Iraq urged to assert control over paramilitary forces

Friday 18/09/2015

NEW YORK - The Iraqi government must assert control over paramilitary forces that have carried out abuses including enforced disappearances and destruction of property, and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said.

Baghdad should "take immediate steps to establish effective command and control over pro-government militias (and) disband militias that resist government control," the rights group said in a report.

It must also ensure that Iraqi forces involved in abuses "are fairly and appropriately disciplined or prosecuted," and provide compensation or alternative housing to people whose homes have been destroyed, HRW said.

The report details destruction of homes and detentions carried out in the Tikrit area, north of Baghdad, after the city was retaken from the Islamic State jihadist group, which overran large parts of Iraq last year.

"Militia forces looted, torched, and blew up hundreds of civilian houses and buildings in Tikrit and... neighbouring towns," HRW said.

"They also unlawfully detained some 200 men and boys, at least 160 of whom remain unaccounted for."

Baghdad turned to mostly Shiite volunteer forces for support as ISIS advanced towards the capital in June 2014. Those groups have played a key role in halting and then reversing the jihadists' gains.

In doing so, the government empowered Shiite militias, some with chequered human rights records, and spurred the creation of new ones, allowing them to act with near-impunity despite the fact that they officially fall under government command.