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Iraq: Obama Should Press Abadi on Militia Abuses

a Human Rights Watch Statement

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 20 2015

Strict Conditions Needed for Military Assistance

US President Barack Obama should place Iraq’s abusive sectarian (Shi'i) militias at the top of his agenda for his meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the president. Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi is scheduled to meet with Obama on April 14, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Abadi is seeking more arms from the US, including Apache attack helicopters and ammunition, media reports have said. But Obama should make clear that US security assistance to Iraq will be linked to the Iraqi government’s progress in reining in pro-government militias that have committed serious abuses against civilians in areas retaken from the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“ISIS poses a terrible threat to civilians in Iraq, but that’s no reason to pretend that paying lip service to human rights is an adequate response to the militia abuses,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “President Obama needs to tell Prime Minister Abadi that militia revenge attacks won’t be tolerated.”

Sectarian militias have increased their influence on the battlefield and in Iraq’s government since ISIS captured Mosul in June 2014. The militias have routinely carried out abductions; summary executions, including beheadings; torture; and forcible displacements of thousands of families in areas recaptured from ISIS. Recent statements from Abadi appear to walk back from earlier commitments to address accountability for these serious abuses by reining in the militias.

Senior US officials have expressed concern about militia abuses and their implications for Iraq’s long-term security, but the US policy of providing unfettered military aid to Iraq undermines the US criticism, Human Rights Watch said. Obama should make clear that security aid to Iraqi security forces hinges on the government taking steps to disband abusive militias; improve protection of civilians in areas where militias are deployed; and hold accountable commanders responsible for serious crimes through a fair criminal justice process.

The administration should ensure that the US embassy in Baghdad has sufficient personnel and resources to closely monitor how US arms and training are being used, Human Rights Watch said.

“US-backed Iraqi military operations have been severely tarnished by serious militia abuses,” Stork said. “Obama needs to send a clear message that US support for Iraq requires more serious efforts by Baghdad to protect all Iraqis’ basic rights.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Iraq, please visit:

For more information, please contact:

In New York, Erin Evers (English, Arabic): +1-917-362-0103 (mobile); or Twitter @ErinHRW

In Washington, DC, Joe Stork (English): +1-202-612-4327; or +1-202-299-4925 (mobile); or


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