Latest killings of civilians in Baghdad a ‘war crime’

Amnesty International has strongly condemned the killing of at least 155 people, mostly civilians, in twin suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad on Sunday.

The attacks were carried out almost simultaneously in central Baghdad. A truck bomb was exploded near the ministries of justice and municipalities, just before 10:30am local time. Minutes later a second attack, a car bomb, exploded just outside the Baghdad Governorate building.

In addition to those killed, at least 700 people were wounded, making this the deadliest attack in over two years.

The two ministries and the governorate are reported to have been badly damaged.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. This latest attack is similar to the one which damaged the finance and foreign affairs ministries on 19 August 2009, in which 147 people were killed and almost 500 were injured.

Amnesty International said that as direct attacks on civilians these latest bomb attacks constitute war crimes.

The organization said that if the blasts are part of a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population of Iraq in furtherance of a particular organization or armed group’s policy, they also constitute crimes against humanity.

War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes under international law. Amnesty International said that the attacks must be stopped immediately and those responsible must be brought to justice.

Since US troops pulled out from cities and towns on 30 June 2009, hundreds of civilians have been killed by armed groups and many more injured.

This latest carnage is a reminder that the security situation in Iraq remains very dangerous. Despite this, in recent months, several European countries, including the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark, have forcibly returned Iraqis to central and southern Iraq.

Only last week the UK tried to forcibly return about 44 Iraqi asylum seekers to Baghdad; 10 people were allowed entry but the others were returned to the UK by the Iraqi authorities.

On 23 October 2009 the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, publicly appealed to host countries, especially those in Europe, not to forcibly return Iraqis from Iraq’s central regions because of the dangerous security conditions prevailing there.