Human rights watchdog group Amnesty International has accused fighters dressed in Iraqi Federal Police (IFP) uniforms of committing war crimes by torturing and extrajudicially executing civilians they arrested in villages south of Mosul.
“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 ‘Daesh’ [ISIS],” notes the human rights group.
The executed civilians have been identified as ten men and a 16-year-old boy.
Some of them had reportedly defied ISIS’s public orders, announced on local mosques’ loudspeakers, to leave their homes. Those civilians who followed the jihadist group’s orders ended up serving as human shields.
Others who stayed behind, hiding in unfinished or abandoned buildings, allegedly suffered a similar fate, torture, and death at the hands of IFP officers.
Iraqi Federal Police officers allegedly punched, kicked, and beat up the victims with cables in an open desert area. Some of them had their beards pulled out by the jihadists, while one man had his set ablaze.
Citing the discovery of the decomposing remains of three of the victims, the human rights group notes that one of them had been decapitated.
Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, declared:
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. In some cases the residents were tortured before they were shot dead execution-style.
Deliberately killing captives and other defenseless individuals is prohibited by international humanitarian law and is a war crime. It is crucial that the Iraqi authorities carry out prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into these crimes under international law, and bring those responsible to justice. Without effective measures to suppress and punish serious violations, there is a real risk that we could see war crimes of this kind repeated in other Iraqi villages and towns during the Mosul offensive.
Amnesty International researchers made the gruesome discovery of the civilian atrocities at the hands of IFP officers during visits to several villages in the al-Shura and al-Qayyara sub-districts of northern Iraq’s Nineveh province.
They “gathered evidence indicating that up to six people were extrajudicially executed in late October, apparently due to suspicions they had ties to the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS),” notes the human rights group.
Tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces – including the federal police, Kurdish Peshmerga troops, Sunni tribesman, Shiite militias, many backed by Iran, and Christian fighters – are participating in the ongoing offensive to liberate Mosul from ISIS.
Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and ISIS’s last urban stronghold in the country, is also located in the province of Nineveh, also spelled Ninewa.
Referring to the killings allegedly carried out by men in IFP uniforms, Amnesty International reveals that they occurred on October 21 amid armed clashes between ISIS and the U.S.-backed Iraqi force in the al-Shura sub-district.
The human rights group reports:
A number of Iraqi forces participating in the conflict against IS, including army units, fighters from two local [Sunni] Tribal Mobilization militias and members of federal and local police, are believed to have been present in, or passed through, the villages while the torture and extrajudicial executions were taking place. Some reports suggest that a senior commander of the ‘Operations to Liberate Ninewa’ may have been in the vicinity at the time.
According to information obtained by Amnesty International, on the morning of 21 October around 10 men and a 16-year-old boy, mainly from the villages of Na’na’a and al-Raseef, were tortured and otherwise ill-treated after they handed themselves over to a small group of men wearing Federal Police uniforms, in an area known as Nus Tal. They had waved a white cloth and lifted their shirts to show that they were not wearing explosive belts and did not pose a threat.
When the Mosul offensive began on October 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed that any violations by Iraqi troops and their allies would not be tolerated.
Amnesty International points out that extrajudicial executions by men in Iraqi Federal Police uniforms are not unprecedented.
“On 27 May 2016, during operations to retake Falluja and surrounding areas, at least 16 men and boys from the Jumaili tribe were shot dead near Sijir, after handing themselves over to fighters, some of whom were wearing Federal Police uniforms,” it notes. “The Federal Police is part of the Ministry of Interior, and has been involved in counter-insurgency efforts.”