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Iraq government, Shia militias, Daesh all committed war crimes in 2016 – Amnesty

Originally published on Middle East Monitor

Iraqi shiite fighters from Abbas brigade militia stand stand guard near a group of displaced people who were fled from villages in western Mosul, Iraq, 10 November 2016. Iraqi forces backed by dozens of Iraqi shiite militias started a military offensive to recapture Mosul from IS on 17 October 2016. Iraq’s second largest city Mosul fell under the jihadist militant group’s control in June 2014. EPA/KHIDER ABBAS

By Middle East Monitor

A major international human rights organisation has said that the Iraqi authorities, Iran-backed Shia jihadists and Daesh militants had all perpetrated war crimes throughout 2016, as a US and Iran-backed war against the militant group continues into 2017.

Amnesty International accused all parties to the conflict of committing various abuses, and has previously criticised the United States and the international anti-Daesh coalition for not using their leverage with Baghdad to force it to comply with international law and for allowing the authorities to allow their armed forces to violate human rights.

Government use of torture, rape ‘rife’

 The Iraqi authorities have been heavily criticised by Amnesty in its reporting throughout 2016. In its annual review, the human rights organisation said that torture and other ill-treatment in Iraqi prisons and detention facilities controlled by the interior and defence ministries “remained rife”. Secret prisons controlled by Shia militants were also accused of the same abuses.

“The most frequently reported methods of torture used against detainees were beatings on the head and body with metal rods and cables, suspension in stress positions by the arms or legs, electric shocks and threats of rape of female relatives,” the report revealed.

Read: Amnesty: Ill treatment of detainees rife in Middle East

“Torture appeared to be carried out to extract ‘confessions’, obtain information and punish detainees,” Amnesty said, concluding that “several detainees died in custody as a result of torture.”

The torture inflicted upon Iraqis, many of whom were accused of being Daesh members of sympathisers, was in order to extract confessions which would then lead to their executions. The vast majority of those tortured and executed were from the persecuted Sunni Arab community.

“The criminal justice system remained deeply flawed and trials were systematically unfair…Courts continued to admit into evidence torture-tainted ‘confessions’…Some of those convicted after unfair trials were sentenced to death,” Amnesty reported.

Violations by Shia jihadists, Daesh

 Apart from implicating Baghdad in war crimes relating to the ongoing campaign against Daesh, Amnesty also heavily criticised the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), now an official part of the Iraqi military, as well as Daesh itself for committing grave abuses.

“Paramilitary militias and government forces committed war crimes and other violations…mostly against members of the Sunni Arab community,” Amnesty said.

Identifying two incidents of many that took place throughout 2016, Amnesty said that PMF militants had carried out revenge attacks against Muqdadiya’s Sunni Arab community, “killing dozens of men and burning and destroying Sunnis mosques, shops and other property.”

Read: Iraq, US bomb airport as Mosul advance continues

In another incident during the battle for Fallujah in Iraq’s western Anbar province, Amnesty also confirmed that the PMF abducted 1,300 men and boys on 3 June 2016. Three days later, 605 men reappeared bearing marks of torture, with the fate of 643 remaining unknown.

“An investigative committee established by the Governor of Anbar [Sohaib Al-Rawi] found that 49 had been killed by being shot, tortured or burned to death,” Amnesty recounted.

As these abuses were going on, however, Daesh continued its campaign against Iraqi civilian targets, that “targeted civilians in crowded markets, Shia religious shrines and other public spaces. [Daesh] particularly targeted locations within Baghdad.”

Read: Iraq defence minister meets Shia ‘terrorist’ wanted by US

Although Amnesty did not mention it, Daesh claimed responsibility for the Karrada bombing last summer that claimed almost 300 lives in central Baghdad.

Meanwhile, in areas under Daesh control, the militant extremists carried out abductions and “systematically tortured captives”. Daesh also used “chemical weapons to attack the town of [Qayyarah] after it had been recaptured by Iraqi forces, leading to burns and other injuries among civilians.”

 

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