ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Amnesty International on Tuesday issued a damning report stating it had identified a pattern of attacks by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition that violated international humanitarian law and “may amount to war crimes.”
In its report, the group also said Islamic State (IS) militants had “flagrantly violated that same law” by using civilians as human shields to impede the advance of Iraqi and coalition forces.
After almost nine months of fighting, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul on Monday, three years after the group emerged in northern Iraq and seized the country’s second-largest city.
The UN has warned it will cost roughly one billion dollars to rebuild “basic infrastructure” in Mosul, with the western side having suffered far more destruction due to clashes between Iraqi forces and IS militants.
Thousands of civilians have been killed, and nearly a million people have been displaced since the offensive began in October 2016.
In its report entitled At any cost: The civilian catastrophe in West Mosul, Amnesty said Iraqi forces and the international coalition carried out a series of “unlawful attacks in west Mosul since January.”
Relying heavily on Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), explosive weapons with crude targeting capabilities caused immense damage in the densely-populated areas.
"Even in attacks that seem to have struck their intended military target, the use of unsuitable weapons or failure to take other necessary precautions resulted in needless loss of civilian lives and, in some cases, appears to have constituted disproportionate attacks," the report said.
“The scale and gravity of the loss of civilian lives during the military operation to retake Mosul must immediately be publicly acknowledged at the highest levels of government in Iraq and states that are part of the US-led coalition,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty.
Amnesty acknowledged the challenges of protecting civilians given the militants’ tactics, but still blamed Iraqi authorities and the coalition for failing to take feasible precautions to protect civilians from air strikes.
They added the leaflet drops had been virtually useless due to heavily restricted civilian movement in Mosul.
Amnesty said the toll in west Mosul alone from attacks launched by the anti-IS coalition was very likely in the thousands.
"The true death toll of the west Mosul battle may never be known," it said.
Neither the Iraqi defense ministry nor coalition officials were immediately available to comment on the Amnesty report.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany