Mark Hanrahan / International Busness Times & James Gordon Meek, Brian Ross, Rym Momtaz and Alex Hosenball / ABC News – 2015-03-13 23:50:20
US-Backed Iraqi Forces Face War Crimes Investigation
After ABC Finds Gruesome Online Posts
Mark Hanrahan / International Busness Times
(March 12, 2015) — Iraqi forces trained and equipped by the US are under investigation for committing war crimes similar to those perpetrated by the Islamic State group, or ISIS, according to an investigation by ABC News.
The investigation, which ABC reports is being conducted by the Iraqi government, was prompted by the discovery of gruesome posts on social media, which appear to show uniformed soldiers from Iraqi special forces units posing with severed heads, as well as torturing and executing prisoners. US law forbids its government from providing assistance to foreign military units if there is credible evidence that they are involved in human rights abuses.
“If their (ABC’s) information is accurate, the burden is on the Iraqi Government to punish those involved and on the Departments of State and Defense to insist that they do so and to offer support in investigating and punishing those involved as the law calls for,” Senator Patrick Leahy, the author of the law governing such assistance, said in a statement. “Otherwise the Iraqi units involved should be deemed ineligible for US aid.”
A US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: “We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specifics.”
Iraqi forces are a key plank of the US strategy to stem the growing power of ISIS, which has taken control of large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in the past year. In addition to Iraq’s regular military forces, militias made up of civilian fighters have also been heavily involved in the fight against ISIS.
‘Dirty Brigades’: US-Trained Iraqi Forces Investigated for War Crimes
James Gordon Meek, Brian Ross, Rym Momtaz and Alex Hosenball / ABC News
(March 11, 2015) — US-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group, American and Iraqi officials told ABC News. Some Iraqi units have already been cut off from US assistance over “credible” human rights violations, according to a senior military official on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq’s most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.
The videos and photos are part of a trove of disturbing images that ABC News discovered has been circulating within the dark corners of Iraqi social media since last summer. In some US military and Iraqi circles, the Iraqi units and militias under scrutiny are referred to as the “dirty brigades.”
“As the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and militias reclaim territory, their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL [ISIS] fighters,” said a statement to ABC News from the US government. “If these allegations are confirmed, those found responsible must be held accountable.”
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