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A combatant with the Badr Brigade militia pictured at a checkpoint taken from militants of the Islamic State outside the town of Amerli September 5, 2014. (Photo: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

A combatant with the Badr Brigade militia pictured at a checkpoint taken from militants of the Islamic State outside the town of Amerli September 5, 2014. (Photo: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

Past and Present, US Implicated in Abuses Inflicted by Iraq-Backed Militias

'The documents show how Washington...has consistently overlooked excesses by Shi’ite militias sponsored by the Iraqi government'

Sarah Lazare

A new Reuters investigation published Monday provides more evidence that the U.S. government is directly implicated in human rights abuses committed by Iraq-backed militias.

According to journalist Ned Parker, roughly a decade ago the U.S. "ordered" the Iraqi government to investigate a secret Baghdad prison run by commanders of the Badr organization—a Shi'ite militia. In addition, the U.S. military carried out its own probe.

However, neither of these investigations was ever published, despite evidence of torture, abuse, illegal detention, and extrajudicial killings.

"The documents show how Washington, seeking to defeat Sunni jihadists and stabilize Iraq, has consistently overlooked excesses by Shi’ite militias sponsored by the Iraqi government," Parker argued. "The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both worked with Badr and its powerful leader, Hadi al-Amiri, whom many Sunnis continue to accuse of human rights abuses."

According to Parker, who reviewed the unpublished investigations and other documents, the U.S. "chose to lobby Iraqi officials in quiet for fear of damaging Iraq’s fragile political setup, according to several current and former U.S. military officials and diplomats."

What's more, officials behind the secret prison retained powerful positions. "Those accused of running the secret prison or of helping cover up its existence include the current head of the Iraqi judiciary, Midhat Mahmoud, Transport Minister, Bayan Jabr, and a long revered Badr commander popularly referred to as Engineer Ahmed," wrote Parker.

The Reuters investigation follows numerous warnings that the U.S. is backing armed forces guilty of human rights abuses in Iraq as part of the ongoing military campaign against ISIS, also known as Daesh and the Islamic state.

A report released earlier this year by Human Rights Watch focused on the aftermath of an early September 2014 offensive by Iraqi military forces, Shi'ite militias, and volunteer fighters, directly supported by U.S. airstrikes, which aimed to clear ISIS forces in and around the town of Amerli, in northern Iraq.

It found that, for at least two months after ISIS fled the area, Iraqi forces and militias raided Sunni-majority towns near Amerli in Salah al-Din and Kirkuk provinces. This included stealing civilians' possessions and destroying buildings—and entire villages—through arson, explosives, and demolition. Researchers said at least 11 men were abducted.

And Amnesty International reported last year that Shi'ite militias within Iraq—many of them armed and backed by the U.S.-allied Iraqi government—are "taking advantage" of a climate of violence and impunity to abduct, execute, and disappear scores of Sunni civilian men.

U.S. forces, for their part, are also guilty of widespread atrocities, human rights abuses, and torture in Iraq, including at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Civil society groups including the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq have long warned that U.S. policies are directly fueling sectarianism and militarization in Iraqi society.

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