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Amnesty International USA Reacts to President Obama’s Remarks on Islamic State

    September 11, 2014

    Media Contact: 
Amanda Simon, 212.633.4162,

    (NEW YORK, NY) – President Obama addressed the nation tonight on his plans to combat the armed group Islamic State. Amnesty International USA executive director, Steven W. Hawkins released the following statement:

    Canada: Iraqi families need your help now! 

    Hundreds of thousands of people from minority communities in northern Iraq have been forced to flee their homes, since fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) issued the ultimatum: "Convert, leave or die."

    “The armed group that calls itself Islamic State has gravely exacerbated the deteriorating human rights situation across Northern Iraq but hasty action by US policymakers could add to the suffering of Iraqi civilians and others in the region. 

    “Without firm rules in place, it would be reckless for the US or others to provide military aid to any party in the conflict. Islamic State has committed serious war crimes, but other militias supported by the Iraqi government have also attacked civilian populations in revenge and the Iraqi military itself has shelled residential communities.

    “Additionally, President Obama's proposed $5 billion anti-terrorism fund also risks deepening partnerships between the US and highly repressive governments like Saudi Arabia, which has used its own so-called anti-terrorism laws to silence peaceful human rights criticism at home.

    “President Obama must make a public commitment that any US airstrikes will be directed at bona fide military targets, with all reasonable precautions taken to prevent civilian death or injury. Amidst the horrors caused by Islamic State, US policymakers should pause and ensure that US policies do not do further harm to civilians caught in the ongoing conflict.”

    Amnesty International USA is also calling on the Obama administration to adhere closely to the outlines of its arms transfer policy outlined in January, taking into account “the likelihood that the recipient would use the arms to commit human rights abuses or serious violations of international humanitarian law, retransfer the arms to those who would commit human rights abuses or serious violations of international humanitarian law, or identify the United States with human rights abuses or serious violations of international humanitarian law.”