Reports have filtered out of regular and irregular forces abusing and summarily executed civilians under suspicion of links to Islamic State
Human rights groups have warned against escalating civilians deaths as a result of Iraqi forces' assault on the city of Mosul, the last stronghold of the Islamic State group in the country.
The UN said on Thursday it was investigating reports that 50-80 people had died in an air strike on the Zanjili district of Mosul on 31 May. It did not say who carried out the strike.
“Thousands of families are trapped by ISIS in west Mosul, with its fighters preventing civilians from fleeing to safety,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“Iraqi and coalition forces should recognise that in the crowded Old City, using explosive weapons with wide area effects puts civilians at excessive risk.”
The warnings come on the heels of reports indicating that the Iraqi army had carried out summary executions and tortured civilians.
According to HRW, at least 26 bodies of blindfolded and handcuffed men were found in government-held areas in and around Mosul which, according to local armed forces, were largely killed by government security forces.
They also reported that the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) had been blamed for killing 25 men and dumping their bodies in the Tigris.
There have been numerous reports of armed forces, including the PMUs, imprisoning civilians in formal and informal detention centres and torturing or killing them under suspicion of affiliation to IS.
“The bodies of bound and blindfolded men are being found one after the other in and around Mosul and in the Tigris River, raising serious concerns about extrajudicial killings by government forces,” said Fakih, of HRW.
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“The lack of any apparent government action to investigate these deaths undermines the government’s statements on protecting detainee rights.”
The Iraqi government has, however, promised to investigate reports in the German magazine Der Spiegel which documented abuse of prisoners by Iraqi forces.
An interior ministry statement in late May said that it would take legal action against anyone proven to have been "negligent" after photos showing detainees suspended from ceilings and others claiming they were tortured and raped were released in the magazine.
Ali Arkady, who took the photos for the magazine, said he had seen detainees "tortured to death" and said a male Sunni pro-government fighter was raped by Shia personnel belonging to the Emergency Response Division (ERD).
The group has denied the accusations, calling the photos a "fabrication".