HRW: Iraqi security block refugees return in Anbar over suspected IS links

Displaced Iraqis who just fled their homes are transported to refugee camps as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Anbar ( Iraqi security officials in Anbar province are hampering the repatriation of civilians at ares retaken from the Islamic State over suspicions of having links with the militant group, Human Rights Watch said Thursday in a report as Iraqi forces become closer to clearing the province from militants.

“While Iraqi forces confront serious security concerns, just being a family member of someone linked to ISIS or having lived under ISIS is not enough to represent a real threat,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should allow those who aren’t an actual security risk who want to go home to do so in peace and respect the right of people who don’t feel safe to live where they wish.”

In the same time, the organization said Iraqi officials were also forcing other reluctant families to return home even as those families feel it is unsafe to repatriate.

“Iraqi authorities also are evicting other families in an attempt to force them back to their homes, even when these families fear their home areas will be unsafe or their homes were destroyed by fighting,” the report reads. “Since March, Anbar’s Provincial Council has been encouraging districts in Anbar to forcibly return displaced families to areas retaken by Iraqi forces,” HRW said, saying that authorities attributed the measures to limited refugee camp space.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented the enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of thousands of men allegedly on ISIS-affiliation grounds over the last year.

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