Dozens of Iraqi men and boys have been forcibly disappeared by Iraqi security forces since 2014, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In a report published on Thursday, the rights group said 74 mostly Sunni Arab men and four boys had been disappeared between April 2014 and October 2017, often in the context of counterterrorism operations.
Since 2014, pro-government forces have carried out operations to find fighters and supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
The cases are part of a wider continuing trend according to HRW, which says it continues to receive reports of disappearances across Iraq.
“Families across Iraq whose fathers, husbands, and sons disappeared after Iraqi forces detained them are desperate to find their loved ones,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
“Despite years of searching, and requests to Iraqi authorities, the government has provided no answers about where they are or if they are even still alive.”
Iraqi officials did not respond to inquiries from families and HRW about the disappeared.
The International Commission on Missing Persons estimates that the number of missing people in Iraq ranges from 250,000 to one million people.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Iraq has the highest number of missing people in the world.
HRW says the enforced disappearances were carried out by a range of military and security entities, but the highest number, 36, were by groups within the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), units under the prime minister’s command, at checkpoints across Iraq.
In the report, HRW urged Iraqi authorities to establish an independent commission of inquiry. Countries such as the US, UK, Germany and France that have been providing military, security and intelligence assistance to Iraq should suspend their cooperation until the government adopts measures to end the human rights violations, HRW noted.
“The US-led coalition and other countries have spent billions of dollars on Iraq’s military and security entities,” Fakih said.
“These countries have a responsibility to insist that the Iraqi government should call a halt to disappearances and provide support to the victims’ families.”