

The Supreme Court ruled that Russia has decided to close the administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses and its local organizations and transfer their property to the Russian Federation (Reuters 2017). The Russian Ministry of Justice had previously inspected Jehovah’s Witnesses administration center in Russia and reported on February 27, 2017 that the center broke the law and showed signs of “extremist activity” (Jehovah’s Witnesses 2017). Regional courts had previously forbidden more than ten publications from Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were to be regarded as extremist (Human Rights Watch 2017). The Supreme Court maintained its judgment on July 17, 2017, despite the fact that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ defense lawyers argued that there was no evidence of “extremist” activity.

The judges of the Supreme Court concluded that the Jehovah’s Witnesses administrative center and all registered Jehovah’s Witnesses should be dissolved, property confiscated by the state and their activity was to be regarded as extremist and illegal (Arnold 2017a). Several hundred individual members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and local organizations have submitted their own complaints to the Supreme Court, claiming that they are not part of the original trial and claim that the decision violates their rights. These court proceedings are so far Forum 18 still knows not ended per. October 2017 (Forum 18, Email Exchange).

Reactions to Jehovah’s Witnesses before and after the Supreme Court Judgment

Russian authorities’ reactions to Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing new in Russia. U.S. The Department of State shows in the 2016 annual report that there have been physical attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Muslims and Jews. In several cities in the country, Russian authorities have dissolved religious minorities, and especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, often on the grounds that Russian authorities consider their activities to be extremist (U.S. Department of State 2017s, 2, 10-11).

Jehovah’s Witnesses have encountered reactions to their activity even before the organization was banned.

Russia’s “Extremism Law” and Penal Code are used to punish, imprison and punish persons exercising freedom of religion, punish organizations for meeting activities and prohibit publications on religion. Forum 18 (Arnold 2016) shows that extremism law for over ten years has been the biggest threat to religious and religious freedom in Russia.

The so-called extremism articles of the Russian Penal Code, Article 280 (activity that contributes to the organization of extremist activities) and Article 282 (call for ethnic, religious or social hatred or hostility) have also been tried against Jehovah’s Witnesses, but have little progress (SOVA, e-mail development October 2017).

SOVA states that nine Jehovah’s Witnesses were closed as a result of being considered extremist before the general ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses came. This occurred in the areas Taganrog (2009), Samara (2014), Abinsk (2015), Staryj Oskol, Belgorod, Elista, Orjol and Birobidzjan (2016) and in Cherkessk (2017). The believers were fined according to Article 20.29 of the Administrative Offenses Act because they had distributed brochures that are considered extremist (SOVA, e-mail exchange October 2017). Law on administrative offenses Article 20.29 deals with the production or distribution of extremist material and may imprison up to 15 days and confiscation of prohibited literature. For organizations, fines are from 50,000 to 100,000 RUB or suspension of activity for 90 days (Act on Administrative Offenses 2001).

The cases were also prosecuted for criminal prosecution for accusations of continued activity pursuant to Russian Penal Code Article 282.2 (continued activity of an unlawful organization) and Article 282 (ethnic, religious or social hatred or hostility). All were, however, acquitted, except for the defendants in the case from Taganrog2. The criminal case against the 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taganrog was led because of suspect that they broke the ban on activities in the local organization that had been considered extremist. The case went on for several years, and only in 2015 all 16 members were found guilty. Four members were sentenced to continue their activity after their organization had been stamped as extremist and to have included minors in the activity. The four got different conditional judgments and fines, but failed to pay. The other twelve were sentenced to pay fines for participating in a prohibited organization, but also failed to pay (SOVA, email October 2017). The 16 were fined from 10,000 to 70,000 RUB (160 USD-1100 USD) (U.S. Department of State 2017, pp. 10-11).

Russia sharpened anti-terrorism legislation in 2016 by introducing the so-called Yarovayaloven, which is an addition to existing anti-terrorism legislation. The name comes from one of the founders of the law, Irina Yarovaya. The additions are directed against terrorism and extremism, but also involve measures against preaching. According to the addition, a person who wishes to share his faith outside the officially approved buildings and conduct preaching must have authorization from his own religious group / registered organization. It is forbidden to conduct preaching in residential areas, and those who violate this law may receive fines of up to one million rubles (Mountain 2016). The Yarovaya Act also provides restrictions on visa issuance to people coming to Russia to preach (U.S. Department of State 2017).

Forum 18 reported in July 2017 about the consequences of the Ministry of Justice’s action which had effect even before the Supreme Court rulings, convictions of religious leaders who have arranged religious meetings, children who have been faced with pressure and discrimination at school. There are also several examples of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been terminated from their work or who have been forced to terminate their work. In addition, young men have been refused to perform alternative military service due to religious convictions (Arnold 2017a).

