Iraq probing abuses against Daesh captives as torture videos surface

Rights abuses meted out by Iraqi forces to Daesh prisoners in Mosul are being investigated, officials say. Many videos have emerged that appear to show Iraqi soldiers and federal police beating and extra-judicially killing detainees.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Still image taken from a video shows Daesh militants surrendering in the Old City of Mosul.

Iraq is investigating allegations of torture and rights abuses meted out by Iraqi security forces to Daesh prisoners in Mosul, two Iraqi officials said at the Pentagon on Thursday.

A video released online shows men in Iraqi military uniforms beating a bearded detainee, then drag him to the edge of a cliff, throw him off and shoot him and another body at the bottom.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for Iraq's Joint Operations Command, said anyone committing rights abuses would be held accountable.

Doctored videos?

He also suggested the videos may be faked and circulated to distract from the recent victory over Daesh in Mosul. 

"Don't forget that there are those that would like to reduce the joy and the comfort we have from this victory," Rasool said at an unusual briefing in the Pentagon. 

"Maybe these videos are being fabricated and quite frankly we will look into this matter very carefully and we will hold anybody who committed that act severely."

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan said that a number of personnel had been suspended. 

"There might be some misbehaviour or inappropriate conduct by some of the forces, yes. But the investigation is going on," Maan said.

Iraq declared victory over Daesh in Mosul this week after a nearly nine-month battle that ravaged the city and took a heavy toll on residents and security forces.

US military spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon (L) speaks as Iraqi security forces spokesmen (L-R) Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, Brigadier General Halgwrd Hikman Ali and Brigadier General Saad Maan look on during a press conference in the US. (AFP)

HRW seeks probe on "extrajudicial killings"

Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier Thursday called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi to launch investigations of any abuses.

Videos allegedly shot in the Mosul area appear to show Iraqi security personnel executing a detainee and brutally beating others, HRW said.

The videos "appear to show Iraqi soldiers and federal police beating and extrajudicially killing detainees," the rights group said in a statement that included links to the clips, which were posted on Facebook.

On Thursday, HRW urged Iraqi authorities not to punish entire families of Daesh militants "because of their relatives' actions" and that the abusive acts amount to "war crimes"

Sunni anger over abuses

Widespread anger among Iraqi Sunni Arabs - over issues including abuses by security forces - helped aid Daesh resurgence which culminated in the 2014 offensive in which Daesh seized Mosul. 

The Iraqi officials also addressed recent criticisms that security forces - as well as the US-led coalition - had failed to do enough to protect civilians during the brutal Mosul offensive.

Rasool said all blame should lie with Daesh, which fought among a civilian population and routinely used human shields and suicide bombers.

"This organisation was the main reason [that] significantly [caused] casualties among civilians," he said.

A member of the Iraqi forces patrols a street in west Mosul, a few days after the government's announcement of the "liberation" of the embattled city from Daesh (AFP)

Forces tortured and raped?

"In the final weeks of the battle for west Mosul, I observed first-hand the desire of armed forces to get the battle wrapped up as quickly as possible," HRW's senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille said.

This was accompanied by "what seems to be a resulting decline in their respect for the laws of war," she said.

An Iraqi journalist embedded with the Rapid Response Division earlier in the operation reported that members of the special forces unit carried out torture, rapes, and killings.

The journalist, who has since left Iraq, documented some of the abuses on film.