‘Without any judge, without any trial’: HRW Iraq researcher speaks out on Mosul killings
The latest HRW report is one of a series of documents that the group issued regarding the final weeks of the battle to liberate Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, which has now been declared a victory.
“In these reports, what we have seen is numerous extrajudicial killings by Iraqi forces of men that they say were linked to ISIS: without any judge, without any trial, simply executing them on the battlefield,” Wille said.
The data is based on “first-hand witnesses to executions and to abuses,” and these individuals also provided Wille with “photo and video evidence.”
“Really, all the Iraqi forces that are involved in this battle against ISIS have been committing rampant abuses, including war crimes.”
However, HRW has “yet to see any incident to be properly investigated by the Iraqis, or any commanders to be held accountable,” the researcher added.
Washington is also implicated, with the US having had “for a long time publicized the work that it’s done training the Iraqi military’s 16th division,” a unit that has allegedly been involved in many of the reported abuses.
“We as Human Rights Watch don’t know if the support for the 16th division is ongoing, but we haven’t seen anything to suggest that this support ended in the recent past,” Wille noted.
HRW points out that the US has specific legislation, dubbed the Leahy Law, which demands that Washington stop any and all support for any foreign unit or force against which there are “credible allegations of abuse.”
More precisely, “it is required to investigate independently those abuses of forces that it supported. And if it finds those allegations credible, it has to immediately suspend all support to that unit until the unit takes serious measures to address the allegations,” Wille said.
Despite this requirement, HRW says that “the US government approaches the Iraqi government with these allegations, and we don’t see any result.”
In an official statement, the US military called for the war crimes allegations to be investigated.
“There have been consistent reporting of alleged law of armed conflict violations recently. The coalition does not condone any violation of the laws of armed conflict. And while we cannot verify the authenticity of the reports, any violation of the law of armed conflict is unacceptable and should be investigated in a transparent manner,” Combined Joint Task Force spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said at a press conference on Thursday. He also claimed that the Iraq government has a “zero tolerance policy for any improper action.”
Dillon had earlier downplayed the allegations of war crimes and brutality, telling Buzzfeed News that fewer than “five first-person accounts” of abuses had come to light, and none of them involved extrajudicial killings.