Republic of Iraq
Prime Minister’s Office
March 12, 2015
Mr. Joe Stork
Deputy executive director of the Middle East section
Human Rights Watch
Having read your letter dated February 26, 2015, we deeply appreciate your care in investigating the information that reaches you regarding oversight of the conduct of all parties to the fighting in Iraq, and we instructed the relevant bodies to read it and respond to the questions directed to the Iraqi government in this regard.
These clarifications follow here.
I. Leadership of military operations (Tigris operations)
1. The Sulayman Bek region and surrounding areas (eastern Salah al-Din province) has witnessed the control previously of al-Qaeda and currently ISIS, and the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, since April 2013. Terrorists took control of the region of Sulayman Bek and most of the surrounding villages, with the exception of some villages that were cooperating with the security apparatus such as Maftul al-Kabira, Maftul al-Saghira, and Sarha, and areas of Sulayman Bek, as these organizations forcibly displaced most of the residents of these areas.
2. After the events in Nineveh and the security collapse of some provinces, among them eastern Salah al-Din, there were violent battles, a severe conflict with them, and skirmishes. Terrorist elements booby-trapped streets, homes, and government institutions as a means of inflicting the largest number of casualties among the security apparatus. Some citizens of the Shia Turkmen villages were also killed after their homes were destroyed, and this for a period of three months.
3. Most of the residents of Sunni and Shia villages were displaced by terrorist organizations, as the villages were emptied of their occupants. Some of these families left in fear of the might of terrorists there or to distance themselves from the battlefield.
4. During the operation to break the siege on Amerli, the battle was extremely violent and protracted, during which all manner of heavy weaponry and air raids were used, which led to the destruction and burning of more citizens’ homes.
5. During the battles to purge Sulayman Bek, Amerli, and surrounding villages, no civilians or families were seen in these villages.
6. There are individual cases involving some Kurdish civilians, for example, against the homes of terrorists. They were indeed torched or demolished as a result of what they experienced and their own homes being demolished by these terrorists. But some of these elements were detained and turned over to the judiciary.
7. The area of eastern Salah al-Din, since the beginning of the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, was one of the areas (Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, Diyala) that most embraced terrorism, as it is the connecting point between the three provinces.
8. Through the foregoing, the leaders of the operations took measures against all legal infractions by elements infringing human rights, which had destroyed or burned the property of innocent people. The authorities did labor under one constraint: the harmed parties did not appear before the judiciary to give their statements to the investigating judge and so [the charged persons] were released as a rule. This happened more than once.
9. The authorities, in coordination with the local administration, helped to repatriate families to their regions after they were purged of ISIS elements, and helped to restore the infrastructure of their areas in coordination with the service departments in the province.
10. Investigative committees were formed for violations that did occur, and the offenders were brought before the judiciary, as in the Mus`ab Bin `Umayr Mosque. Persons accused in cases of kidnapping were referred to the judiciary, and the pursuit of the rest continues.
11. The leaders of the operations took care to involve members of the tribes of the region taken over by ISIS and to approach [tribal] leaders for the purpose of incorporating them into the ranks of the security apparatus to preserve their areas. 12. There was high-level coordination with the Popular Mobilization forces [al-Hashd al-Sha`bi] and resistance factions, and incidents cited in the report of the Human Rights Watch mission were prevented.
13. The leaders of the operations received no complaint with regard to the issues cited in the mission’s report. Rather citizens offered information on the occurrence of such cases, and we made efforts to issue arrest warrants for offenders. After they were detained, no claimants of personal harm appeared before the judiciary to give their statements, which puts the security apparatus in an embarrassing position before the judiciary.
II. Leadership of the Popular Mobilization
Investigations and inquiries were made to determine the veracity of information circulating about violations in areas liberated by our armed forces. A department was formed within the Popular Mobilization to monitor the conduct and incidents in these areas committed by heroic Iraqi forces. Investigative measures were taken to examine the available information in this regard. The findings of these investigations indicate that the incidents that took place in these areas were committed by criminal ISIS gangs in an attempt to smear the epic heroism of our forces from the army and the Popular Mobilization. Moreover, the fact of individual lapses is hidden from no one. Deterrent measures were taken against those with proven involvement, and those responsible for all explicitly criminal acts were referred to the Iraqi judiciary , insofar as the tolerant teachings of the revealed religions are the course along which our armed forces proceed. The directives from virtuous religious authorities to our armed forces to respect human rights and protect citizens are the best testament to the general outline of sound objectives. We also submit that most of material from internet websites are alleged, false footage, and an examination has not established its veracity.
For our part here, we laud the humane attention of Human Rights Watch and its previous engagement with the Iraqi government in exposing some individual lapses, which are wholly unconnected to any government conduct (Popular Mobilization), as we hope for continued cooperation in the future in the service of all of humanity.
We hope that this report is sufficient, and we reiterate the concern of the government of the Republic of Iraq to follow up on any lapses or practices; all legal measures will be taken against their perpetrators.
Dr. Muhsin al-`Ilaq
Director of the Prime Minister’s Office