A video posted on the internet on Wednesday showed Iraqi soldiers shooting to death at close range a captured child suspected to have fought with militants in the Diyala Province.
The director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, Mustafa Saadoun, in an interview with Al Hadath News Channel, condemned “the barbaric treatment” of the child, believed to be 11-years old.
“The child took part in operations against the Iraqi army and against civilians, but this does not justify his execution in this way,” Saadoun said.
“All international and Iraqi laws do not give the right to anyone to kill a minor person,” he said.
“He should have been arrested and put on trial in a legal manner and be treated with rehabilitation not torture.”
In its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Iraqi military is heavily dependent on Shiite militias that have been accused of abusing Sunni communities.
Hours after an offensive began to retake Tikrit from ISIS this week, the U.N. special envoy in Iraq appealed to warring groups to avoid attacking civilians.
“Military operations reinforced by international and Iraqi air support must be conducted with the utmost care to avoid civilian casualties, and with full respect for fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.
But Rights groups expressed concern that civilians were at great risk in the sweeping military operation, in which some 30,000 security forces, volunteers, Shiite militia and Sunni tribal fighters were taking part.
“Shiite paramilitary militias have often carried out reprisal sectarian attacks against Sunni civilians who are not involved in the hostilities,” said Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera.
“We are concerned about the possible recurrence and increase of such attacks in the ongoing operations,” she told AFP.
At the close of Baghdad's previous major operation, which led to ISIS being forced out of Diyala province, Shiite fighters allegedly executed at least 70 Sunni villagers.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has ordered an investigation into the massacres, said as he announced the Tikrit operation that residents should turn against ISIS, which has controlled the city since June last year.
In a speech to parliament, he also said that “in this battle, there is no neutral party,” arguing that any Iraqi choosing neutrality was de facto siding with ISIS.
“Abadi's statement that there can be no neutrality is worrying,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“Any person who is not participating in hostilities directly must be regarded as a civilian, and protected against deliberate or indiscriminate attack,” he told AFP.
“Civilians were left unprotected by Iraqi government forces when IS took over towns and villages last year,” said Rovera, referring to the collapse of the armed forces that saw ISIS take over nearly a third of the country last year.
“They must not now be penalized for the failings and inadequacies of the armed forces which have been unable or unwilling to protect them until now,” she said.
Abadi has urged his forces to treat civilians with the “utmost care” but there are no mechanisms ensuring that the wide array of forces fighting against IS are accountable.
[With AFP]SHOW MORE