A source of diplomat states that in many ways there has been arbitrary regional jurisprudence against Jehovah’s Witnesses before the Supreme Court made its decision. The source of diplomacy refers to convictions that have led to Jehovah’s Witnesses being regarded as extremist, closure of premises and high fines. The source of diplomacy indicates that the Supreme Court decision has now led to the closure of all Jehovah’s Witnesses, both regionally and centrally (diplomatic source, October 2017). The Bible of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been stamped as extremist by the judge in Vyborg Town Court (Arnold 2017c).

The major difference between the situation before and after the Supreme Court decision is, according to Forum 18, that earlier, many publications from Jehovah’s Witnesses were stamped as extremist by administrative law, and Jehovah’s Witnesses who distributed this literature were convicted under Administrative Law, Article 20.29. Jehovah’s Witnesses could nevertheless participate in worship, they could possess property and act freely. Following the Supreme Court decision of April 20, which was maintained on July 17, 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses are banned as an organization, not just their books and information material. Jehovah’s Witnesses can no longer meet and if they are gathered or suspected of having gatherings, they risk being accused of criminal activity, which in turn can lead to high fines and years of imprisonment. Now this applies to all members of Jehovah’s Witnesses (email, October 2017). The activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses are now permanently forbidden. Individual members of Jehovah’s Witnesses can now be subjected to prosecution if they exercise their religion or believe publicly or privately, even if they hold literature from Jehovah’s Witnesses. They may be punished pursuant to Article 282.2 of the Penal Code for activities in a prohibited organization (Arnold 2017a; Penal Code 1996).

Forum 18 states that there are stricter responses to people who have positions within Jehovah’s Witnesses than to ordinary members. If a Jehovah’s Witness is accused of continuing his activity in an extremist organization (activity punished under Article 282.2 of the Russian Penal Code), then the punishment will be stricter after Part 1 of the article (belonging to an organization), with fines or jail from six to ten years, than after Part 2 (participation), which provides fines or jail for four to eight years (e-mail, October 2017; Penal Code 1996).

Practice after the Supreme Court judgment

Forum 18 writes in a report from July this year that it is difficult to know what will happen to Jehovah’s Witnesses after the appeal case was dealt with in July 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision is filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but regardless of any further anchor, then the consequences will be serious and comprehensive also for ordinary believers, according to Forum 18 (Arnold 2017a)

On August 25, 2017, Forum 18 reported on the first lawsuit against Jehovah’s Witnesses after the general ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses came into force on July 17th. Forum 18 reported that a woman in Kursk, southwest of Moscow, was under investigation for accusations of extremism. The woman was accused of attempting to recruit people to an “extremist organization” after a local resident complained to the police that the woman and her 15 year old son had handed out leaflets and should have encouraged people to become members of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the city market August 4th this year. However, the two should have had the necessary documentation to conduct “missionary activity”, according to Forum 18. If the woman is convicted (the son is under criminal law), she will be able to receive a fine of 300,000 to 700,000 RUB or two to four annual wages, forced labor of two to five years or imprisonment of four to eight years (Arnold 2017b). According to Forum 18, the case is still under investigation (e-mail, October 2017).

According to Forum 18, there have been no other charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been linked to the general prohibition of the Supreme Court’s decision in July 2017. This is in contrast to 2016, when several people were accused of distributing extremist material. Forum 18 considers it understandable that there has been no more than this one case after the Supreme Court decision, given that it now leads to criminal charges and much stricter penalties if you include material from Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, two members of Jehovah’s Witnesses are under investigation accused of extremism in Kabardino-Balkaria. The persons are charged with calling for ethnic, religious or social hatred or hostility under Russian Penal Code Article 282.2, Part 1.1. However, the criminal case applies to activity that occurred before the general ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses took place. One of the two cases of Kabardino-Balkaria is under investigation, while the trial in the second case is underway (Forum 18, October 2017).

Geographic variations

Forum 18 states that in the past, the conditions for Jehovah’s Witnesses could be more difficult in some areas of the country than in others. This was based on individual cases brought before local courts where some Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned. Since the ban now applies to all organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and all their activity, there is no longer any difference from area to area, according to Forum 18 (e-mail, October 2017). Forum 18, however, states that they have not examined in detail the positions of local authorities, the media, etc. in all 83 federal subjects in Russia. Given the geographic spread of administrative affairs that has been conducted against Jehovah’s Witnesses before the Supreme Court made its decision and the general ban that has now come, the situation seems to be the same throughout the country, Forum 18 (e-mail, October 2017).

Ability to get assistance in case of abuse

Whether Russian authorities (Russian police) could provide some kind of protection in connection with vandalism and violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Forum 18 states that they have not studied and dealt with this question, but they know that in the case of individual cases of vandalism by private individuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses have sought the police. What has emerged from this is, according to Forum 18, unknown (e-mail, October 2017). SOVA is aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses usually contact the police for serious incidents, but most of the police do not do anything and often react with irritation. This has meant that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not usually complain to the police if they are minor events (e-mail, November 2017).[1]

[1] Landinfo – Norwegian Country of Origin Information Centre: Russland: Jehovas vitner, 3 November 2017

 (accessed on 4 January 2018)

World. Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). December, 2017

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP), which is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies, gives the detailed information about Nusra front:

Name: Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham)

Type of Organization: Insurgent non-state actor terrorist transnational violent.

