Amnesty International report: Shiite militias using U.S. weapons for war crimes

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated Jan. 5, 2017 at 2:40 PM
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BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Human rights group Amnesty International says Shiite militias are committing war crimes using U.S. weapons provided by the Iraqi government in the fight against the Islamic State.

Issued Thursday, the Amnesty report highlights a central fear that the Iraqi government is essentially deputizing the militias in the fight against the Islamic State. Members of the militias were responsible for thousands of deaths in the years-long insurgency that came after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Amnesty International said it has evidence the militias, known as al-Hashd al-Shaabi, have been given everything from tanks and combat vehicles to grenade launchers and a large number of small arms. Amnesty said those weapons, manufactured in the United States and elsewhere and originally given to the Iraqi government, are now being used by the militias to carry out extrajudicial killings and revenge attacks against civilians under the guise of working with the Iraqi army to retake Mosul, the last major city controlled by the Islamic State.

"International arms suppliers, including the U.S.A., European countries, Russia and Iran, must wake up to the fact that all arms transfers to Iraq carry a real risk of ending up in the hands of militia groups with long histories of human rights violations," said Patrick Wilcken, an Amnesty researcher.

Iraqi government officials and a spokesman for the militias denied the report, saying the two groups have abided by international law and proven reliable partners in the fight against the Islamic State.

"Whatever is circulated across malicious media about violations is untrue," militia spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi said during a press conference. "The priority for al-Hashd al-Shaabi is to protect civilians, and we shall chase [the Islamic State] to the last spot of Mosul and based on directives from the supreme commander of the armed forces."

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