The medical worker said the police came for Zeidan shortly after he told the Diyala governor, Amer al-Mujamaii, from his hospital bed that prison guards and Shia militiamen carried out the attack. When the police returned Zeidan, the medical worker said, he was dead. The medical worker said he saw bullet wounds in Zeidan’s stomach and legs, which had not been there before he had been taken away from the hospital.
On the morning of June 17, pro-government Shia militiamen killed at least 43 male prisoners inside an army base in the village of Jumarkhe, also in Diyala. At least three were boys, said a man who saw the bodies and a soldier from the base. All were Sunnis whom Iraqi forces had rounded up a week to 10 days earlier from Jumarkhe and surrounding villages, and all had been burned to death or shot, they said.
In Rawa, on June 21, soldiers from the al-Jazeera and Badiyya operations command, which oversees the Iraqi government’s military operations in Anbar province, killed 25 prisoners and injured three others whom they were holding in their military base, according to a Rawa resident who found the bodies in the prison a short while later and spoke to the three survivors. The survivors told him police killed the prisoners, he said, and two were boys ages 12 and 16.
Two days later, on June 23, 69 prisoners were killed in Hilla, according to figures police sources gave to Reuters. Hilla’s governor told Reuters that the prisoners were killed as police were transporting them from a prison in Hilla to another prison in Baghdad when armed opposition militants attacked the convoy. But police sources told Reuters that police extrajudicially executed the men in their Hilla prison cells.
Human Rights Watch spoke to 16 residents, two local human rights activists and 10 local government officials. Those with knowledge of each episode said that militia from the Badr brigade, headed by Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, were involved in the attacks on the prisoners in Tal Afar and Jumarkhe, and that Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, a powerful pro-government Shia militia active in Baghdad, areas around the capitol, and Diyala, also carried out the killings in Jumarkhe and facilitated the police in the prisoner killings in Baaquba.
An international inquiry into violations of the laws of war and international human rights law by all sides in the Iraq conflict investigation should include examining whether security forces, working with pro-government militias, have pre-emptively killed prisoners. The United States and other countries engaged in Iraq should halt military assistance to the Maliki government until it takes concrete steps to halt crimes like killing prisoners, Human Rights Watch said.
Maliki also needs to remove and prosecute all commanders involved in these slaughters, Human Rights Watch said. Killing prisoners, even those who were combatants, is a war crime.
“In each case that Human Rights Watch investigated, the accounts we heard point directly to Iraqi security forces and pro-government militia slaughtering captive men in large numbers as ISIS and allied fighters were poised to seize the area,” Stork said. “This isn’t one rogue commander on the loose – this seems to be a widespread campaign of killing Sunni prisoners in cold blood.”