Ideologies and Affiliations: Al-Qaeda affiliated group Islamist jihadist Qutbist Salafist Sunni.

Place of Origin: Syria and Iraq

Year of Origin: Formed 2011, declared January 2012

Founder(s): Abu Mohammad al-Golani, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Places of Operation: Syria and Lebanon

Overview Also Known As:

  • Al-Nusrah Front
  • Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant
  • Al Nusrah Front for the People of Levant
  • Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant
  • Al-Nusrah Front in Lebanon
  • Ansar al-Mujahideen Network
  • Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham
  • Jabhat al-Nusrah
  • Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham
  • Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham Min Mujahedin al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad
  • Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham Min Mujahideen al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad
  • Jabhet al-Nusra
  • Jabhet al-Nusrah
  • Jabhat Fath al-Sham
  • Levantine Conquest Front
  • Levantine Mujahideen on the Battlefields of Jihad
  • Support Front for the People of the Levant
  • The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant
  • The Defense Front19
  • The Front for the Defence of the Syrian People20
  • The Front for the Defense of the Syrian People21
  • The Support Front for the People of Syria from the Mujahideen of Syria in the Places of Jihad22
  • The Victory Front

The Nusra Front—also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (“the Levantine Conquest Front”)—is an internationally sanctioned terrorist group, the second-strongest insurgent group in Syria after ISIS, and a formerly open al-Qaeda affiliate that seeks to replace the Assad regime with an Islamic state. Operating as a part of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham coalition since January 2017, the Nusra Front stands accused of serving as a base for global al-Qaeda operations. In the years since its formation in 2011, the Nusra Front has gradually amassed and sustained territory throughout Syria. As of early 2017, the Nusra Front controls territory in northern, western, and southern Syria, including large portions of Syria’s Idlib province.

For years before the announced split, however, Golani had reaffirmed his group’s allegiance to al-Qaeda. The Nusra Front’s founder, current ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to have dispatched Golani and others—then al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) fighters—into Syria in 2011 in order to take advantage of the power vacuum stemming from the civil war. In April 2013, after Baghdadi unilaterally claimed to subsume the Nusra Front into AQI, now known as ISIS, Golani broke ties with Baghdadi and reaffirmed his allegiance to al-Qaeda central.

Originally al-Qaeda’s formal affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front has since claimed to have dissociated entirely from the international terrorist organization, despite the Nusra Front’s long and proven history of serving as its loyal affiliate. On July 28, 2016, al-Qaeda released an audio statement giving the Nusra Front formal permission to break ties if the link was “conflicting with [the Nusra Front’s] unity and working as one body.” Nusra Front leader Abu Muhammad al-Golani declared a formal split from al-Qaeda after thanking “our brothers, the commanders of al-Qa’eda,” and announcing the group’s name change from Jabhat al-Nusra (“the Victory Front”) to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (“the Levantine Conquest Front”). Analysts had long surmised that a break from al-Qaeda, however artificial, could enable the Nusra Front to attract more funding from Gulf States like Qatar, consolidate local support, and present itself as a legitimate insurgent group in Syria. The Nusra Front continued to pursue this strategy when, on January 28, 2017, it announced that it was dissolving its organization to be subsumed under a larger Syrian Islamist merger, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of the Levant” or HTS), led by Hashim al-Sheikh, the former leader of fellow Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham. HTS, a coalition that combines five major Islamist factions – the Nusra Front, Harakat Nur al Din al Zenki, Liwa al Haqq, Ansar al Din, and Jaysh al Sunna – along with dozens of smaller Islamist and secular Free Syrian Army groups under one central leadership, with Golani heading its militant branch.

In Syria, the group continues to profess its goal of toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in its place, albeit incrementally. In its effort to consolidate local support, the Nusra Front has adopted military and outreach strategies from al-Qaeda-linked jihadist Abu Musab al-Suri: participating in numerous Syrian-based coalitions and collaborating with other Islamist, and occasionally secular, rebel groups to carry out joint attacks against Assad forces. The Nusra Front, and now HTS, also operates a civil administrative wing called the “Public Services Administration” which provides basic administrative needs and security and governs several rebel-controlled towns under various forms of Islamic law.

Since its founding, the Nusra Front has conducted formal military campaigns, assassinations, hostage takings, and ‘lone wolf’ operations, including al-Qaeda’s trademark suicide bombings. By June 2013, the Nusra Front had claimed responsibility for 57 out of 70 suicide attacks conducted during Syria’s civil war. The group has since continued to carry out its signature suicide bombings in Syria and expanded its operations into neighboring Lebanon after Hezbollah joined the war in mid-2013. In Lebanon, the Nusra Front works to stoke sectarian divisions, conducting and attempting suicide bombings against civilian centers like Beirut and Hezbollah strongholds like Hermel, along Lebanon’s north-eastern border with Syria.

