Detention of Daesh family members a "war crime" says HRW

Iraqi security forces have forcibly relocated at least 170 families of the alleged militants as a form of collective punishment, says Human Rights Watch.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

About 900,000 people have fled Mosul, with more than a third in camps outside the city.

Iraqi security forces have forcibly relocated at least 170 families of alleged Daesh members to a closed "rehabilitation camp" as a form of collective punishment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.  

"Iraqi authorities shouldn't punish entire families because of their relatives' actions," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"These abusive acts are war crimes and are sabotaging efforts to promote reconciliation in areas retaken from ISIS [Daesh]."

An Iraqi military spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

About 900,000 people have fled the fighting in Mosul, with more than a third in camps outside the city and the rest living with family and friends in other neighbourhoods.

Daesh had taken control of the Iraqi city in 2014 and the Iraqi forces spent months fighting a gruelling battle before announcing victory on Monday, July 10, ending Daesh's rule in the stronghold of the group's self-proclaimed caliphate.

Still image taken from a video shows Daesh militants surrender in the Old City of Mosul. (Reuters)

Revenge attacks

Iraq's government now faces the task of preventing revenge attacks against people associated with Daesh that could, along with sectarian tensions, undermine efforts to create long-term stability in the country.

"The camps for so-called ISIS [Daesh] families have nothing to do with rehabilitation and are instead de facto detention centres for adults and children who have not been accused of any wrongdoing," Fakih said.

"These families should be freely permitted to go where they can live safely."

"Arbitrary detentions"

Iraqi authorities have opened the first of what they describe as "rehabilitation" camps in Bartalla, just east of Mosul. 

The global rights watchdog says the official purpose of the camp is to enable psychological and ideological rehabilitation.

"Forced displacements and arbitrary detentions have been taking place in AnbarBabilDiyalaSalah alDin, and Nineveh governorates, altogether affecting hundreds of families," HRW said in a statement.

HRW says Iraqi forces operating detention centres for adults and children who've not been accused of any wrongdoing (Reuters)

"Iraqi security and military forces have done little to stop these abuses, and in some instances participated in them."

The rights group said that it visited Bartalla camp and interviewed 14 families, each with up to 18 members.

"New residents said that Iraqi Security Forces had brought the families to the camp and that the police were holding them against their will because of accusations that they had relatives linked to ISIS [Daesh]," said HRW.

"Medical workers at the camp said that at least 10 women and children had died travelling to or at the camp, mostly because of dehydration."

HRW said that it interviewed a young woman who said that she got divorced at a Daesh-run courthouse in Mosul last year and the judge took her to his house and held her as a sex slave.

"When fighting neared, he and his family fled but kept her locked in their home. Iraqi Security Forces who retook the area presumed she was a Daesh family member because she was found in a known Daesh resident's home, and took her to the camp," HRW said.

TRTWorld, Reuters