Iraqi forces ‘executed prisoners in reprisal’ for ISIS killings

Mohammed Sawaf, AFP | Iraqi security forces

Iraqi forces and government-affiliated militias appear to have executed at least 255 prisoners over the past month in apparent revenge for killings by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL), a rights group said on Saturday.


The killings took place in six Iraqi towns in villages since June 9, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), and at least eight of the dead were boys under 18.

In all but one case, the executions were carried out while the Iraqi forces were fleeing from ISIS and other armed Sunni groups as they launched a lightening offensive in parts of the country’s north and west, HRW said on its website.

The vast majority of security forces and militias are Shiite, while the murdered prisoners were Sunni, the rights group added.

“The mass extrajudicial killings may be evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity, and appear to be revenge killings for atrocities by ISIS,” HRW said.

Militants led by ISIS have made no attempt to hide mass executions of their prisoners. Days after they began sweeping through Iraq's northern cities last month, they released videos showing their masked fighters machine-gunning captive government soldiers lying in shallow graves.

‘Violation of international law’

HRW said it had statements from witnesses, security forces and government officials indicating Iraqi soldiers or police, pro-government Shiite militias, or a combination of the three had extrajudicially executed prisoners, in nearly all cases by shooting them.

It said it had documented five massacres of Sunni prisoners between June 9-21 in the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar in northern Nineveh province, in Baaquba and Jumarkhe in eastern Diyala province, and in Rawa in western Anbar province.

It said residents and activists in those areas believed Iraqi security forces and militias killed Sunni prisoners released by ISIS, to stop them joining the rebellion and in revenge for the killings of government troops.

Joe Stork, HRW deputy Middle East director, said gunning down prisoners was “an outrageous violation of international law”.

“While the world rightly denounces the atrocious acts of (Islamic State), it should not turn a blind eye to sectarian killing sprees by government and pro-government forces,” he said.


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