As of mid-2016, the Nusra Front’s paramilitary force remains one of the strongest rebel forces in Syria, reportedly comprised of around 5,000 to 10,000 fighters, including an estimated 7,000 fighters in Idlib province alone. The terrorist group has attracted the largest contingency of foreign fighters to Syria after ISIS.

Doctrine:

The Nusra Front adheres to a Salafist, jihadist ideology with the professed aim of establishing Islamic governance in all areas under its control. In the group’s January 2012 inaugural video, a masked representative outlined its regional objectives. He introduced the Nusra Front as “Syrian mujahedeen” who have come “back from various jihad fronts to restore God’s rule on the Earth [Islamic law] and avenge the Syrians’ violated honour and spilled blood.”

Years later, when Golani announced the Nusra Front’s dissociation from al-Qaeda, he reaffirmed the group’s core objectives, saying that despite separating from al-Qaeda, the group would not be “compromising or sacrificing our solid beliefs or laxity in the necessity of the continuity of the Jihad of Al-Sham [Syria].” Golani reaffirmed that his group sought to use “Islamically legitimate means” to unify jihadists in Syria and the “masses of people in Al-Sham [Syria]” in order to replace the Assad government with one based on shari’ah (Islamic law).

Organizational Structure:

The Nusra Front is both hierarchical and regionalized. Historically, each region has been equipped with an overall leader, a military commander, and a religious leader. The group as a whole has been directed by a small consultative council called Majlis-ash-Shura, and headed by its emir(“commander” or “prince”), Abu Muhammad al-Golani. For years, Golani has carefully avoided showing his face in public, releasing audio statements and providing in-person interviews to news outlets with his face blurred out. In July 2016, however, Golani appeared in a video to announce his group’s formal split from al-Qaeda. In early 2017, Golani claimed to have stepped aside from his role as the leader of the Nusra Front to defer to Hashim al-Sheikh, leader of the HTS coalition, while Golani became the military commander of the group. Nonetheless, Golani is believed to retain his authority as the leader of the Nusra Front, despite his nominal deference to Sheikh.

Financing:

The Nusra Front has been well-funded since its inception in 2011. By August 2016, the group received streams of funding through a variety of means, including taxation, tariffs, fines, ransoms, international donations, oil sales, looting, and smuggling.

The most stable source of income for the Nusra Front is believed to have come from taxes, tariffs, and fines that the group imposes on locals within its territory. Among the taxes levied by the group are income, business, services and utility taxes, including taxes on access to electricity and water. The Nusra Front also reportedly receives funding by leasing out homes, and is even reported to have levied a tax on internally displaced persons within Idlib province. In addition to taxes, the group has seized assets from religious minority groups and receives funding through an arms and weaponry tariff on other rebel groups. In this way, the Nusra Front is believed to receive roughly half of the ammunition and weapons sent to the Free Syrian Army in northern Syria.

Sources of funding for the group also reportedly include private donations from wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, who are believed to launder the funds through small money transfers, or by dispatching the money with individuals who cross state borders into Nusra-held territory. Indeed, the Nusra Front’s decision in July 2016 to dissociate from al-Qaeda is widely believed to have been motivated in large part to enable Qatari-based donors to continue sending money to the Nusra Front without being accused of providing financial support to al-Qaeda.

In addition to foreign donations, the Nusra Front has also secured revenue from oil sales and smuggling, as well as through cigarette smuggling and extortion. Although governments typically deny payment for the release of hostages, the Nusra Front is believed to have racked up millions of dollars through hostage exchanges negotiated by the Qatari government. In one such exchange, the group reportedly received $4 million when it released four Greek Orthodox nuns in March 2014. In another exchange, the Nusra Front reportedly received $25 million when it released 45 U.N. peacekeepers.

Recruitment:

In order to join the Nusra Front, the group has historically required its recruits to procure tazkiyya (a voucher on behalf of the recruit) from two commanders on the front lines. Once the recruit was accepted, he would swear bay’ah (an oath of allegiance) to the group, thereby cementing his religious commitment.

The Nusra Front has also recruited its members online and in private messaging applications through its former media branches, al-Minara al-Bayda and Fursan al-Sham media.

Under HTS, a new media outlet has been created, Ebaa Agency, which produces high-quality videos, infographics, and media statements similar to those of Amaq, ISIS’s media wing.

In addition to recruiting guerilla fighters through online and in-person efforts, the Nusra Front stands accused of recruiting child soldiers. The U.N. Human Rights Council’s Independent Commission on Syria has issued reports on the Nusra Front’s successful recruitment of child soldiers continuing into 2017.

