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US will have ‘no tolerance’ for Iraqi abuses in Mosul

September 23, 2016 at 10:02 am

A senior US diplomatic official said that there would be “no tolerance” for sectarian torture and other abuses that may be perpetrated by Iraqi forces and allied Shia militias during the planned offensive to recapture Daesh’s de-facto Iraqi capital of Mosul, Reuters reported.

Speaking at an annual meeting of world leaders at the UN, Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the anti-Daesh coalition, said that steps were already being taken to ensure that there would be no repeat of the abuses seen in the wake of the recapture of Fallujah last June.

In Fallujah, Shia militias committed field executions of civilians, as well as torturing and abusing thousands of Sunnis, with Governor of Anbar Sohaib Al-Rawi confirming on Twitter that 643 men from Saqlawiyyah were made to disappear during the operations to retake Mosul from Daesh. These men have yet to be located, leading to suspicions that they have also been killed.

Suggesting that better screening of civilians fleeing Mosul would result in the instances of abuse being reduced, McGurk said: “We must make sure the screening process in Mosul is done professionally with some third-party observers at the screening centres, that is what we hope to have.”

Given the plethora of armed forces involved in fighting in Iraq, including the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), there are major concerns on how the offensive will play out and whether it could unleash further sectarian violence.

McGurk said Washington was working to make sure that many security forces used in Mosul would be those trained by the coalition and that the roles of different forces would be agreed upon ahead of the operation, which could begin as soon as October.

Humanitarian aid

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told the same meeting that Iraqi authorities had given reassurances that the screening of people leaving Mosul would be done by security forces and not by militias. Families would be transported either to an emergency camp or public buildings, she said.

The UN has previously warned that the Mosul offensive risks triggering a major humanitarian crisis, with one million or more people potentially becoming refugees. Stephen O’Brien, the UN aid chief, appealed to countries to speed up their aid donations ahead of the operation.

“To prepare for Mosul, partners launched a flash appeal for $284 million in July this year…and 48 per cent of this funding, that’s $136 million, has been received,” he said. “I cannot overstress the importance of receiving any outstanding pledges as soon as possible.”

Mosul fell to Daesh in June 2014 after the terrorist organisation put two Iraqi divisions to flight following a brief battle. It was in Iraq’s second largest city that Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of his caliphate that has seen its territory dwindle over the past year.