Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] claimed Wednesday that the execution-style killing of four Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) counter-terrorism forces members is the latest indication of a systematic murder campaign [press release] amounting to crimes against humanity. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), a group that was recently disavowed [WP report] by Al Qaeda [JURIST news archive], has claimed responsibility for the January 20, 2014 murders. A video posted online depicted ISIS members shooting and disabling a SWAT truck, taking four SWAT members into custody, interviewing them, and then shooting them in the back of the head. In the press release, HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork condemned the ISIS attacks: "These abhorrent killings are the latest in a long list of ISIS atrocities. ... Together with the ISIS car bombs and suicide attacks targeting civilians, they are further evidence of crimes against humanity." In another video online, the father of one of the executed SWAT members said that ISIS had contacted him about the capture and demanded that the father call Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] and tell him to withdraw Iraqi forces from the Anbar region.
Authorities in Iraq have attempted a significant crackdown on alleged domestic terrorists in recent months. The Iraq Ministry of Justice [official website, in Arabic] announced in January the execution by hanging of 11 Iraqi prisoners convicted of terrorist attacks against the Iraqi people. These executions came mere days after the country's execution of 26 Iraqi nationals [JURIST report], also for terrorist related offenses. In December Iraqi police arrested [JURIST report] a prominent supporter of anti-government protests and charged him with terrorism offenses. Earlier in December UN rights experts urged [JURIST report] Iraq to provide information on the whereabouts of seven prisoners who were reportedly abducted following the massacre at Camp Ashraf in September. Last October Iraq officials executed [JURIST report] 42 people convicted of terrorism charges. JURIST Columnist Haider Ala Hamoudi of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law argues [JURIST op-ed] that as Iraq's new government matures, the country must address critical issues left ambiguous in the initial constitution, and the execution style killings demand urgent attention.