BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraq’s security forces face a rising chorus of criticism that, with violence at the highest level in years, their heavy-handed tactics and alleged abuses do more harm than good.
Human rights groups, analysts, diplomats and lawmakers have become increasingly vocal over a litany of alleged abuses including mass arrests, prolonged periods of detention without trial, the closure of some neighbourhoods, and detainee abuse.
They say that, far from reining in Iraq’s worst violence since 2008, the tactics are radicalising moderate Sunnis and distancing them from a government that the minority community alleges disproportionately targets them.
“It’s impossible to ignore the connection between the abuses the security forces are carrying out and the really significant increase in violence,” said Erin Evers, Iraq researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, adding that a culture of impunity for both militants and security forces is exacerbating the situation.
Iraq is grappling with its worst protracted period of bloodshed since it emerged from the brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that peaked in 2006-07 and left tens of thousands dead.
More than 6,750 people have been killed this year, according to an AFP tally.
The Shiite-led authorities and security forces have for months trumpeted massive operations targeting militants, which they say have led to the killing and capture of insurgents and the dismantling of training camps and bomb-making sites, insisting that they are making progress in combating violence.
But they have faced criticism for focusing on the security aspect of the problem and not doing more to address the underlying frustration in the disaffected Sunni community, members of which allege not only mistreatment at the hands of the security forces but also difficulty accessing government jobs and investment.
In particular, Sunnis say they are targeted by the army and police for mass warrantless arrests, long periods of detention, and physical abuse while they are being held.
“It’s a big problem,” Munjid al-Rezali, who heads Iraq’s Medical Legal Institute (MLI), said of torture in prison.