Iraqi Civilians Fleeing ISIS in Mosul Face Torture and Death in Revenge Attacks: Amnesty

Iraqis fleeing ISIS
Iraqi families who fled Hawijah gather after arriving in the Kirkuk province, north of Baghdad, August 7. Amnesty International said Tuesday that civilians fleeing ISIS-held territory face revenge attacks, torture and death. Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty

Iraqi government forces and paramilitary militias have tortured, arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared and executed thousands of civilians who have fled the rule of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), Amnesty International said in a report published Tuesday.

The U.K.-based rights group warned in the report, Punished for Daesh's Crimes, that, as the Mosul offensive begins, thousands of civilians are at risk of revenge attacks if they flee the city the militant Islamist group has held since June 2014.

The allegations are based on interviews with more than 470 detainees, witnesses and relatives of those who were killed, detained or have disappeared.

"After escaping the horrors of war and tyranny of IS [using an alternative acronym for the militant group], Sunni Arabs in Iraq are facing brutal revenge attacks at the hands of militias and government forces, and are being punished for crimes committed by the group," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East research director.

"Iraq is currently facing very real and deadly security threats from IS, but there can be no justification for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture or arbitrary detention.

"As the battle to retake Mosul gets underway, it is crucial that the Iraqi authorities take steps to ensure these appalling abuses do not happen again."

In the battle to oust ISIS from the western Iraqi city of Fallujah in May and June, there were several incidents, which Amnesty cites, that suggest Iraqi forces and its allied militias committed deadly revenge attacks against fleeing males.

In May, at least 12 men and four boys from a local tribe fled al-Sijir, north of Fallujah, and handed themselves to men wearing Iraqi military uniforms, who subsequently executed them, the report claimed. In June, militias tortured some 1,300 men and boys from the Mehemda tribe who had fled northwest of Fallujah, before they handed them in to local authorities.

"Iraqi authorities, whose complicity and inaction in the face of widespread abuses have contributed to the current climate of impunity, must rein in militias and make clear that such serious violations will not be tolerated," said Luther.

The Mosul offensive, led by Kurdish and Iraqi forces, is a battle for the majority-Sunni city that remains ISIS's largest capture. There are fears that the entrance of Shia militias or Shiite government forces into the city could spark a new wave of sectarianism.