London – At a time when the international community is concerned about the violations of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Mosul, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked the Iraqi government to control its forces and hold those responsible of crimes accountable.
“The Iraqi government should control its own forces and hold them accountable if it hopes to claim the moral upper hand in its fight against ISIS,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch in a statement released with a report on Tuesday.
“The failure to hold commanders and abusers to account does not bode well for the looming battle inside Mosul.
Mutilation of corpses is a war crime, as is killing captured combatants or civilians,” added the organization.
The organization warned that dragging of the bodies is as well a war crime.
The Iraqi government regained control on the town of Qayyarah last August, and since then HRW has been gathering testimonies of witnesses in the area about the violations.
A video published online last week showed a young man being shot and run over by a PMF tank, causing a wave of international rage.
Over the past few days, sheikhs and local tribal men confirmed PMF violations in Sunni areas, saying that the Iran-backed PMF carried out several crimes.
HRW asked the Iraqi authorities to prevent armed groups with records of serious abuses from taking part in planned military operations in the city of Mosul.
According to HRW, the ban should include Tribal Mobilization (Hashad al-Asha`ri) militias and members of the PMF responsible for serious rights abuses who have not been held to account.
The organization has previously documented abuses by the PMF Badr Brigades and the Hezbollah Brigades during the operation to retake Fallujah. On November 12, HRW saw in Qayyarah flags and fighters belonging to both groups, and to the Imam Ali Brigades.
HRW examined photos also taken on October 3, in Qayyarah, of what appeared to be four corpses, one with various organs outside his body and covered in blood, another stripped naked, with children kicking it. Another corpse was strung up by his leg at the entrance to the Qayyarah football field, which had been reduced to rubble by airstrikes.
The organization said: “Iraqi criminal justice authorities should investigate all alleged crimes, including unlawful killings and mutilation of corpses, committed by any party in the conflict in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner, up to the highest levels of responsibility. Those found criminally responsible should be appropriately prosecuted.”
Locals told Asharq Al-Awsat that during the past few days, forces loyal to Iran aim to abolish Sunnis especially in Mosul city. They vowed to raise the issue at the international organizations and courts.
HRW also documented cases where militiamen, Iraqi Security Forces, and civilians mutilated and dragged the bodies of at least five dead ISIS fighters in Qayyarah on October 3. Also, the militants executed an ISIS fighter after he surrendered.
Iraqi residents told Human Rights Watch that on October 3, ISIS fighters unsuccessfully tried to retake the city, approaching north through the desert, where some of their fighters were captured and killed.
According to the residents, at the time of the attack, both Iraqi troops and Tribal Mobilization fighters from al-Maraeed tribe of al-Qayyarah, were in the town and repelled the attack. They added that a branch of al-Jabouri tribe, one of the largest Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq was there too.
The organization received from a local resident a series of 13 videos he said were filmed by a local 24-year-old Maraeed fighter on that day. The three residents who spoke to HRW viewed the footage and confirmed that it was shot in Qayyarrah and depicted events on October 3.
HRW was also able to verify the location of the videos and photos from specific landmarks in the town.