Iraqi Forces Accused of Torturing and Killing Villagers in Mosul Battle: Amnesty

Iraqi forces near Mosul
Iraqi forces hold a position near the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from ISIS, November 9. Amnesty International has accused Iraqi forces of torturing and killing civilians in villages south of the city. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty

Iraqi fighters wearing federal police uniforms have tortured and executed residents of villages south of the Iraqi city of Mosul that the country is trying to recapture from the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), Amnesty International alleged late Tuesday.

Researchers from the international rights group, who traveled to al-Shura and al-Qayyara districts south and southwest of Mosul, said they gathered evidence of the executions of at least six people in late October. The residents were allegedly killed for suspected links to ISIS, in murders that could amount to war crimes.

"Men in federal police uniform have carried out multiple unlawful killings, apprehending and then deliberately killing in cold blood residents in villages south of Mosul. In some cases, the residents were tortured before they were shot dead execution-style," said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International in Beirut.

"Deliberately killing captives and other defenseless individuals is prohibited by international humanitarian law and is a war crime," Maalouf added. "It is crucial that the Iraqi authorities carry out prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into these crimes under international law, and bring those responsible to justice."

It is the first time that Iraqi forces have been accused of crimes in the four-week operation to liberate Mosul but the rights group warned that the evidence gathered suggested that more war crimes could take place as Iraqi forces advance into the city. It said more would happen unless Iraqi authorities conducted a thorough investigation, punished those responsible and gave the requisite protection to witnesses of the crimes.

"Without effective measures to suppress and punish serious violations, there is a real risk that we could see war crimes of this kind repeated in other Iraqi villages and towns during the Mosul offensive," said Maalouf.

In October, Amnesty expressed concern that thousands of civilians who fled the city—the largest that ISIS has captured since its rise in 2014—would face revenge attacks at the hands of Iraqi forces and Shiite-dominated paramilitary militias.

The Mosul offensive consists of tens of thousands of troops allied to Baghdad, including Iraqi government forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Sunni tribesmen and Shiite militias. The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the offensive, which has seen Iraqi forces only enter the eastern edge of the city, while other units remain on the outskirts as ISIS continues to slow the offensive with mortar rounds, suicide car bombs and sniper fire.