The fighting in Iraq took a disturbing turn Friday as both sides were accused of committing war crimes by human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch discovered evidence that ISIS fighters executed between 160 and 190 people and dumped the bodies in two mass graves near Tikrit, Iraq, the former hometown of Saddam Hussein. "The analysis suggests that ISIS killed between 160 and 190 men in at least two locations between June 11 and 14," according to Human Rights Watch's report. "The number of victims may well be much higher, but the difficulty of locating bodies and accessing the area has prevented a full investigation." Human Rights Watch was able to confirm the existence of the sites using satellite imagery and publicly available photos released by ISIS. The groups believes a third mass grave exists, but has so far been unable to verify that claim. "The photographs show one group of men lying in one trench and a second group of men lying on top of the first. A third group of men is seen lying in a second trench," the group said. But the terrorists aren't the only ones accused of wrongdoing in Iraq.
Amnesty International released a report Friday accusing government forces of "extrajudicial executions" of scores of Sunni detainees during fighting in the northern part of the county. "Reports of multiple incidents where Sunni detainees have been killed in cold blood while in the custody of Iraqi forces are deeply alarming," said Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who is currently in northern Iraq. "The killings suggest a worrying pattern of reprisal attacks against Sunnis in retaliation for ISIS gains." Rovera was very clear about what the alleged killings mean for the Iraqi government:
Even in the midst of war there are rules that must never be transgressed. Killing prisoners is a war crime. The government must immediately order an impartial and independent investigation into the killings, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
The U.S. has so far refused to directly enter the fight, despite pleas for air support from the Iraqi government. But that does not mean the U.S. does not recognize the escalating situation for what it is. In response to the continued fighting, the U.S. military has started flying armed drones over Baghdad, ready to protect U.S. personnel should ISIS fighters threaten the city.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.