A human rights organisation has accused Yazidi fighters in Iraq of forcibly kidnapping and killing 52 civilians from the Imteywit tribe earlier this year.
Human Rights Watch(HRW), a US-based rights group, said in a report on Wednesday that Yazidi forces detained and executed men, women and children from eight different families the Imteywit tribe in June.
According to HRW report, several senior Yazidis have alleged that the tribe participated with ISIL in the executions and abuse of Yezidi men and women back in 2014.
“As the ground fighting against ISIS winds down in Iraq, state security forces need to turn their focus to preventing retaliation and upholding the rule of law,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, in a statement.
“Past atrocities against the Yazidis don’t give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past.”
According to the victims’ relatives, the abuses took place when families were fleeing clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group fighters and Iraq’s Shia-dominated paramilitaries, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) west of Mosul.
A member of the PMF’s intelligence services told HRW that he saw mass graves that local Yazidi residents claim contained the bodies of the victims.
According to members of Imteywit tribe, the disappearance happened as they were being transported out of the desert in a convoy of about 70 cars driving towards Tel Afar after PMF forces captured the area from ISIL group fighters.
The vehicles carrying the two men and their relatives – consisting of 52 members – broke off from the rest of the convoy, which was thought to have been ambushed by Yazidi fighters.
They never reached their destination in Qabusiye village with the rest of the community, and their relatives say they have since not been able to find out anything else.
The relatives provided HRW with a list of five suspects who they believe were responsible for the killings.
At the start of this year, Yazidi fighters formed several brigades that were later incorporated under the PMF umbrella.
The PMF is largely outside government control, yet the Iraqi parliament formally recognised it as a state-affiliated institution when its own forces became depleted in the fight against ISIL.
A PMF member told HRW that he investigated allegations in Sinjar province. With the help of local Yezidis, he was able to locate a cluster of four mass graves in Qabusiye.
According to the report, he saw the bones and skulls of at least four children as well as women and children’s shoes near the graves.
Shortly after the disappearance, a legal advisor to a Yazidi brigade told HRW that Yezidi forces were involved in the capture of 52 people. According to the report, he also said that members of the tribe were “dogs who deserve to die”.
Members of the tribe denied these allegations and said that the Yazidis were blaming them for crimes committed by ISIL.
HRW says an Iraqi official has pledged to investigate the crime, but they say no one has been held responsible yet.
“Allowing the many armed forces involved in Iraq’s civil war to retaliate against any group they think was complicit with ISIS would shatter the rule of law,” Fakih said.
“Baghdad needs to assert its authority over the criminal justice process and end armed group vigilantes.”
The rights group urged the Iraqi criminal justice authorities to investigate alleged criminal offences “by all parties to the conflict in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner.”