Iraq

Rare video of summary execution in Iraq surfaces in Iran

A video showing the apparent execution of a suspected jihadist by Iraqi Army troops has surfaced on social media in Iran. Our Observer explains that while such videos are often posted by Shiite militias fighting alongside the army, it’s rare to see an execution video filmed by soldiers of the regular army.

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A video showing the apparent execution of a suspected jihadist by Iraqi Army troops has surfaced on social media in Iran. Our Observer explains that while such videos are often posted by Shiite militias fighting alongside the army, it’s rare to see an execution video filmed by soldiers of the regular army.

The video was posted December 6 on Aparat, a popular video-sharing site in Iran (where YouTube is blocked). The caption reads in Persian: “Execution of an IS bomber: A soldier asks his commander to avenge his brother’s death and the commander says yes.”

The 47-second video shows a group of men in uniform with insignia of the Iraqi Army standing over a young man with his hands tied behind his back. One soldier puts his boot on the man’s face, as the others discuss in Arabic what to do with him.

Then a soldier is heard asking his commander, “I want to avenge the death of my brother.” He pulls the man to his feet, walks him to the edge of the road and down a bank out of view of the camera. A burst of six shots is heard, then five more.

Soldiers beating the young man

An Ocober 18 report by Amnesty International found that Iraqi forces and allied militias had committed “serious human rights violations, including war crimes, by torturing, arbitrarily detaining, forcibly disappearing and extrajudicially executing” civilians emerging from areas that had been held by the Islamic State group. The report was released as Iraqi forces began a major offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group.

Most of the violation are attributed to militia groups known as ‘Hashd al-Shaabi’ (Popular Mobilization Units), who fight alongside the army against the IS group. The mostly Shiite militias receive support from Iran. While regular army troops also reported to have committed such acts, there is rarely documentation.

The IS group has committed atrocities against the Iraqi military, notably the massacre of at least 1,566 Iraqi Air Force cadets at Camp Speicher in Tikrit in 2014.

“It’s clear the soldiers are from the Iraqi Army”

Maher [not his real name] is an Iraqi journalist. He asked for anonymity because of fear of reprisal from Shiite militia groups.

We know in Iraq that there are crimes committed by soldiers of the Iraqi Army in their war against IS. But we don’t know how often such incidents happen because there is no official communication about them.

In this video it’s clear that the soldiers are from the Iraqi Army – you can tell by their insignia and the accent they use. I recently spoke with some Iraqi soldiers who had participated in the recent mission for the liberation of Mosul. They talked openly about these extrajudicial executions. They said that they do not trust the judicial system in Iraq. They said the judges insist on proof that they cannot provide, and end up letting the suspects go free, or giving them only one or two years in prison.

Sometimes the army stages such killings of IS suspects. For example they beat them up and force them to run, then they shoot them and justify the killing by saying the suspect was trying to escape.

In the video an Iraqi soldier pulls the man to his feet, walks him to the edge of the road and then shots are heard.

Amnesty’s report on Iraq’s human rights situation in 2015-16 said the Iraqi justice system was “critically flawed… Trials, particularly of defendants facing terrorism charges and possible death sentences, were systematically unfair with courts often admitting torture-tainted ‘confessions’ as evidence.”

“No one dares talk about it”

Our Observers says the Iraqi public seldom sees videos like this.

Videos like this are very rare because the army always tries to keep the violence hidden. Sometimes Iraqi soldiers or members of the Hashd al Shaabi who are with them film such executions to send to their friends or publish on their private accounts. But the videos end up being shared on social media and sometimes even foreign news media.

We, Iraqi journalists, don’t have the freedom to talk about such crimes. It’s too dangerous. We never talk about it in the media, and no one dares to talk about it publicly. I don’t know what would happen if a journalist talked about extrajudicial killings. There’s a lot of intimidation. One time I did a report that was critical of the army and the militias and one of the militias detained me and questioned me for hours without any warrant.

In 2015 the head of Reuters’ Baghdad bureau left the country after receiving death threats from Shiite militias over the agency’s reporting of an extrajudicial killing by Iraqi federal police.

Uniform with insignia of the Iraqi army in the video

Unfortunately most Iraqis seem to support such extrajudicial killings. People say they [suspected IS members] are butchers and deserve to be killed. The only Iraqis who protest are Sunnis who come from communities that are opposed to the central government. But even many Sunnis have turned against IS after seeing the atrocities they committed in areas they controlled.

There hasn’t been a single action from the government over these crimes by the army. Last week the government announced the prosecution of three members of Hashd al-Shaabi militias for criminal acts in the fight against IS. But they’ve never prosecuted the army.

These kind of videos are often published on social media in Iran – mostly Aparat. It’s probably because of the strong connections some of the Hashd al Shaabi militias have with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Many members of the Hashd al Shaabi and even Iraqi soldiers have personal connections with Iran. Many of them have lived in Iran; many of them were educated in Iran and have lots of Iranian friends, so it’s not surprising that these videos end up there.