IRBIL, Iraq — Human Rights Watch on Thursday condemned videos circulating on social media purportedly showing Iraqi forces killing and beating men suspected of being Islamic State group fighters in Mosul.
Two videos seen by The Associated Press were posted to Facebook earlier this week, a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul.
Iraqi government and military officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the AP. The authenticity of the videos could not be independently confirmed, but they were posted on Facebook pages that support the military and regularly post their announcements, though they do not claim to have any official link to the security forces.
In one of the videos, soldiers are seen shouting at, kicking and beating several men — apparently captured IS fighters — in a room. One man’s shirt is splattered with fresh blood. Several are dragged out of the room.
“Is this one with Daesh or not?” one soldier is heard said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group and shouting at a man cowering in a corner. The man is dragged outside, and the camera follows.
The soldiers carried the man to the edge of a high wall overlooking the Tigris River. There, soldiers are shooting the bodies of two men who had already been thrown to the ground below. The soldiers then throw the other man over the edge then fire bullets into his body as well.
In the background, other soldiers are seen opening fire on a fourth man sprawled on the ground.
Another video posted Tuesday was titled: “Our heroes in the Iraqi Army 16th division executing the remnants of Daesh terrorists in Old Mosul.”
The images show a man in Iraqi army fatigues gunning down an unarmed man kneeling in front of a car. The rounds fired raised a cloud of dust into the air. The caption said the video was dedicated to the “families of the martyrs (of the Mosul operation).”
Human Rights Watch Iraq researcher Belkis Wille said Thursday that “these horrific reports of mistreatment and murder have been met by silence from Baghdad, only further fostering the feeling of impunity among armed forces in Mosul.”
Two other videos reported by HRW showed security forces beating and kicking suspects in custody.
Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul after the city was held by nearly three years by the Islamic State group. The militants were notorious for atrocities, both against civilians and security forces, often hunting down anyone connected with the police or military after they overran territory. The nearly 9-month assault to retake Mosul also involved grinding urban warfare in which the security forces suffered heavy casualities.
That has raised concerns among rights workers now over vengeance killings after IS’s fall in the city.
Following the announcement of victory in Mosul, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement warning Iraq that if “human rights challenges” are left unaddressed, they will “likely spark further violence and civilian suffering.”
“Horrific though the crimes of ISIL are, there is no place for vengeance,” the statement added, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Also Thursday, Human Rights Watch reported that Iraqi security forces forcibly moved dozens of women and children with alleged links to IS to a tent camp near Mosul that authorities describe as a “rehabilitation camp.”
The camp is located in Bartella, around 12 miles east of Mosul, and houses at least 170 families, mostly women and children from areas of western Mosul, where the last battles against IS took place, the New York-based group said.
The camp was opened Sunday, following a directive from Mosul’s district council that says “so-called ISIS families should be sent to receive psychological and ideological rehabilitation,” HRW said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
“Iraqi authorities shouldn’t punish entire families because of their relatives’ actions,” said Lama Fakih, the Mideast deputy chief at HRW. “These abusive acts are war crimes and are sabotaging efforts to promote reconciliation in areas retaken from ISIS,” Fakih added.