Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants are forcibly evacuating civilians in Iraqi northern areas to use them as human shields, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.
There are also grave concerns that ISIS is rounding up hundreds of men and executing those formerly linked to the security forces, the human rights watchdog said.
HRW appealed to the armed forces to cease putting civilians at risk by forcing them to accompany their fighters, including into areas of active combat. “Using civilians as human shields is a war crime. Forces fighting ISIS should take all feasible precautions to protect civilians during attacks,” it said.
“The use of human shields by ISIS is just their latest cruelty against beleaguered civilians,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “But the horrors inflicted by ISIS do not give anti-ISIS forces a pass to attack ISIS forces without regard to the safety of the civilians in their midst.”
ISIS has been displacing civilians to bring them to Mosul, according to eyewitnesses from the village of al-Shura. Civilians say that ISIS went door to door, clearing the village, and that they saw the fighters fire in the air above the home of at least one family who resisted the order. However, they managed to escape when the Iraqi Federal Police came to the rescue and drove them to Qayyarah.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported on October 28, that “At least 5,370 families were abducted by ISIS from Shura sub-district.”
“Forced out by gunpoint, or killed if they resist, these people are reportedly being moved to strategic locations [where] ISIS fighters are located.”
Five local police officers from the ISIS-controlled village of Hammam al-Alil, 30 kilometers southeast of Mosul, now in Jadah camp, said that since the Mosul operations began, ISIS fighters had pushed thousands of families from at least 106 nearby villages and neighborhoods into Hammam al-Ali.
On Saturday, the Iraqi forces seized control of the Hamam al-Ali area, but the destiny of nearly 60,000 civilians there remained unknown.
Furthermore, the HRW expressed concerns about ISIS executing former security officers. The October 28 OHCHR report said that ISIS had killed 232 civilians and their bodies thrown in the Tigris River two days earlier, including 190 former Iraqi Security Forces personnel from al-Ghazlani military base in Mosul.
“It appears that a day earlier many of these men and their families had been forced by ISIS from Shura and al-Qayyarah sub-districts, and were initially taken to Hamam al-Alil, where the men were separated from the women and children.”
A November 1 report stated that on October 29, 40 former Iraqi Security Force soldiers were killed and their bodies thrown in the Tigris River in the areas around Shura and Hammam al-Alil.
“Executing those in custody, whether civilians or captured combatants, is a war crime,” Fakih said. “Responsibility does not just rest with those who pull the trigger, but commanders who give the orders or know what’s going on and do nothing to stop it.”
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