Statement on the situation in Iraq adopted by the PACE Bureau

The Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is deeply worried by the major humanitarian crisis developing in Iraq, where the rebels of the terrorist organisation known as “the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) have seized substantial portions of the territory in the North and West of the country and are heading towards Baghdad.

The situation has quickly deteriorated over the past few days and ISIS is now reported to control several checkpoints on Iraq’s borders with Syria and the only one on the border with Jordan. It is said that ISIS’s aim is to establish a Caliphate in the area of Syria and Iraq, effacing the old border.

The Bureau is particularly concerned by reports of mass human rights violations by ISIS fighters, including summary executions of Iraqi security personnel, religious leaders and civilians, acts of violence against ethnic and religious communities, and the destruction of religious property. This is in total opposition to the values upheld by the Council of Europe and cannot be tolerated.

As a result of the massive violence, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing from their homes seeking refuge in other areas of the country and abroad. Approximately 1 million Internally Displaced Persons and 110,000 stateless people in Iraq will be eligible for assistance from the UN Refugee Agency, including thousands of children. These are in addition to the 9 million already displaced by the civil war in Syria.

The situation is getting out of control and there is a serious risk of violence spilling over to neighbouring countries, including Jordan, whose Parliament has applied for Partner for Democracy status with the Parliamentary Assembly. The whole region risks being further destabilised.

Europe cannot just stand by while this major crisis unfolds. Some Mediterranean countries, including some member States of the Council of Europe, are already facing a major burden trying to cope with massive arrivals of fugitives. Timely decisions on the question of European borders and on co-ordinated assistance to asylum seekers are urgent in order to share this burden.

All local, European and international actors must join forces to put an end to violence and protect the civilian population. The international community, under the auspices of the United Nations, must mobilise its resources to bring humanitarian aid to all those in need.