Mosul- A US-trained Iraqi army division allegedly executed several dozen men in the final throes of the battle against ISIS militants in Mosul’s Old City, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday, urging the US government to suspend all support for the 16th Division of the military pending a probe into what it called war crimes, evidence of which was seen by two international observers.
Reuters could not independently verify the claims because Iraqi authorities have restricted media access to the Old City since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS on July 10. Spokesmen for the Iraqi government and military could not be reached for comment.
ISIS made its last stand in the Old City after nine months of urban warfare with Iraqi forces who are backed by a US-led coalition.
Fighting continued there for several days after victory was declared in mid-July and videos emerged of Iraqi forces beating unarmed men and pushing one off a precipice to his death.
“Given the widespread abuses by Iraqi forces and the government’s abysmal record on accountability, the US should take a hard look at its involvement with Iraqi forces,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Iraq has promised to investigate previous accusations of abuses and hold perpetrators to account.
The observers cited by HRW said they had seen a group of Iraqi soldiers who identified themselves as members of the 16th Division lead four naked men down an alleyway, after which they heard multiple gunshots.
They were told by other soldiers that the four men were ISIS militants.
As they were leaving the area, one of the observers saw the bodies of a number of naked men lying in a doorway, one of whom appeared to have been handcuffed and had a rope tied around his legs.
“The US military should find out why a force that it trained and supported is committing ghastly war crimes,” Whitson said. “US taxpayer dollars should be helping to curtail abuses, not enable them.”
According to Agence France Presse, the HRW report said that the summary killings took place in mid-July 2017.
Two international observers saw evidence that the unit had executed many more people, including a boy, the watchdog said.
Earlier in July, HRW found a series of videos posted online that appeared to show other abuses by Iraqi forces in the Mosul area.
In one clip, men in Iraqi army uniforms beat a bearded detainee, dragged him to the edge of a cliff, threw him off and shot him and another body at the bottom.
Earlier in the Mosul operation, an Iraqi journalist embedded with an army division reported that members of the special forces unit carried out torture, rapes and killings.
The journalist, who has since left Iraq, documented some of the abuses on film.
ISIS overran Mosul and swathes of other territory in the summer of 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.