Several militias operating in Iraq have been committing war crimes using weapons manufactured in 16 different countries, including the US, Russia, China and Iran, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said in a report [text, PDF] Thursday. The report discusses [press release] the actions of four particular militia groups—Munathamat Badr (Badr Brigades or Badr Organization), ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Hizbullah (Hizbullah Brigades) and the Saraya Al-Salem (Peace Brigades). These militias operate under the popular mobilization units (PMUs) in Iraq, which include 40 or 50 distinct militias. Iraq’s prime minister designated these PMUs as an official part of the Iraqi military in February. The report discusses four particular instances of human rights violations . In Diyala, Munathamat Badr and ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq have allegedly committed abductions, killings and torture of Sunni men and boys. In Anbar, 49 people have been reportedly killed and 643 remain missing after they were captured after fleeing fighting north of Falluja. Some witnesses who were released after being tortured stated they recognized the Kata’ib Hizbullah insignia on some of the members committing the torture. In Salah al-Din, PMU militiamen have reportedly kidnapped, tortured and killed Sunni men who were fleeing IS in the area. At the Al-Razzaza checkpoint, one of the only safe pathways out of Islamic State (IS) controlled areas, Kata’ib Hizbullah members have allegedly seized 2,200 people since late 2014, only 65 of whom have ever reappeared. The weapons the PMUs use are reportedly obtained from the Iraqi military and from Iran. These include US-made armored vehicles and tanks. AI states that the US and other countries should not supply Iraq with arms unless Iraq ensures that the weapons would only be given to militias when they can show that they “can act consistently with full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law and that it is fully under the effective command and control of the Iraqi armed forces and subject to rigorous accountability mechanisms.”
The ongoing fighting against IS has resulted in ongoing claims of human rights violations. In December, Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] that an Iraqi militia executed IS supporters. The Parliament of Iraq voted [JURIST report] in November to give militias legal status, including giving them pensions and instructions from government leaders. Also in November the London-based analytical group IHS Markit released a report [JURIST report] stating the IS has used chemical weapons at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria since 2014. In October AI released a report [JURIST report] that stated the Iraqi government and Kurdish Regional Government were committing serious human rights violations and war crimes. In August the UN Secretary-General accused [JURIST report] IS of committing genocide against the Yazidi minority in Northern Iraq.