Iraq turns blind eye as Shia militia uses arms supplied by 16 countries for war crimes

Amnesty International said that countries like US and Iran are providing arms to pro-government Iraqi paramilitaries.

Picture for representation
Picture for representation Reuters

At least 16 countries, including the US, Europe, Russia and Iran, are providing arms and ammunition to pro-government paramilitaries in Iraq, a report by human rights organisation Amnesty International said.

According to the report published on 5 January, the Shi'a militias, which are operating as part of the Iraqi armed forces in wars against Islamic State, are getting the majority of these ammunitions. However, with weaponry including tanks and artillery, they are abducting and killing thousands of Sunni men and women and destroying property.

"International arms suppliers, including the USA, 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 Researcher on Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International, Patrick Wilcken, according to the report.

"Any state selling arms to Iraq has to show that there are strict measures in place to make sure the weapons will not be used by paramilitary militias to flagrantly violate rights. If they haven't done that, no transfer should take place," he added.

Research shows that the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which consist of 40 or 50 distinct militias, slowly became popular since 2014 and became a part of the Iraqi armed forces in 2016. However, due to ample support from the government, PMU has increasingly become a ruthless force which is not accountable to anyone. Studies have revealed that some militias under the umbrella of PMU are carrying out revenge attacks on Sunni Arabs.

"The Iraqi authorities have helped to arm and equip the PMU militias and pay their salaries – they must stop turning a blind eye to this systematic pattern of serious human rights violations and war crimes," said Wilcken.

The Amnesty researcher also said that any militant fighting alongside the Iraqi military should be thoroughly inquired about prior to the inclusion and proper pruning should be carried out to get rid of men who are capable of violating trust as well as rules. To maintain a clear reputation, the expert said, the government should bring unruly militias completely into the fold and impart discipline or should dissolve the forces completely.

The London-based rights group thoroughly studied the situation in Iraq and concluded that 100 types of arms, including tanks, machine guns and sniper rifles are being used by the militias. This weaponry has either been supplied by Iraqi state institutions or by other countries with the authorities' approval or militants have bought them from the private market including online sales.

Amnesty International, which believes that Iraq is breeding an extremely dangerous militant group in the name of countering IS attack, urges the government to be aware of the human right violation that is spreading like an epidemic in the country. It also requests other countries to make sure that the arms that are being sold to Iraq are not being by "militias guilty of abuses".