BAGHDAD – Amid an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity, dozens of Iraqi Sunnis civilians have been abducted and killed by the government-sponsored Shiite militias in retaliation for the attacks by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL).
“Shiite militias are ruthlessly targeting Sunni civilians on a sectarian basis under the guise of fighting terrorism, in an apparent bid to punish Sunnis for the rise of the IS [ISIL] and for its heinous crimes,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, disclosed in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Tuesday, October 14.
Titled « Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq », an Amnesty International report has detailed Shiite militias atrocities against Sunnis in Iraq over the past months.
Based on interviews with relatives of victims along with Shiites militias and government officials, the report found that more than 170 Sunnis have been abducted and killed around Baghdad.
Reflecting a pattern of “deliberate execution-style killing”, dozens of the kidnapped Sunni civilians were later found shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs, the rights group said.
“By granting its blessing to militias who routinely commit such abhorrent abuses, the Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart, » Amnesty’s Rovera said.
« Iraqi government support for militia rule must end now. »
Paying ransoms, which may reach to $80,000, for the Shiite militias to set the Sunni hostages free, families couldn’t save the victims whose bodies appear a few days after seizing the money.
Abducted last July, the handcuffed body of a middle aged Sunni father of nine was found in Baghdad’s morgue with crushed head, almost two weeks after paying a $60,000 ransom by his family.
The 24p-age report by the Amnesty about war crimes against Iraqi Sunnis is not the first.
Last June, Human Rights Watch revealed that Iraqi security forces and militias affiliated with the government have executed at least 255 Sunni prisoners in retaliation for attacks by ISIL.
An earlier report by the Amnesty has found an evidence of torture, ill-treatment and even deaths of Sunni detainees under the 2005 anti-terrorism law.
“Successive Iraqi governments have displayed a callous disregard for fundamental human rights principles, » said Rovera.
« The new government must now change course and put in place effective mechanisms to investigate abuses by Shi’a militias and Iraqi forces and hold accountable those responsible.”
State Of Lawlessness
The rise of the government-backed Shiite militias followed the emergence of ISIL fighters last June, fuelling the atmosphere of lawlessness in the oil-rich country.
“I have lost one son and don’t want to lose any more. Nothing can bring him back and I can’t put my other children at risk, » a relative of one victim from Kirkuk said.
« Who knows who will be next? There is no rule of law, no protection, »
ISIL, seized control of Iraq’s second city of Mosul on June 10, storming government buildings, TV stations, banks and hoisting the blacks.
The fall of Mosul followed that of Tikrit, Anbar’s Fallujah and Ramadi as well as other parts since last December.
The situation on the ground has further deteriorated after Iraq’s most senior Shiite Muslim scholar Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged followers to take up arms against a Sunni militant insurgency in Iraq.
Four Shiite militia groups have been named by the London-based watchdog to be involved in abducting and killing Sunnis including ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hizbullah.
Operating under an illegal framework without any official oversight, the Shiite militia members are estimated at thousands in a military uniform clad, the Amnesty revealed.
“By failing to hold militias accountable for war crimes and other gross human rights abuses the Iraqi authorities have effectively granted them free rein to go on the rampage against Sunnis, » Rovera said.
« The new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must act now to rein in the militias and establish the rule of law. »
Moreover, Shiites atrocities against Sunnis were confirmed by militia’s members and government officials who justified their crimes under the guise of fighting terrorism.
“If we catch ‘those dogs’ [Sunnis] coming down from the Tikrit area we execute them…. They come to Baghdad to commit terrorist crimes, so we have to stop them, » a member of the ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia, at a checkpoint north of Baghdad, said.
Deeming it a « blind revenge », an unnamed Iraqi government official told Amnesty: « Sunni men who come from, go to, or live near areas where there are [ISIS] groups, tend to be considered by many militias to be terrorists or terrorist supporters and that is why they often get killed, » the International Business Times reported. « Whereas some militia-men target Sunnis in blind revenge for the crimes committed by Sunni terrorist groups. »