Hashd al-Shaabi forces at Tal Afar airport, west of Mosul. Photo: Achilleas Zavallis/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces are one with the Iraqi army, receive their orders from the prime minister, and operate under Iraqi law, Iraq’s war media directorate said in a statement refuting claims made by Amnesty International.
Iraq’s Shiite militia forces have received weapons and ammunition from local and foreign governments, including Iraq, Iran, Russia, and the United States, without any accountability and they have carried out human rights abuses including summary executions and abductions, Amnesty International stated in a report on the Shiite forces
, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units or Forces (PMU, PMF), published Thursday.
Responding to that report, the Iraqi war media directorate stated, “The question about being sure weapons won't be used in the vengeful killings is something that we as PMU forces affiliated to the Iraqi government take very seriously. The supplier of weapons is not supplying these weapons directly to the PMU forces but in fact is doing so to the Iraqi government which we belong to and the government provides these to all its security forces, including the federal police, the army, the counter terrorism forces and others under the Iraqi government umbrella.”
The director of Amnesty’s UK Arms Control, Oliver Sprague, called on the UK to halt exporting arms to Baghdad as long as there was a risk they would be used by abusive militias.
“The Shia militias’ reign of terror is being enabled by a vast arsenal of weaponry eagerly supplied by the Baghdad government,” Sprague was quoted in an Amnesty press release. “How can we be sure that the weapons we send to Baghdad aren’t be used by vengeful Shia militias right now to kill civilians in and around Mosul?”
The directorate accused Amnesty of not providing evidence to back up its accusations, noting that Amnesty International had no evidence of UK-supplied weapons being misused. “This not only is a false accusation but also violates Iraq's integrity as a sovereign state able to govern itself,” the directorate stated.
It also objected to Amnesty’s accusations that the Shiite forces had committed multiple atrocities, noting that the rights group appeared to not have visited areas taken by the Shiite forces “to hear from the people who have been liberated and saved from terrorists.”
The directorate stressed that any accusations of atrocities are investigated by the government and guilty parties will be brought to justice.
“The Popular Mobilisation Forces and the Iraqi army are one and Amnesty cannot claim they are a force fighting alone without the authorisation of the Iraqi government and that they are not outside the Iraqi law frames,” the directorate’s statement concluded.