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Iraqis 'forcably disappeared' by security forces: HRW

HRW documented 78 forced disappearances across Iraq between 2014 and 2017 - (John Moore/Getty Images)

Dozens of mostly Sunni Arab males, including young children, in Iraq have have been disappearing since 2014, “often in the context of counterterrorism operations,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.

The 78-page report, released on Sept. 27, consists of a research conducted by HRW on enforced disappearances in Iraq since 2014, when Iraqi forces launched anti-ISIS operations, and documents an additional 74 cases of men and four cases of boys detained by Iraqi military and security forces between April 2014 and October 2017 and forcibly disappeared.

“Families across Iraq whose fathers, husbands, and sons disappeared after Iraqi forces detained them are desperate to find their loved ones,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

“Despite years of searching, and requests to Iraqi authorities, the government has provided no answers about where they are or if they are even still alive.”

The report, entitled ‘Life Without a Father is Meaningless’: Arbitrary Arrests and Enforced Disappearances in Iraq 2014-2017,” also published additional interviews from early 2016 to March 2018 with the family members, lawyers, and community representatives of the 78 currently identified as forcibly disappeared.

The enforced disappearances documented were carried out by a range of military and security entities, but the highest number, 36, were by groups within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), units under the prime minister’s command, at checkpoints across Iraq.

Moreover, witnesses said 28 were carried out by the Hezbollah Brigades, one by the Badr Organization, and one by Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haqq.

“Each and every case of disappearance needs to be resolved by speedy investigation. If the person is in detention they should be charged or released, if they have died their families should be given full details of the circumstances of the death. Their bodies should be returned to their families,” the report added.

HRW also called on the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and other states providing military, security, and intelligence assistance to Iraq to urge the Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and to investigate the role of their own assistance in these alleged violations.

“These states should suspend military, security, and intelligence assistance to units involved in these violations and explain any suspension or end to military assistance publicly,” HRW added in the report. “The states should maintain the suspension of assistance until the government adopts measures to end these serious human rights violations.”