ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi military and security forces have disappeared many people since 2014, mostly Sunni Arab males, including children as young as nine, often in the context of counterterrorism operations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated on Thursday.
In a 78-page report entitled “’Life without a Father is Meaningless’: Arbitrary Arrests and Enforced Disappearance in Iraq 2014-2017,” HRW highlighted the enforced disappearances in Iraq by local forces since 2014.
The rights group documented an additional 74 cases of men and four cases of boys detained by Iraqi military and security forces between April 2014 and Oct. 2017, who were forcibly disappeared during the Iraqi military operation against the Islamic State (IS).
HRW mentioned that the documented disappearances are part of a much wider continuing pattern in Iraq.
“Families across Iraq whose fathers, husbands, and sons disappeared after Iraqi forces detained them are desperate to find their loved ones,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “Despite years of searching, and requests to Iraqi authorities, the government has provided no answers about where they are or if they are even still alive.”
The number of missing people in Iraq could range from 250,000 to one million people, the International Commission on Missing Persons estimated. The International Committee of the Red Cross also stated that Iraq has the highest number of missing people in the world.
The enforced disappearances that the HRW documented were carried out by a range of military and security entities at checkpoints across Iraq, but the highest number - 36 - were tied to groups within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), units under the Iraqi Prime Minister’s command. Witnesses said at least 28 of these were carried out by the Hezbollah Brigades.
It also mentioned that the majority of the 78 people whose cases HRW documented were detained in 2014, with the most recent in October 2017. But the organization has continued to receive reports of additional disappearances across Iraq.
Iraqi forces detained 34 of the men and boys at security checkpoints and arrested another 37 at their homes.
“In most cases in which people were arrested at home, the security forces gave the families no reason for the arrests, although the families suspect the reasons were related to the detainees’ Sunni Arab identity.”
The right group also mentioned that in three cases, family members alleged that the arresting officers used excessive force, in one case leading to a death of another relative.
“The US-led coalition and other countries have spent billions of dollars on Iraq’s military and security entities,” Fakih said. “These countries have a responsibility to insist that the Iraqi government should call a halt to disappearances and provide support to victims’ families.”
Editing by Nadia Riva