Yazidi fighters in Iraq killed 52 civilians in revenge attack: HRW

Yazidi fighters in Iraq killed 52 civilians in revenge attack: HRW
Human Rights Watch has alleged that Yazidi fighters in Iraq were responsible for the forced disappearance and killing of 52 civilians in a post-IS retaliation attack.
3 min read
27 December, 2017
Mass graves reportedly contained the bodies of the Imteywit victims [Stock image: Getty]
Yazidi fighters in Iraq have been accused of forcibly disappearing and killing 52 civilians in June 2017.

Human Rights Watch said it has information from relatives of the victims that on June 4. Yazidi forces detained and then executed men, women and children from eight families from the Imteywit tribe.

The families were fleeing fighting between Islamic State group (IS) and Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) west of Mosul.

Yazidi forces were also implicated in two other incidents of enforced disappearances of members of the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes in late 2017, the US-based rights group said.

"As the ground fighting against IS winds down in Iraq, state security forces need to turn their focus to preventing retaliation and upholding the rule of law," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"Past atrocities against the Yazidis don't give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past."

A member of the PMF intelligence services told HRW that he saw several mass graves that local Yazidi residents told him contained the bodies of the Imteywit victims.

A Yazidi community leader gave the rights group a list of five Yazidi fighters who he said told him they had killed the families including 22 men, 20 women and 10 children. 

They went missing after their convoy, which was moving families out of the desert toward Tal Afar, broke off from other members of a larger convoy. It was thought to be ambushed by Yazidi fighters, and never reached the village of Qayrawan where their relatives – two Imteywit men – had earlier arrived safely.

The men told HRW they have not been able to find out any information about their relatives since.

Past atrocities against the Yezidis don't give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past

In early 2017, Yazidi fighters formed the Lalish Brigades and the Ezidkhan Brigades, units under the PMF, a force of the Iraqi prime minister, and therefore part of the state's armed forces. Two Yazidi community leaders told Human Rights Watch that the Ezidkhan Brigades were responsible for the abduction and killing of the 52 Imteywit tribe members. 

Senior Yazidis have alleged that the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes participated with IS in the executions and abuse of Yazidi men and women in August 2014. Members of the two tribes denied these allegations, claiming the Yazidis were scapegoating them for IS atrocities.

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One said that fighters from the Ezidkhan Brigades told him the unit had detained the families in the convoy and held them for two days in the abandoned village, then killed them. He shared photos of women's and men's sandals, jewellery, a woman's scarf, and tufts of hair that he said belonged to the families.

Responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses against the Yazidis and other groups such as the Imteywit and Jahaysh rests with the Iraqi government, Human Rights Watch said.

In July a spokesman from Iraq's Foreign Affairs Ministry told Human Rights Watch that government representatives in Sinjar had investigated the incident and their initial findings were that Yazidi forces had abducted the Imteywit civilians as revenge for abuses against Yazidi women.

He said the government intended to hold those responsible to account, though HRW could not confirm whether any action was taken.

"Allowing the many armed forces involved in Iraq's civil war to retaliate against any group they think was complicit with IS would shatter the rule of law," Fakih said. "Baghdad needs to assert its authority over the criminal justice process and end armed group vigilantes."

The Iraq Report is a weekly feature at The New Arab.

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