Human Rights Watch (HRW) on July 31 urged Iraqi military commanders to prevent historically abusive militias from participating in the campaign to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS). Last March the Iraqi army began working with Kurdish Peshmerga and affiliates of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to launch a ground offensive against the IS, which has been holding Mosul since June 2014. Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Brigades, officially stated in late June that the PMF would be taking part in the liberation of the city. HRW has stressed, however, that the PMF has a long reported history of abuses, including summary killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and the destruction of homes. In the May campaign to retake Fallujah, there were numerous reports of PMF members abusing civilians, performing executions, and mutilating corpses despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's prior declaration that the PMF would not enter the city. In light of the PMF's various reported offenses, HRW stated that the Iraqi army has a duty to protect the civilian population and hold militia fighters accountable for past war crimes.
The US will send an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help secure a newly retaken air-base as a staging hub for the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during an unannounced visit to the country July 11. Most of the new troops will be devoted to the perparing the Qayara airbase, some 64 kilometers south of Mosul. They will help Iraqi forces planning the drive on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The increase brings the total US force in Iraq to 4,647. Unofficially, that figure is probably closer to 6,000, as troops who deploy on temporary assignments are not included in the Pentagon's official tally. Taqqadum, a base in Anbar governorate where US troops train Iraqis., served a key role in the taking of Ramadi late last year, and more recently Fallujah. (Al Jazeera, WP)
The findings of the seven-year inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, into Britain's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq were delivered on July 6 in the form of a scathing verdict against former prime minister Tony Blair and his administration, stating that the war was based on "flawed intelligence and assessments" and had been launched before "peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted." Tthe Chilcot Inquiry concluded that the "judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction—WMD—were presented with a certainty that was not justified... There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein. Additionally, "[t]he planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate."
Human Rights Watch has called on the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities to prosecute ISIS fighters for war crimes against the Yazidi minority. "Yezidi victims of human rights abuses have a right to justice, not just government declarations with no consequences," said Skye Wheeler of HRW's women's rights division. Several ISIS fighters are now in custody following recent territory gains by both the Iraqi central government and Kurdish regional authorities. But HRW says so far no authorities in Iraq are investigating or prosecuting ISIS members for war crimes or crimes against humanity. (ARA News, June 23)
Shi'ite militiamen who fought alongside the Iraqi army in the battle for Fallujah are believed to have seized some 900 civilian men and boys and killed nearly 50. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the civilians were detained June 1 during the battle to oust ISIS from the Sunni-majority city. They were among some 8,000 who fled the outlying village of Saqlawiyah as troops moved in on the city. Fighters from Kataaib Hezbollah, one of several Shi'ite militias involved in the siege, reportedly tortured many detainees. Al-Hussein also warned Iraq could see a return to full scale sectarian violence after the July 3 Baghdad attack. (BBC News, The Independent, July 5)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will not prosecute Tony Blair for war crimes related to the 2003 Iraq invasion, according to The Telegraph. The ICC reportedly said July 2 that the decision "by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the Court's jurisdiction." The ICC also said that it will be analyzing the "Chilcot Report" for evidence of war crimes committed by British forces. Named after Iraq Inquiry Committee chair Sir John Chilcot, the report will not attempt to answer whether the invasion was legal. The report, seven years in the making, will be published on this week.
Iraqi and coalition air-strikes are carrying out air-strikes on convoys of ISIS vehicles fleeing Fallujah, as the city has finally fallen after a five-week siege. Hundreds of vehicles have reportedly been destroyed. (Rudaw, June 30) Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers were killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the battle Fallujah, which was taken by ISIS almost exactly two years ago. (MEE, July 1) Iraqi forces are said to be "screening" some 20,000 people—mostly young men and boys—detained while trying to flee the city. (MEE, June 25) Aid workers say the displacement of almost the entire city—between 60,000 and over 80,000 people depending on who is counting—has been disorganised, at best. "The entire humanitarian community has failed Iraq—from donors, to governments, to the implementing agencies on the ground," Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council told IRIN news service. "Fallujah has exposed all of our shortcomings with massive consequences for the tens of thousands of civilians displaced." He added: "When Mosul happens, God help us." (IRIN, June 28)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on June 7 urged the Iraqi government to "take immediate measures to ensure that" those fleeing the ISIS-held city of Fallujah are "treated in strict accordance with international human rights and international humanitarian laws." Zeid cited "credible reports" that fleeing residents have suffered physical abuse at the hands of "armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces." These groups have reportedly been separating migrants by gender, detaining men for "security checks," which largely amount to physical abuse for the sake of forced confessions. Zeid ended his remarks stating that while the Iraqi government has a legitimate interests in making vetting migrants to ensure that they do not impose security risks, such vetting should take place through the appropriate laws and in a "transparent manner."