Shiite militias in Iraq have been accused of torturing Sunni civilians as they advance on the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) held city of Fallujah, reported the BBC.
Sheikh Raja al-Issawi, from the Anbar provincial council, said that hundreds of civilians had been captured by government-aligned paramilitary forces during fighting for Fallujah suburb of Saqlawiya.
He said the Shiite Popular Mobilization militia detained 605 civilians and took them to the al-Mazraa army base, east of Fallujah on Sunday night. Those released said they were tortured and accused of being members of the Islamic State.
“They’ve intended to kill us” one man reportedly said. “They accused us of being Daesh [ISIS]. I have nothing to do with Daesh,”
Another man said, “They beat me with a shovel and a baton on my head. They threatened to kill anyone who asked for water.”
Sheikh Issawi and others have called on Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi to investigate the alleged abuses. On Sunday he established a human rights committee to look into “any violation to the instructions on the protection of civilians.”
Yet, with Shiite militias doing much of the fighting on the ground, it seems unlikely that the Iraqi government will be able to reign in sectarian atrocities. Sunni and Shiite militias have been responsible for murder, torture and other human rights abuses for a long time prior to the creation of the Islamic State. In 2014, Hezbollah was reported as shooting and torturing Sunni civilians in Iraq.
As the Iraqi army and its allied Shiite militias roll back the Islamic State, more abuses are likely. Iran has poured money into supporting Shiite militias in order to bring Iraq more completely into its sphere of influence. According to one 2015 report, Iran funds as many as 100 Shiite militia groups.
Looting, property destruction and Sunni men of fighting age mysteriously disappearing after Shiite militia victories have been detailed in a report by Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International charted Shiite militias in Baghdad kidnapping and murdering Sunni men in a report titled “Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq.”
Such massacres and torture, apart from being morally repugnant, will only serve to increase support for the Islamic State among the Sunni population of Iraq. Faced with a choice of either living under the Islamic State, however oppressive such a life would be, or being tortured to death by a Shiite militia, most people will choose life.