Association with ISIS

The Nusra Front was allegedly formed as an extension of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI, now ISIS), and received a monthly salary from AQI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The relationship between the groups deteriorated in April 2013, when Baghdadi unilaterally announced a merger between the two groups. The two have since engaged in violent clashes, vying for control over rebel-held territory.

Designations:
The Department of State designates the Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on December 10, 2012.

European Union— listed the Nusra Front as a sanctioned group of persons, groups, and entities on May 28, 2014.

France—listed the Nusra Front as a terrorist entity on May 30, 2013.

Australia— listed the Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on June 23, 2013.

Canada—listed the Nusra Front as a terrorist entity on November 7, 2013.

United Kingdom—listed the Nusra Front as a foreign terrorist group on July 19, 2013.

Russia—listed the Nusra Front as a terrorist group on December 29, 2014.

Saudi Arabia—listed the Nusra Front as a terrorist group on March 7, 2014.

Turkey—listed the Nusra Front as a terrorist organization on June 13, 2014.

United Arab Emirates—listed the Nusra Front as a terrorist organization on November 15, 2014.[1]

 

[1] CEP – Counter Extremist Project – Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), available at: https://www.counterextremism.com/threat/nusra-front-jabhat-fateh-al-sham (accessed on 27 December 2017)

Egypt. Treatment of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. December, 2017

Human Rights Watch published its “World Report 2017 – Egypt” on 12 January, 2017. According to this report, officers of the National Security Agency routinely tortured and forcibly disappeared suspects with few consequences. Many of the detainees who suffered these abuses were accused of sympathy with or membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government named a terrorist group in 2013 but has remained the country’s largest opposition movement.[1]

Freedom House published its “Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt” on 15 April, 2017. According to this report, the government systematically persecutes opposition parties and political movements, disrupting their operations and constraining their ability to organize. Large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, including nearly all of the organization’s senior leadership and Morsi himself, were arrested following the coup, and arrests continued through 2016. Some Brotherhood members have been killed under unclear circumstances, with police reporting gun battles during attempted arrests and the group claiming summary executions. Civil society organizations estimate that as many as 40,000 people were being detained for political reasons as of 2016, most of them for real or suspected links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Authorities declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization in December 2013, which allowed them to charge anyone participating in a pro-Morsi demonstration with terrorism and laid the foundation for the complete political isolation of the Islamist opposition.[2]

Amnesty International published its “Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt” on 22 February, 2017. According to this report, the Ministry of the Interior repeatedly announced that security forces had shot dead suspects during raids on residences, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and alleged members of armed groups. No police officers were formally investigated, raising concern that security forces may have used excessive force or in some cases carried out extrajudicial executions. Critics and opponents of the government continued to face arbitrary arrest and detention on charges that included inciting protests, “terrorism” and belonging to banned groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the 6 April Youth Movement. The authorities also arbitrarily detained several human rights defenders.[3]

United Kingdom: Home Office published its “Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood” on 26 July, 2017. According to this report, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has been designated a terrorist organisation in Egypt and members may be prosecuted under the Penal Code. Many senior and mid-level leaders of the MB have been arrested and faced prolonged detention, some have also been handed death sentences. Thousands of members and supporters have also been arrested, particularly during demonstrations, by the state security forces. Some members and supporters have also been killed and injured during these protests. Persons with a high profile, who have been politically active or have come to the attention of the authorities, particularly in demonstrations, may be subject to arrest and detention, where they may be at risk of ill-treatment and / or face trial without due process and disproportionate punishment, which amounts to persecution or serious harm. Additionally, persons who are not members but are high profile supporters or those perceived to support the MB, such as journalists, may be at risk of persecution or serious harm. Low-level, non-political or inactive members and supporters, or those perceived to be supporters, are not generally being targeted and it is unlikely that they will be able to demonstrate a real risk of persecution. The onus is on the person to demonstrate that they are at risk of persecution, however each case will need to be considered on its facts.[4]

[1] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Egypt, 12 January 2017, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt, 15 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

[3] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

[4] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood , 26 July 2017, v 3.0, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

Somalia – Ujejen Clan – December, 2017

Name Variants of Ujejen – In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a senior lecturer of the Development Planning Unit of University College London, who has conducted research on evolving political settlements in Somalia, noted that spelling variants of Somali clans “can be very variable” (Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016). Name variants for this sub-clan include: Ujejen (UN 2004, 1; Ambroso Mar. 2002, 78; Africa Confidential 1 Nov. 2016), Ujeedeen (Somali Programme Advisor 7 Nov. 2016), Ujeejeen (Somali Analyst 8 Nov. 2016), Ujudeen (Abbink 2009, 27), Ujejeen (Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016), Ujeien (ibid.), Ujudayn (ibid.), Ujujeen (ibid.), and “many others” (ibid.).

