US law requires that the DoD stops all support for the Iraqi Army’s 16th Division, a unit involved in numerous acts of extrajudicial killings and other atrocities in Mosul, Human Rights Watch said.
A report issued Thursday by Human Rights Watch outlines a number of alleged abuses by the US-trained 16th Division of the Iraqi army in Mosul, a city freshly taken from the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). In the latest case in mid-July, soldiers apparently executed four naked and bound prisoners in an alleyway just next to a building used as the division’s base in the area. Two international observers, who delivered the report to HRW, said they were told by soldiers not directly involved in the execution that the four men were IS fighters.
The rights group cites a number of other recent episodes in Mosul, in which members of the 16th division allegedly abused and summarily executed people. It says the Iraqi government is reluctant to investigate such cases.
The unit was formed in 2015, in the wake of the disastrous defeat of the Iraqi army by IS, and received training and material support from the Pentagon, becoming a formidable fighting force.
HRW says the US is obliged by the so-called Leahy Law to stop all support for the Iraqi unit. The legislation, last amended in 2014, forbids the DoD and the State Department from providing assistance to foreign troops if there is credible evidence of their involvement in human rights violations.
“The US government should make sure it is no longer providing assistance to the Iraqi unit responsible for this spate of executions but also suspend any plans for future assistance until these atrocities have been properly investigated,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given the widespread abuses by Iraqi forces and the government’s abysmal record on accountability, the US should take a hard look at its involvement with Iraqi forces.”
“The US military should find out why a force that it trained and supported is committing ghastly war crimes,” she added. “US taxpayer dollars should be helping to curtail abuses, not enable them.”
The Iraqi army fully reclaimed Mosul earlier this month, some three years after the city was captured by Islamic State militants. The US-led coalition fighting the jihadists provided crucial air support and other forms of assistance to the operation. The fighting itself resulted in numerous civilian casualties and damage to the city, while in the aftermath evidence emerged that the liberators of Mosul were engaged in widespread abuses of its remaining residents, whom they suspect of being IS sympathizers or collaborators.