Prime minister: Rights violations in Mosul ‘individual acts’
BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces committed human-rights violations during the battle to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State extremist group, the country’s prime minister said, insisting however, that these were “individual acts” for which the perpetrators would be punished.
The remarks by Haider al-Abadi, at a late night news conference Tuesday, came after videos emerged on social media in the aftermath of the victory in Mosul and show troops throwing captured Islamic State suspects off a high wall, then shooting their bodies below.
The U.S.-backed, nearly 9-month-old campaign for Mosul is mired in violations committed by government forces and paramilitaries that international human-rights groups have decried as war crimes, including the extrajudicial killings of Islamic State suspects and the forced displacement and detention of civilians.
The most recent evidence are the videos that emerged even after al-Abadi last week declared “total victory” in Mosul. Another video showed a soldier gunning down an unarmed man kneeling in front of a car.
Al-Abadi speculated that soldiers who committed such violations were either “ignorant” of the consequences or had struck a deal with the Islamic State “to defame us and the security forces.”
The prime minister did not cite or detail any single incident.
“Any violation against the law or any violation against a person’s dignity is not acceptable, and we will chase [the perpetrators] down,” he said. “These are individual acts and not widespread, and we will not tolerate such acts.”
Iraqi security forces are also accused by Human Rights Watch of forcibly moving dozens of women and children with alleged links to the Islamic State to a tent camp near Mosul that authorities describe as a “rehabilitation camp.”
The New York-based watchdog said the camp in Bartella, about 12 miles east of Mosul, had been opened recently, following a government directive to have Islamic State family members undergo “psychological and ideological rehabilitation.” It houses at least 170 families, mostly women and children from areas of western Mosul, where the last battles against the Islamic State occurred.
“Iraqi authorities shouldn’t punish entire families because of their relatives’ actions,” said Lama Fakih, the Mideast deputy chief at Human Rights Watch.
“We are against collective punishment,” al-Abadi said. “If [the Islamic State militants’] families cooperated with them in their crimes against civilians, then they will face legal consequences, but those who didn’t take part … will not face anything.”
Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul after the city was held for about three years by the Islamic State.
Islamic State militants were notorious for atrocities, both against civilians and Iraqi security forces, often hunting down anyone connected with the police or military after they overran territory. The effort to retake Mosul also involved grinding urban warfare in which the security forces suffered heavy casualties.