Mosul: Switzerland calls on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and increases its assistance in Iraq

Press release, 01.06.2017

Seven months after the start of the offensive to liberate Mosul, Iraqi forces have now begun their final push against the last pocket of the city controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ group. Home to some 250,000 civilians, the district is also the most densely populated of the city. The fighting is reported to be extremely violent and the humanitarian situation appalling. Switzerland calls for compliance with international humanitarian law, rapid and unrestricted humanitarian access and continued efforts to assist the Iraqi people, including beyond the offensive in Mosul.

For seven months, the people of Mosul have been facing clashes between Iraqi forces backed by the international coalition and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) group, which has been in control of the city since 2014. To date, over 750,000 people have fled the city as a result of the conflict. The assault that has now begun on the last pocket of the city held by the IS group is a matter of great humanitarian concern. Some 250,000 civilians are now trapped in this densely-populated district of narrow streets. With no safe way of escaping the city, they are constantly exposed to crossfire, snipers and explosive devices. Switzerland calls on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution relating to the conduct of hostilities, and to do everything possible to protect the civilian population. Switzerland also calls on the parties to ensure rapid and unrestricted humanitarian access to all civilians in need.

Beyond the current military offensive against the IS group in Mosul, of equal concern are the over three million people who have been displaced inside the country who – despite the efforts of humanitarian organisations and the Iraqi authorities – suffer from a major lack of security as well as assistance and are forced to endure repeated displacements.

In response to these new developments, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has decided to allocate an additional CHF 1 million to support the efforts of non-governmental organisations in protection and providing access to water in areas where there is an acute need for assistance. It is also about to deploy an expert from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to strengthen protection efforts. In addition to humanitarian assistance, Switzerland continues to support the dissemination of international humanitarian law – including to armed non-state actors – as well as efforts to promote dialogue among the various Iraqi communities.

With these latest measures, Switzerland's commitment in Iraq has now reached more than CHF 40 million since this latest crisis began in 2014.

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