Conference in Erbil calls for law reform against human trafficking


Lawyers and civil society activists in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq call for greater legal capabilities to convict ISIS militants, especially those who kidnapped and killed Yazidi men, women and children.

In Erbil, northern Iraq, lawyers and civil society activists have met at a conference to call for a reform to the existing human trafficking law, which was issued in 2013. Although many of ISIS’ crimes will be regarded as crimes against humanity, the law reform is needed to adapt to the crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidi community and to ease future prosecutions against captured militants.

“We have made many demands to governmental agencies to open human trafficking centres,” said Sakina Mohammed Ali, Women and Children’s Officer for Nineveh Province. “They [the government] have opened these centres in every province apart from in Mosul. If these [reformed] laws are actually implemented right now in Mosul, then, quite frankly, many achievements will be made.”

The conference was organised by the Muhaqaq Organisation to coincide with the World Day Against Trafficking of Persons. The Muhaqaq Organisation, which focuses its operations on legal campaigns, is campaigning on behalf of the Yazidi community. Some members of the Yazidi community have begun to lose their trust in the country’s judicial institutions amid accusations that it isn’t working fast enough to bring ISIS militants to justice.

The conference has been held against a backdrop of increasingly successful arrest operations across Iraq against suspected members of ISIS by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

Some influential members of Iraqi civil society have called for the establishment of an international tribunal to take responsibility for the prosecution of ISIS suspects. Those who make this argument assert that the Iraqi legal system is not designed to cope with the high number of detained personnel, nor the severity of the crimes committed by ISIS.

“We cannot prosecute ISIS or their leaders in accordance with law number 10 decreed in 2003 and so we demand the formation of a new [international] tribunal, or a mixed tribunal,” said Ayad Ismail Kaka’i, an official in the Erbil branch of the Lawyers’ Syndicate. “We are against the formation of an internal Iraqi tribunal.”