UNITED NATIONS – A top Iraqi United Nations official responded boisterously Friday to allegations of human rights abuses by Iraqi forces against Islamic State fighters in Mosul, telling reporters: “This is war.”
Mohammed Marzooq, the Iraqi Charge d’affaires for Iraq’s Mission to the U.N., briefed reporters about the routing of ISIS from Mosul. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul this week and praised Iraqi troops for freeing the key northern city from the international terrorist organization.
He said that jihadists recruited children as young as twelve into their fighting force and forced them to participate in “sick and disgusting activities including beheadings, laying of roadside bombs, and filming military activities for propaganda purposes.” He said that the goal from ISIS was to turn Mosul into a massive training center that would also serve a big recruitment tool for the Islamic terror group.
Marzooq also said Iraq was grateful for the “tremendous role” their allies in the U.S.-led coalition provided, namely the necessary airstrikes and air cover for Iraqi ground forces.
However, Marzooq was also asked about videos that appear to show coalition forces beating Islamic State terrorists and throwing them off cliffs – a punishment the Islamic State typically reserved for men accused of homosexuality. Groups like Human Rights Watch have expressed concern about the treatment of ISIS fighters and reports of collective punishment of the families of ISIS fighters. Amnesty International had also accused the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government of not doing enough to protect civilians, an accusation the coalition and the government deny.
Asked about the video of ISIS fighters allegedly being thrown off cliffs, Marzooq said they were aware of such reports and they were being investigated but also warned that violence is an unavoidable part of war.
“This is the war, and you have priorities,” he said. “Our priority is to protect civilians as much as we can, but as you know this is the war, sometimes they make casualties, they make martyrs, but this is the war.”
Marzooq had also noted that a common tactic by ISIS was to use civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces breached their defenses in Mosul.
Coalition allies had also slammed the Amnesty International report in particular. British Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander of the coalition against ISIS, called the AI report “deeply irresponsible and frankly naive.”
“It is riddled with assertion. At no stage did they have the courtesy to engage the coalition to ask what our targeting process is,” he said. “It strikes me as being written by people who simply have no understanding of the brutality of warfare.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had made similar criticisms this week: “Human rights organizations should recheck their sources, and should come and see how jubilant are civilians as they welcome Iraqi troops,” he said Wednesday.