Place in Somali Clan Genealogy

Sources indicate that the Ujejen belong to the Hawiye clan family (Somali Analyst 2 Nov. 2016; Abbink 2009, 26-27; UN 2004). The Senior Lecturer noted that the Hawiye are one of the major clan families (Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016).

According to The Total Somali Clan Genealogy by Jan Abbink, of the African Studies Centre of Leiden University, the “Ujudeen” sub-clan is part of the “Gurgate” [also spelled out as Gorgate, Gorgarte, or Gorgaate] clan, which is part of the “Bah Girei” “clan ‘moiet[y]'” (uterine/territorial division), which is part of the Hawiye clan family (Abbink 2009, 26-27).

According to a genealogical table of Somali clans prepared by UNHCR Somalia in 2004, the “Ujejen” are part of the “Mudulod” clan, who are part of the “Gorgarte,” who are part of the Hawiye (UN 2004, 1).

According to a genealogical chart compiled by Guido Ambroso, a UNHCR field/repatriation officer in Somalia, the “Ujejen” are a subgroup of the “Mudulod,” who are part of “Hirab,” who are part of “Mohamud,” who are part of “Gorgate,” who are part of Hawiye (Ambroso Mar. 2002, 78).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a Somali Analyst who specialises in the Somalia region, stated that the Ujejen are part of the “Mudulod” clan and “Hirab” (Somali Analyst 2 Nov. 2016). She also noted that the Hirab is the largest clan of the Hawiye (ibid.).

The Senior Lecturer stated that the Ujejen are “a part of the Gorgaate branch of the Hawiye family, alongside Habr Gidir [also spelled out as Habar Gidir] and Abgaal [also spelled out as Abgal]. The same source also indicated that “[t]he Ujejeen, although not a particularly powerful sub-clan, are generally considered a central part of the Hawiye clan group, and enjoy status in their own areas as a result” (ibid.).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a Somali Programme Advisor for Saferworld [1], who provided information based on his personal experience, stated that the Ujejen have “a close ethnic affiliation to the Abgal-Hawiye clan, which numerically and geographically constitutes one of the most dominant clans in Mogadishu” (7 Nov. 2016).

Distinguishing Features and Size

The Somali Programme Advisor noted that the Ujejen “do not have any particular distinguishing features from other Somali clans” (Somali Programme Advisor 7 Nov. 2016).

Sources indicate that the Ujejen are a relatively small sub-clan (ibid.; Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016; Somali Analyst 2 Nov. 2016). The Somali Analyst indicated that they are a “small sub-clan” in the region where they live (ibid.). Information on the exact number of people in the Ujejen could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to the Somali Analyst, “[s]tatistical data and census on population and clan make up is not available in Somalia” (ibid. 3 Nov. 2016).

Locations

Sources indicate that the Ujejen live in the following areas:

  • the Hiran [Hiraan] region of Somalia (UN 2004, 1; Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016; Somali Analyst 2 Nov. 2016);
  • the Ethiopian borderline zone five (ibid.);
  • Mogadishu (Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016); and
  • Ethiopia (ibid.; UN 2004, 1), in the Somali region (Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016).

The Somali Analyst explained that the Ujejen have more than eight neighbouring clans in the Hiran region and that each clan in the area has their own customary laws and their own relations with respect to the other clans (Somali Analyst 2 Nov. 2016). She indicated that the following clan-families and clans are neighbours to the Ujejen:

  • Hawiye: Xawaadle, Habar Gidir, Ceyr, and Jijele;
  • Darood: Marehan and Ogaden;
  • Dir: Abdalla;
  • Jareer: Makane; and
  • Shanta Sheikh, such as Reer Awxasan Kalweyne (ibid. 8 Nov. 2016).

Occupations

According to the Senior Lecturer, “[t]he sub-clans of the Hawiye and other ‘noble’ lineages tend to associate themselves traditionally with pastoralism, though increasing numbers have settled in cities and, in some cases, moved into agriculture” (1 Nov. 2016). The Somali Programme Advisor stated that despite their small size, the Ujejen are “relatively influential as its members are known to be highly urbanized and comparatively well-educated” (Somali Programme Advisor 7 Nov. 2016). He noted that the first democratically elected President of Somalia was Ujejen, as well as the Mogadishu mayor

Treatment

The Senior Lecturer stated that the Ujejen “are not a traditionally weak or marginalized sub-clan. They situate themselves firmly within the ‘noble’ lineages, and enjoy significant advantage from residing in central areas, surrounded in large part by other groups from within the Hawiye family” (Senior Lecturer 1 Nov. 2016). The same source expressed the opinion that the Ujejen would “be able to call on Hawiye alliances when needed” (ibid.). However, he noted that “[c]lan alliances do tend to be quite fluid” (ibid.).

According to the Somali Programme Advisor, “[a]s a minority clan, the Ujeedeen might feel marginalized, which is common in all smaller Somali clans” (Somali Programme Advisor 7 Nov. 2016).

