‘Flawed & selective:’ UN Security Council failed to investigate crimes in Iraq – HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the UN Security Council (UNSC) of failing to investigate war crimes and rights abuses by anti-ISIS forces in Iraq. The group said it’s a “flawed and selective” approach that turns a blind eye to abuses that have plagued the country for decades.

On Thursday, the UNSC unanimously adopted a US-backed resolution that sets up an investigative team to collect evidence of “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide” committed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) members.

While many welcomed the decision, with US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley saying the “landmark resolution was a major first step in addressing ISIL atrocities, especially against women,” Human Rights Watch said the UN Council has utterly failed to include abuses by anti-ISIS forces.

“This is obviously a flawed and selective approach, because it misses the opportunity to investigate crimes committed by all parties of the conflict,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW’s Middle East & North Africa division, told RT.

“Human Rights Watch has, of course, documented very serious abuses by ISIS forces. We’ve also documented very serious abuses by Iraqi government forces, militias and members of the international coalition. Those also need to be investigated so that the people of Iraq can see that justice is blind, and that anyone who has committed violations is going to be held to account,” she added.

While abuses by Iraqi and KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] forces, as well as Shia military units are longstanding, the battle against ISIS has enabled these forces to carry out abuses under the guise of fighting terrorism, HRW said.

“The most serious abuses that we have seen are at the hands of the Iraqi forces and Iraqi militias. We documented numerous cases of detainees who have been executed, tortured, brutalized by Iraqis because they were believed to be related to an ISIS fighter. These are of course completely unacceptable,” Whitson said.

“We also have a lot of concerns about the bombardment of Mosul. The UN Security Council knows very well that organizations like Human Rights Watch have repeatedly urged them to expand the mandate of this investigative team to include abuses by all parties to the conflict. And they have chosen very deliberately not to do that. The reasons and the motivations can only be speculated about.”

During operations to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces frequently tortured and executed those captured in and around the battlefield with complete impunity, sometimes posting photos and videos of the abuses on social media sites, HRW said. Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, or otherwise abusing Iraqis in this conflict,” the rights group added.