Hundreds of Iraqi Daesh child suspects arrested: human rights group

Women and children sit outside a Kurdish screening center to determine if they are associated with Daesh in this October 3, 2017 photo taken in Dibis, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2019
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Hundreds of Iraqi Daesh child suspects arrested: human rights group

  • Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are holding approximately 1,500 children for alleged Daesh affiliation at the end of 2018
  • Iraq declared victory against Daesh in December 2017 after three years of bloody battles

IRBIL, Iraq: Iraq and the Kurdish regional government have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged affiliation with the Daesh group, often using torture to coerce confessions, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
In a report, the New York-based group estimated that Iraqi and Kurdish authorities were holding approximately 1,500 children for alleged Daesh affiliation in detention at the end of 2018. It said the prosecutions are often based on dubious accusations and forced confessions obtained through torture.
The children are then sentenced to prison in hasty and unfair trials, HRW said.
Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the approach that Iraq has adopted is one that “completely fails” to acknowledge what is commonly understood and reflected in international law, which is that children who were forcibly recruited should be treated as victims, not criminals.
Iraq declared victory against Daesh in December 2017 after three years of bloody battles that killed tens of thousands and left Iraqi cities in ruins. The country is grappling with a massive legacy from the fight, which includes thousands of detainees, including children, who are being sentenced in rushed trials
“Children accused of affiliation with IS are being detained, and often tortured and prosecuted, regardless of their actual level of involvement with the group,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for HRW. “This sweeping punitive approach is not justice, and will create lifelong negative consequences for many of these children.”
The report said kids recruited by armed groups should be recognized primarily as victims who should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
The 52-page report, entitled “Everyone Must Confess’: Abuses against Children Suspected of Daesh Affiliation in Iraq,” criticized what it described as a deeply flawed screening process that often leads to detention and prosecution of children regardless of whether they have any involvement with Daesh, or the extent of that involvement.
It cites the case of a 17-year-old detainee, who said he worked at a restaurant in Mosul that served Daesh members, and believed that his name appeared on a “wanted” list because Daesh took his identification so he could be paid.
“What we see are extremely brief trials in the cases of these boys. Every single one of these trials proceeded solely on the basis of the confession that was produced by their interrogation, often with the use of torture,” Wille said.
“After the trial is done, usually in ... five-minute or a 10-minute period, they receive their sentence and they return to prison.”


UN agency to donors: Back Palestine efforts anew, keep funding at 2018 levels

The UN Relief and Works Agency provides food assistance to 1 million people in Gaza every three months, which is half of the area’s population. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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UN agency to donors: Back Palestine efforts anew, keep funding at 2018 levels

  • ‘Exceptional’ contributions enabled the UN Relief and Works Agency to fund its entire 2018 budget of $1.2 billion
  • ‘Countries that supported us last year I would say were extremely proud to contribute to the solution’

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the UN agency that helps 5.3 million Palestinian refugees on Monday urged donors who filled a $446 million hole in its budget last year after the Trump administration drastically cut the US contribution to be equally generous this year.
“Last year we had an extraordinary crisis and an out of the ordinary response,” Pierre Krahenbuhl said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Our humble request to all the donors is: Please keep your funding levels at the same level as 2018.”
He said he has been thanking donors for their “exceptional” contributions that enabled the UN Relief and Works Agency to fund its entire 2018 budget of $1.2 billion.
Krahenbuhl said the agency, known as UNRWA, also adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2019, and this year it is getting nothing from the United States. Last year, the Trump administration gave $60 million, a dramatic reduction from the $360 million it provided in 2017, when the United States was the agency’s largest donor.
US President Donald Trump said in January 2018 that the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive US aid money — a comment that raised alarm from leaders of 21 international humanitarian groups, who protested that the administration’s link between aid and political objectives was “dangerous.”
Krahenbuhl said the campaign that UNRWA launched immediately after the US slashed its contribution succeeded as a result of “very important donations,” starting with the European Union, which became the agency’s biggest donor. He said 40 countries and institutions increased funding to UNRWA, including Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Canada and Australia. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait each gave $50 million, he said.
“Countries that supported us last year I would say were extremely proud to contribute to the solution,” Krahenbuhl said.
Last year, he said, the number of multi-year funding agreements with donors rose to 19.
So UNRWA right now is in “a somewhat better position” than it was last year, with a shortfall of just over $200 million, Krahenbuhl said.
So far this year, the agency has received $245 million and is expecting $100 million more, he said, which means it should be financially OK until about May.
“But from then on we’ll start to ... reach some crisis points,” Krahenbuhl said.
He said UNRWA is thinking about holding some events in the next two or three months “to collectively mobilize the donor community.” In June, he said, there will be a pledging conference at which the UN and donors will take stock of the agency’s financial situation.
Krahenbuhl said he is committed to making up for the $60 million that UNRWA is losing from the United States this year through internal cost saving measures to reduce the agency’s expenditures.
“That’s going to hurt, but that’s where we feel our financial responsibility, so that we preserve the trust that was generated by the level of donors,” he said, noting that UNRWA last year saved $92 million.
Krahenbuhl said donors recognize the agency does important work. He pointed to the 280,000 boys and girls in UNRWA schools in Gaza and the food assistance the agency provides to 1 million people there every three months. “That’s half of Gaza’s population,” he said.
The UNRWA chief also said that continuing the agency’s services to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and elsewhere in the Mideast “is in everybody’s interest” and important for stability in the region.
“If you take Gaza right now ... it’s continuously at the razor’s edge,” Krahenbuhl said, stressing that any shift in humanitarian assistance or conditions that people live in “can trigger the need for justification, or the excuse ... to go back to war.”
Noting his own experience in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, Krahenbuhl said, “this is absolutely devastating and needs to be avoided.”