Iraq’s parliament speaker has recently confirmed that hundreds to thousands of people who went missing from 2014 to 2016 were kidnapped and killed by Iran-backed militias.

Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mohamed Al-Halbousi said in an interview with a local Iraqi TV December 7, that "We must tell people who these disappeared people are,” confirming that they are slain. 

There were reports by Amnesty International in 2016 that Iraqi government forces and paramilitary militias tortured, arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared and executed thousands of civilians who had fled the rule of the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group. No official had ever confirmed the allegations. 

Al-Halbousi said "the state must do justice to their families and include them in the list of victims of terrorism, and they should be considered for compensation,” adding that the government had been misleading their families since 2014. It would not be right to give their families false hope of their return, he said, noting that they were abducted and assassinated. 

A member of parliament from the party led by al-Halbousi said, “Everyone knows that they are dead, but for years no one dares to be frank with people, especially the wives, mothers, and children of the victims.” 

The Iraqi Observatory for human rights issued a statement in which it considered al-Halbousi's remarks as "an official announcement of their execution at the hands of armed militias during the expulsion of ISIS from Iraq."

According to the Amnesty report, Shia paramilitary groups and Iraqi government forces carried out revenge attacks on Sunni Arabs suspected of supporting ISIS, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition began the battle for Mosul in August 2014. It added that Baghdad – which was especially close to the Islamic Republic at the time -- was complicit in "brutal revenge attacks" as thousands of older boys and men were rounded up, tortured and extrajudicially executed. 

Commanders of the Popular Mobilization Forces with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) advisors during the Hawija offensive

Numerous militia groups, most notably Hezbollah Brigades Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr, Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Imam Ali, al-Khorasani, and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, are accused of being behind the mass killings. These militias were brought under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in June 2014 and officially designated as part of the Iraqi armed forces in February 2016, but even before that they had enjoyed government support and backing. 

“PMU militias have been responsible for a pattern of cases of enforced disappearance, abductions, torture and unlawful killings of captured and detained individuals in a climate of impunity,” the report said, adding that “Iraqi government forces have also directly committed violations including arbitrary detention, torture, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances.”

The number of victims is estimated at more than 22,000 from the cities of northern and western Iraq. Amnesty did not provide a total but said that “tens of thousands have been forcibly displaced.” 

The report claimed that ISIS atrocities, armed conflict and insecurity led to the displacement of some 4.2 million civilians. Many fled with little more than the clothes on their backs, setting off at night to avoid detection and walking for hours.

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