Mosul – Pro-Iraqi government paramilitary troops fighting the Islamic State briefly detained and tortured Iraqi men in western Mosul over possible links with the extremist group, Human Rights Watch said in a latest report reviving accusations of human abuses against the Shia-led forces.
“Human Rights Watch interviewed three men from al-Hadar, a village 90 kilometers southwest of west Mosul, who were detained by the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha’abi) and two local officials who had knowledge of the detention operations in the area,” said the organization. “The men said the fighters detained them as they fled their homes because of the fighting, and held them for up to 15 days in a school building and in one case a home in an area solely under PMF control,” it added.
HRW revealed that, in two cases, interrogators “ beat them with thick metal cables, before releasing them and a small number of other detainees”.
“Given the previous track records of PMF abuse in the area of screening and detaining local men, Baghdad should treat these findings with the gravest concern,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should do all in their power to ensure that families fleeing the fighting around Mosul are able to get to safety, not tortured in secret facilities.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has regularly and ardently defended mobilization forces against recurrent accusations of human rights abuses, in one occasion threatening to “cut the hands” of whoever insults the force.
Mobilization forces, an alliance of more than 60 Shia militias with presumed backing from Iran, were formed in 2014 in line with an edict from the country’s top Shia clergy to combat Sunni extremist Islamic State fighters. The forces won official recognition as a national force late 2016.
Iraqi government forces, backed by mobilization forces and a U.S.-led coalition, are close to eliminating IS from Mosul, its largest stronghold in Iraq, and will target other havens afterwards.