Thursday 8 December 2016

Iraqi forces torturing and killing civilians - Amnesty

Josie Ensor Beirut

Published 11/11/2016 | 02:30

An Iraqi soldier fires a RPG in Karamah, south of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters
An Iraqi soldier fires a RPG in Karamah, south of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters
A firefighter works to extinguish an oil well set on fire by fleeing Isil members .
Peshmerga forces ride on the back of a vehicle in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul. Photo: Reuters
A displaced Iraqi girl, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, is pictured in Debaga refugee camp, east of Mosul. Photo: Reuters
An Iraqi soldier runs before he fires his rifle in Karamah, south of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters
Federal police forces fire mortar toward Islamic State militants south of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters
An Iraqi air force helicopter fires a machine gun at Islamic State militants south of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters

Iraqi government forces have been accused of torturing and killing civilians near Mosul, in the first such reports since the start of the offensive to liberate the city from Isil.

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Residents of recaptured villages were beaten and shot to death by federal police officers after being accused of having ties to Isil, according to Amnesty International.

A report released yesterday revealed details of how a group of 10 men, including a 16-year-old boy, handed themselves over to officers while waving white flags in the village of Nus Tal south of Mosul on October 21.

The officers then beat the group with cables and rifle butts, punching and kicking them, before setting fire to one man's beard, the charity reported.

The victims were made to lie on their stomachs and shots were fired between their legs, as they were insulted, often using sectarian language, and accused of being members of Isil.

Four of them were later found dead; one had been beheaded.

In a separate incident, a villager was discovered with a gunshot wound to the chest, blindfolded with his torso exposed, suggesting that he had been detained before being executed.

Amnesty said that forces operating in the area "were apparently presuming that only Isil fighters had remained behind", but that the extrajudicial executions were in any case unlawful.

An interior ministry spokesman denied there had been any violations and said Iraqi forces respect human rights and international law.

"Men in federal police uniform have carried out multiple unlawful killings, apprehending and then deliberately killing in cold blood residents in villages south of Mosul," said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty's Beirut office.

"When the Mosul military operation began, [Iraqi] Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made clear that violations by Iraqi armed forces and its allies would not be tolerated. Now is the time for him to prove just that."

She added that, without accountability, the alleged abuses risked being repeated in other towns and villages.

There had been concerns that the offensive would stoke existing sectarian tensions in the country.

The Iraqi army is dominated by troops from the Shia Muslim sect. Residents of Mosul, a predominantly Sunni city, are fearful of their role in the liberation of Iraq's second city.

Previous operations to recapture other Sunni-majority cities, Fallujah and Tikrit, were largely spearheaded by the Shia militias.

In the days and weeks afterwards, reports of extrajudicial torture and killings committed against the Sunni population helped harden support for Isil and deepen mistrust in other Sunni areas.

In the battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah in June, Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) militia forces were accused of so-called revenge attacks against Sunni civilians they accused of supporting Isil.

Locals suspected of having ties to Isil were beaten with metal rods and subjected to electric shocks, according to Amnesty.

Some were tied to the bonnets of vehicles and paraded through the streets or placed in cages.

The Mosul operation, involving a 100,000-strong alliance of troops, security forces, Kurdish peshmerga and Shia militias and backed by US-led air strikes, has entered its fourth week but has so far gained just a small foothold in the city.

Thousands of civilians being held as human shields are expected to stream out of the city in the coming days and weeks as the army advances. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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