Based on interviews with ten local clan elders [2], the Somali Analyst found that the Ujejen had respectful relations with some clans, but felt marginalized by others, specifically the Ogaden (Darood clan-family) and the Xawaadle (Hawiye clan-family) (Somali Analyst 9 Nov. 2016). The same source found that the Ujejen do not receive respect from the Xawaadle and experience issues with grazing and water disputes (ibid. 8 Nov. 2016). The Somali Analyst indicated that the Darood respects customary laws with Hawiye, but when there are issues with territorial expansion and water and grazing rights, the Darood “show their strong power to Ujeejeen,” and also “sometimes” do not pay “Dhiig” and “Diyo” [translates as “blood” and “restitution”] when there are troubles with fighting (ibid.). Regarding the Dir/Abdalla, the Somali Analyst said that there is respect between them and the Ujejen (ibid.). However, the same source noted that the Ujejen use their power to gain potential support from Hiraab sub-clans in their interactions with Abdalla, Jaree/Makana, and Jijeele (ibid.). The source indicated that the Habar Gidir “fully respects the Ujeejeen because of kinship” (ibid.). In addition, the Ujejen have “good relations” with the urban Shanta Sheikh, and the Makana and Ceyr clans (ibid. 9 Nov. 2016).[1]

Tumal/Tomal Tribe

Although the population of minority groups living in Somalia has not as yet been established, estimates indicate that they constitute one third of the total Somalia population; approximately 2,000,000 people. The minority groups include Bantu, Bravenese, Rerhamar, Bajuni, Eyle, Galgala, Tumal, Yibir and Gaboye. These groups continue to live in conditions of great poverty and suffer numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.

Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir live in Hargeisa.

Social segregation of minority groups in Somalia dates back to periods before the armed conflict of 1991. However, the regime did not carry out any tangible programmes to empower minority groups. On the contrary, it seriously violated the basic human rights and right to development of these groups.

The Gaboye, Tumal, Yibir and Galgala are ethnically associated with the Samale, which forms a dominant clan in Somalia. However, cultural stigma and traditions have excluded them as outcastes from the Samale clan. They engage in the activities of blacksmithing and shoemaking, as well as being hunters/gatherers. They live mainly in central and northern Somalia.

Most of the minority groups have assimilated into other Somalia clans with whom they live. Some Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir assimilated into the Isak in Somaliland. There are also other Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir who assimilated with Hawadle, Murasade and Marehan clans in Galgadud region.[2]

Mixed Marriages among Clans

A September 2009 IRIN News report states:

“Minority groups such as the Madiban, Gabooyo and Tumal, are often discriminated against, mostly for the work they do, such as shoemaking and iron-smelting. Though Somalis and Muslims, these minority groups have traditionally never married into the larger Somali clans and do not mix with them socially. Adood spoke to IRIN on 15 September: ”

I knew Mahamud [husband] before we got married. We both grew up in Galkayo in the same area. But because of his clan, I never really paid any attention to him. I was married off young to a man who died shortly afterwards, and my family then married me off again – but that marriage ended up in a divorce.

“We met again in 2007 and we started seeing each other secretly. I fell in love with him. He is kind, gentle and handsome. I adore him.

“We decided to get married in secret. We did it in July 2007. That is when all my problems started. My family and relatives found out and immediately wanted me to get a divorce. I refused. I was beaten repeatedly by my brothers, cousins and uncles. He [Mahamud] was threatened and on one occasion shot at. He fled to the south side of Galkayo [the town is partly in Puntland and partly in south-central Somalia].” (IRIN News (15 September 2009) Ubah Abdi Adood, “I am sure if we return we will be killed”)

Section 5 of the February 2009 United States Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Somalia, under the heading ‘National/Ethnic/Racial Minorities’, states:

“Intermarriage between minority groups and mainstream clans was restricted.” (United States Department of State (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) (25 February 2009) 2008 Human Rights Report: Somalia)[3]

The United States State Department ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016’, published on 3 March 2017, stated that:

‘Minority groups included the Bantu (the largest minority group), Banadiri, Reer Hamar, Brawanese, Swahili, Tumal, Yibir, Yaxar, Madhiban, Hawrarsame, Muse Dheryo, Faqayaqub, and Gabooye. Minority groups, often lacking armed militias, continued to be disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, kidnapping for ransom, and looting of land and property with impunity by faction militias and majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities. Many minority communities continued to live in deep poverty and to suffer from numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.’[4]

A November 2008 IRIN News article reports:

“Children in parts of Somalia’s self-declared republic of Somaliland have never gone to school because their communities prefer they remain at home and learn petty trades, a local NGO said. 4 The communities include the Gaboye, Midgan, Tumal and Yibro – most of whom lead reclusive lives and do not interact or inter-marry with other communities. They are mostly cobblers, blacksmiths and barbers.” (IRIN News (28 November 2008) SOMALIA: Children from minority communities miss out on school) [5]

