HRW warns against 'illegal executions' in government-held Mosul

HRW warns against 'illegal executions' in government-held Mosul
Human Rights Watch says evidence indicates chilling possibility that Iraqi authorities may be carrying out summary executions of suspected IS affiliates.
2 min read
05 June, 2017
At least 26 handcuffed and blindfolded bodies have been discovered since October [AFP]

The handcuffed and blindfolded bodies of at least 26 people have been discovered in government-held areas in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul since October, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

It is alleged that many of the dead were killed by government security forces after being suspected of affiliation to the Islamic State group.

"The bodies of bound and blindfolded men are being found one after the other in and around Mosul and in the Tigris River, raising serious concerns about extrajudicial killings by government forces," said Lama Fakih, HRW's deputy Middle East director.

"The lack of any apparent government action to investigate these deaths undermines the government’s statements on protecting detainee rights."

According to a foreign journalist, local armed forces reported that 15 of the men were killed by government security forces who had detained them under suspicion of being associated with the IS group.

HRW says the sites of the other apparent executions - all of which are in government-held territory - give a worrying indication about possible government responsibility.

A source cited by HRW also claims that the pro-government Hashd al-Shaabi militia was responsible for the executions of 25 men whose bodies were disposed of in the Tigris River.
Under international law, widespread and systematic extrajudicial executions carried out during conflict are considered war crimes. If carried out as part of a policy, the executions would consitute crimes against humanity. 

At present, Iraqi government forces are detaining and screening men who are fleeing the battle for Mosul. This sometimes take place in informal and unidentified centres.

"If Iraqi authorities want civilians who spent over two years living under ISIS to feel safe and protected, they need to ensure that anyone responsible for murdering prisoners is brought to justice," Fakih said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group.
Iraqi authorities have not yet released details about the number of people being detained, investigated or those who have been charged.