Rudaw photo shows Peshmerga armed vehicles maneuvering inside Kirkuk in the early hours of October 16, 2017. before they pulled out and Iraqi army entered the city later in the day.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The whereabouts of some 350 detainees believed to be held by Kurdistan Region forces in Chamchamal and Sulaimani are being investigated by an international human rights observer that says the KRG should help to identify their status and locations.
“Families in Kirkuk are desperate to know what has become of their detained relatives,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The secret, incommunicado detentions raise grave concerns for their safety.”
According to an HRW report released on Thursday, those missing are mainly Sunni Arab males who were originally from or in Kirkuk. In June 2014, Kurdish Peshmerga defended the oil-rich city against ISIS.
In 27 cases discussed with HRW, “relatives said they had asked local Asayish [Kurdish security] or police forces about their relatives but never received an official acknowledgement of the detention or information about where their relative was being held or why.”
HRW stated many are “feared to have been forcibly disappeared” because when Iraqi federal forces regained control of the area in October “the prisoners were no longer in the official and unofficial detention facilities in and around Kirkuk.”
Kirkuk’s acting governor, Rakkan Said, an Arab was appointed after the dismissal of Kurdish governor Najmaldin Karim in the wake of the incursion by the ISF who were supported by Iran-backed Shiite paramilitias of the Hashd al-Shaabi.
Said told HRW that following November 7 demonstrations in Kirkuk by relatives of the missing, “Asayish forces handed over to Iraqi federal forces in Kirkuk 105 other detainees first held in Kirkuk and later transferred to facilities in Sulaimani.”
Local Arabic news outlet Akhbaar reported Azad Jabar, the former head of the security committee of Kirkuk’s provincial and a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, as denying that Asayish forces had carried out any disappearances.
Jabar told another Arabic news outlet, Asharq al-Awsat that many of the missing files of the “Arabs or Turkmen” dated backed to the US invasion from 2003 to 2011.
He was quoted as saying that the Kurdish security forces expected the Iraqi government to thank them from protecting Kirkuk from “terrorist groups” and not to accuse the citizens of being kidnapped by the Kurdish.
Iraq’s Human Rights Commission office in Kirkuk told HRW on December 18 “about the disappearance of at least 350 other men whom the Asayish had detained in and around Kirkuk,” whose families claimed were the fault of KRG authorities.
Dindar Zebari, the head of the KRG’s High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports has not yet responded to the report, according to HRW.
HRW recorded various testimonies of people claiming their relatives were arrested by Kurdish security forces and are believed to be in al-Salam military base in Sulaimani or Chamchamal prison.
“Kurdistan Regional Government authorities should work with the Human Rights Commission’s list of complaints to help families of the 350 people identify the status and whereabouts of their relatives,” stated HRW.
Kirkuk is a diverse city and province claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. After Iraqi government forces lost much of the province to ISIS militants in June 2014, KRG Peshmerga took control of the city to restore order. In October, ISF took control of the entire oil-rich province from the KRG after deadly clashes.