Somaliland

It is important to note that representatives of minority groups complained to the Independent Expert about the difficulties faced by those groups in integrating into society in Somaliland. One example was that of marriage between minority and majority clans; in one case, a couple had fled after getting married, but had been found and beaten by members of the majority clan, to which the wife belonged. Another problem facing minorities was their lack of representation in the Federal Parliament.[6]

[1] Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Somalia: Information on the Ujejen sub-clan, including distinguishing features, locations, occupations and position in the clan hierarchy; treatment (2014-November 2016), 10 November 2016, SOM105678.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/592d76800.html [accessed 19 December 2017]

[2] Reliefweb – UNCU/UN-OCHA Somalia,  August 2002, available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/study-minorities-somalia (accessed on 19 December 2017)

[3] Ireland: Refugee Documentation Centre, Somalia: Information on the treatment of people from the Tumal clan, 5 February 2010, Q11605, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b8fcb1ef.html [accessed 19 December 2017]

[4] UK Home Office – Country Policy and Information note Somalia: Majority clans and  minority groups in south and central Somalia, June 2017, available at:

(accessed on 19 December 2017)

[5] Ireland: Refugee Documentation Centre, Somalia: Information on the treatment of people from the Tumal clan, 5 February 2010, Q11605, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b8fcb1ef.html [accessed 19 December 2017]

[6] HRC – UN Human Rights Council (formerly UN Commission on Human Rights): Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia [A/HRC/36/62], 6 September 2017

 (accessed on 19 December 2017)

Iraq. Treatment of Sunni Muslims in Iraq. December, 2017

Paramilitary militias and government forces committed war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, mostly against members of the Sunni Arab community. They carried out extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and torture, forcibly disappeared hundreds of men and boys, and deliberately destroyed homes and property.

Following a suicide bombing that killed 27 men and injured 41 others in Muqdadiya on 11 January, militias carried out revenge attacks against the Sunni community, abducting and killing dozens of men and burning and destroying Sunni mosques, shops and other property.

On 3 June, PMU militias abducted an estimated 1,300 men and boys fleeing Saqlawiya, north of Falluja. Three days later, 605 men reappeared bearing marks of torture, while the fate of 643 remained unknown. An investigative committee established by the Governor of Anbar found that 49 had been killed by being shot, tortured or burned to death. On 30 May, at least 12 men and four boys who were fleeing al-Sijir, north of Falluja, were extrajudicially executed. Prime Minister al-Abadi established a committee to investigate abuses, but the authorities did not disclose any outcome or report any criminal process against the perpetrators.

The PMU and Tribal Mobilization militias, composed of Sunni fighters, were reported to have recruited children and used them in fighting against IS.

The authorities took no steps to clarify the whereabouts and fate of thousands of Sunni Arab men and boys who remained forcibly disappeared after being seized from their homes, at checkpoints, and from camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) by militias and government forces in previous years.[1]

The fighting also continued to exacerbate the deep rifts that made Iraq vulnerable to IS infiltration in the first place. The PMF and to a lesser extent government forces sometimes mistreated Sunni civilians in areas retaken from IS, and the government remained unable to care adequately for displaced Sunnis. Nor was the state able to protect Shiite civilians from IS terrorist attacks meant to drive a wedge between the Sunni and Shiite populations. Sunni Arabs, Iraq’s largest minority, argue that Shiite dominance of the political system keeps them out of positions of influence. Many Sunnis in liberated areas were illegally detained, beaten, robbed, tortured, and murdered, most often by the PMF.[2]

The terrorist organization Da’esh committed the overwhelming majority of serious human rights abuses, including attacks against: civilians, (particularly Shia but also Sunnis who opposed Da’esh); members of other religious and ethnic minorities; They also engaged in kidnapping, rape, enslavement, forced marriage, sexual violence, committing such acts against civilians from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, and members of other religious and ethnic groups. Local residents alleged that the ISF used the bombing as an excuse to arrest innocent Sunnis, IDPs, and civil activists. There were many reports of Shia PMF forces detaining Sunnis following the liberation of Da’esh-dominated areas. Authorities at times detained spouses and other family members of fugitives, mostly Sunnis wanted on terrorism charges, as proxies to pressure the fugitives to surrender.[3]

International and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported the government continued to use the antiterrorism law as a pretense for detaining Sunnis and others without access to timely due process. Sunni Arabs reported some government officials used sectarian profiling in arrests and detentions and used religion as a determining factor in employment decisions. Media and government officials reported Peshmerga and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) prevented displaced Sunni Arabs, Yezidi, Turkmen, and others from returning to their homes in some areas liberated from ISIS.[4]

[1] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Iraq, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 December 2017]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Iraq, 2 June 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 December 2017]

[3] United States Department of State, 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Iraq, 3 March 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 December 2017]

[4] United States Department of State, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom – Iraq, 15 August 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 December 2017]