Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) International observers have introduced Human Rights Watch to a site in western Mosul where Iraqi army members allegedly executed civilians, the U.S.-based organization said Wednesday as the Iraqi government grapples with accusations of human rights violations in its war against the Islamic State.
“International observers, whose evidence has proven reliable in the past, told Human Rights Watch that on July 17, 2017, at about 3:30 p.m., a shopkeeper in a neighborhood directly west of the Old City that was retaken in April from ISIS took them into an empty building and showed them a row of 17 male corpses, barefoot but in civilian dress, surrounded by pools of blood,” said a report by the organization. “They said many appeared to have been blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their back”.
According to HRW, observers quoted the shopkeeper saying he had seen the Iraqi Security Forces’ 16th Division, identifiable by their badges and vehicles, in the neighborhood four nights earlier, and that night had heard multiple gunshots coming from the area of the empty building.
“The international observers also saw soldiers from the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) in the area. They contacted Human Rights Watch by phone from the site and later shared five photos they took of the bodies,” the report read.
“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.”
Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul earlier this month, ending a three-year occupation by the militant group. But as the military campaign against IS continued from October 2016 to July 11th, human rights groups have regularly urged Baghdad to investigate human rights violations by the Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries against civilians from opposing religious sects and others suspected of having links with IS.
PM Abadi has consistently defended his troops and supporting militias against wrongdoing claims, even urging rights groups to heed integrity in their reporting.