Iraqi troops and militias who pushed Islamic State fighters from the northern town of Amerli last September proceeded to loot and burn down homes and businesses, Human Rights Watch said in a new report Wednesday.
Relying on interview with victims and witnesses, as well as satellite images, the report says militiamen took items such as televisions, clothes and electrical wiring before setting fire to buildings. The looting and destruction extended to 47 villages around Amerli.
Human Rights Watch said its staff did not document any killings, but that 11 men were abducted during the operation.
“Iraq can’t win the fight against ISIS’ atrocities with attacks on civilians that violate the laws of war and fly in the face of human decency,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group.
The rights group has urged Iraqi troops and those fighting alongside them to protect civilians, including an appeal earlier this month as the military launched an offensive to reclaim Tikrit from Islamic State militants.
The report includes a response letter from the Iraqi prime minister’s office, which says there were “individual lapses” and some arrests. The letter also says investigations into the incidents found that they were committed by Islamic State gangs “in an attempt to smear” Iraqi forces.
Human Rights Watch has also reported what it said were serious abuses and war crimes by Islamic State fighters in both Iraq and Syria.