Government Condones Shiite Militia Crimes
“I prefer to describe these fighters as volunteers, rather than militias,” Mohammed Mahdi al-Bayati, Iraq’s new human rights minister, told the Daily Telegraph.
“They are not necessarily well-trained, and yes, they will make mistakes, but the number of mistakes they have made is limited.
“Besides, if they are not used, then ISIL will control the whole of Iraq.”
According the human rights minister, the Shiite-dominated government uses “sectarian” fighters as a last resort to keep the capital safe.
Several rights group have repeatedly accused the government-sponsored Shiite militias of killing and abducting hundreds of Iraqi Sunnis civilians in retaliation for the attacks by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL).
Four Shiite militia groups have been named by Amnesty International rights watchdog to be involved in abducting and killing Sunnis including ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hizbullah.
Dismissing rights groups’ reports, the 52-year-old ethnic Turkmen minister insists that state-sponsored Shiite fighters have been involved in “very limited” crimes against Sunnis.
Dubbed as “volunteers”, the minister has also cited the crucial role by Shiite militias in ending the two-month siege of Amerli city, a Turkmen enclave in northern Iraq that was surrounded by ISIL.
Amid an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity, Sunni leaders have warned of ethnic cleansing by driving out thousands of Sunnis families from disputed cities.
More than 70,000 Sunni civilians were expelled from Babil’s Jurf al-Sakhar town after the Iraqi government reclaimed the town in late October.
In a battle led by newly appointed interior minister, Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, the Sunni-majority town has been turned into a wasteland of demolished homes and burned fields.
The human rights minister’s pro-Shiites militia remarks came as the Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi appealed for the US to intensify air strikes against ISIL targets.
“Our forces are very much advancing on the ground. But they need more air power and more … heavy weaponry. We need that,” Abadi told US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, The Advertiser reported.
Away from the crimes by the Shiite militia, the human rights minster showed support for the death penalty, saying that it is being used as a “deterrent” against joining ISIL.
“We are not the only country that has the death penalty, and if a terrorist confesses to killing 50 people, what should we do?” Al- Bayati said.
“If they hear the news that we have stopped the death penalty the whole world will come to Iraq to fight.”
The number of death sentences has dramatically increased in the oil-rich country where at least 60 were hanged by the end of last August as 1,724 remain on death row.
The number is striking compared to only 177 people executed last year.
An earlier report by the Amnesty has found an evidence of torture, ill-treatment and even deaths of Sunni detainees under the 2005 anti-terrorism law.
Titled “Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq”, the report detailed Shiite militias atrocities against Sunnis in Iraq until October, saying that more than 170 Sunnis have been abducted and killed around Baghdad.
About 65% of Iraqis are Shiites Muslims, while between 32-37% are Sunnis, and less than 1% are Christians, according to CIA Factbook.
Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups; Arabs make about 80% of the population, between 15-20% are Kurds, while 5 % are Turkomans and Assyrians.
Refuting any intention to pardon people on death row, the Shiite minister said: “How about an amnesty for all those already put in their graves by terrorists?
“There are thousands of orphans, and many MPs and officials killed.
“These people should have a day in court too.”