There is growing evidence of abuses against suspected Islamic State members and their families. They will cost Iraq dear
In the days since Baghdad announced the liberation of Mosul, Islamic State’s last urban stronghold in Iraq, evidence has mounted of grotesque human rights abuses and revenge attacks against suspected members of the group. It includes a video apparently showing Iraqi troops killing an unarmed fighter by throwing him from a high ledge and accounts of brutal violence against not only alleged combatants but also their families. Earlier footage appeared to show members of a special forces unit torturing and executing civilians. A spokesman for Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said last week that the government would announce action against those soldiers – but not yet, because it would “interfere with the current congratulatory victory messages”.
Even seen on a page or screen thousands of miles away, these tales and images horrify. They will be remembered long after the pictures of Iraqi soldiers dancing in celebration. Welcome as it is, the military victory is a very partial kind of success. The caliphate that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed from Mosul three years ago has crumbled; the battle for its de facto capital of Raqqa, in Syria, is well advanced. But the conflict is far from over. The group still controls considerable territory and – more importantly – the assumption that it would return to its insurgent roots as it loses ground is proving correct. It mounts attacks in the cities it has lost. Foreign combatants are likely to pose a danger further afield, increasing the terrorist threat as they return home.