Saturday 17 March 2018

Iraq to hang 27 Isis members over role in massacre of army recruits

IS fighters
IS fighters

Bethan McKernan

A court in Iraq has sentenced 27 Isis soldiers to death by hanging over their role in a massacre of up to 1,700 army recruits in 2014.

One of Isis’ earliest gruesome propaganda videos was of the execution-style killings at Camp Speicher in northern Iraq when the organisation launched its surprise offensive over the border from Syria in June that year.

There were between 4,000 and 11,000 cadets stationed at the base near Tikrit when Isis overran it.

Isis divided up their captives depending on whether they were Shia, Sunni or non-Muslim, and murdered an estimated 1,095 non-Sunni soldiers, a later inquiry by Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry estimated.

The true number of men still missing is not known, but estimates suggest it could be up to 1,700 people.

The victims were trucked to various locations, including a former palace of Saddam Hussein, lined up and shot at point black range, beheaded, or choked to death.

Some bodies were disposed of in the Tigris River, and at least 12 mass graves were discovered when Iraqi coalition forces managed to retake the city and surrounding area in 2015.

Read More: German girl (16) found in Mosul tunnel 'was married to Chechen Isis fighter and killed Iraqi troops'

As well as this week’s sentencing, 36 Isis members were hanged in August 2016 after being found guilty of the same crime in a mass trial. Another 25 suspects have been released due to a lack of evidence.

The sentenced men have the right to appeal the court’s decision.

The death sentences come as rights groups have expressed concern over possible abuses of men accused of being in Isis following the recapture of the city of Mosul, which effectively means the end of Isis’ rule in the country. 

More than 5,000 men suspected of fighting on behalf of the militants are thought to be currently held in overcrowded and stiflingly hot conditions in local prisons.

“Prisoners are infected with diseases, lots of health and skin problems, because they’re not exposed to the sun,” one prison warden told the AP last month, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The majority can’t walk. Their legs are swollen because they can’t move.”

Read More: Videos appear to show Iraqi troops killing suspected IS fighters in Mosul

For many Iraqi soldiers and civilians, there is very little sympathy for those accused of fighting with Isis.

But detainees protest their innocence – and organisations such as Human Rights Watch have repeatedly accused Iraqi forces of unlawful interrogations, beatings and even executions of men and boys believed to be part of Isis that could amount to war crimes.

Independent News Service

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