Human Rights Watch says observers discovered the corpses of 17 men, allegedly executed by Iraqi forces, in west Mosul.
In addition to reports of abuse and executions in and around Mosul’s Old City, the international watchdog pointed out to documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against IS.
HRW also said that despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that any of the soldiers was held accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in the conflict.
“As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”
According to the HRW report, a shopkeeper in a neighborhood directly west of the Old City led trusted international observers into an empty building and showed them a row of 17 male corpses, barefoot but in civilian dress, surrounded by pools of blood.
Many of them appeared to have been blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their back, the observers said.
They added that the shopkeeper told them that he had seen the Iraqi Security Forces’ 16th Division – identifiable by their badges and vehicles – in the neighborhood four nights earlier.
He then heard multiple gunshots coming from the area of the empty building.
The next morning, when armed forces had left the area, he told them, he went into the building and saw the bodies lying in positions that suggested they were shot there and had not been moved.
The international observers also saw soldiers from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) in the area.
On 9 July, Iraq declared victory in its nine-month massive military campaign to retake Mosul from IS, which seized the country’s second-largest city in June 2014.
Nearly one million people were displaced during the military operation that left the city in ruins.
Adding to their suffering, Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation Forces militias were reportedly involved in a series of assaults, rape, torture, looting, and blackmail of civilians in the city.
Throughout the operation to retake Mosul, Human Rights Watch has documented Iraqi forces detaining and holding at least 1,200 men and boys in inhumane conditions without charge.
In some cases militants had allegedly tortured and executed some of them, under the guise of screening them for IS-affiliation.
“Relentless reports, videos, and photographs of unlawful executions and beatings by Iraqi soldiers should be enough to raise serious concerns among the highest ranks in Baghdad and the international coalition combatting [IS],” Whitson said.
“As we well know in Iraq, if the government doesn’t provide an accounting for these murders, the Iraqi people may take matters into their own hands.”
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