Legal Aid Sessions in Mosul
The conflict in Mosul is causing mass displacement with over 215,000 people currently displaced as a result of Mosul operations which began on 17 October 2016. An estimated 152,857 people have already fled western Mosul sine operation re-take this part of the city started on 19 February, and there are fears another 40,000 people may flee in the next days. Estimated nearly 600,000 people are still living in areas of western Mosul and many of them are likely to be displaced in the coming weeks.
Protection risks faced by those who stay in Mosul and those who flee are of serious concern. The conflict has been characterized by widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law, with civilians prevented from fleeing, and in some cases used as humanitarian shields. The Iraqi security forces face the dual challenge of receiving large populations whilst maintaining national security. Security screening procedures carried out by the authorities on males and boys fleeing areas under ISIS control increase the likelihood of protection violations, if not managed in an accountable manner, while many displaced may face severe limitations on their freedom of movement. During displacement, gender based violence and child protection violations are highly likely, including due to separation of male family members and children.
Robust protection monitoring, household assessments and real time reporting of critical protection issues is required to inform the overall humanitarian response and to identify and assist vulnerable IDPs, including through legal assistance.
Headquartered in Baghdad, Mercy Hands has three satellite offices and a total of 90 staff members working in Ninewah governorate, including the east and west side of Mosul city. Majority of the staff is involved in emergency aid program but some of them are involved in protection activities. Because of the magnitude of protection issues in Mosul and surrounding areas, Mercy Hands is planning to expand its general protection monitoring and response capacity.
Last week Mercy Hands conducted two legal aid sessions at one of the IDP camps outside Qayyarah town, namely Airstrip Camp. This camp hosts over 8000 IDP families, half of them are displaced from west Mosul. The first session was attended by 20 persons while the second was attended by 23 persons. Mercy Hands' lawyers educated the IDPs about their rights and legal services available for them, including the free legal services provided by Mercy Hands. IDPs were very engaged in the sessions and had numerous questions to ask the lawyers. Interestingly, most questions were related to the legal documents issued by ISIS, such as marriage, birth, and divorce certificates. Mercy Hands' lawyers explained to IDPs the process of legal conditioning of the documents issued by ISIS time to be valid by the Iraqi state laws. Mercy Hands' lawyers offered to help the IDPs with legal conditioning of their personal documents and to obtain new legal documents. Mercy Hands has been coordinating with local authorities to facilitate the process of providing legal aid to Mosul IDPs.