After declaring victory in Mosul, Iraqi authorities have forcibly relocated hundreds of families of alleged Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists to a "rehabilitation camp", which New York-based Human Rights Watch has termed as "an act of collective punishment".
Human Rights Watch report stated that "At least 170 families of suspected ISIS fighters, mainly women and children, were relocated against their will to a closed rehabilitation camp in Bartalla, 14 kilometers east of Mosul."
The organization considers the forced relocations of ISIS' families as "abusive acts" amounting to "war crimes."
Calling on Iraqi authorities to stop abusive actions against entire families, Russia today quoted the Middle East director at HRW, Lama Fakih as saying , "Iraqi authorities shouldn't punish entire families because of their relatives' actions and these abusive acts are war crimes and are sabotaging efforts to promote reconciliation in areas retaken from ISIS."
The first so-called "rehabilitation camp" was reportedly established on Sunday to give the families "psychological and ideological rehabilitation," according to HRW.
Hundreds of families also faced forced relocations and arbitrary detentions in Anbar, Babil, Diyala, Salah al-Din, and Nineveh governorates, while Iraqi authorities "have done little to stop these abuses, and in some instances participated in them," according to HRW.
Belkis Wille, a senior Iraq and Qatar researcher for HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, told that she visited the camp, describing it as "incredibly bleak."
"[There are] almost no humanitarian services, and hundreds of families of women, kids, who have no understanding of how long they're going to be there and why they're essentially being held prisoner," Wille said.
Mosul was declared liberated from the terrorists less than a week ago. Iraqi and US-led forces have faced severe criticism from human rights organizations and the international community for the eight-month-long operation to retake the city, as it caused civilian casualties and massive displacement.
Wille said that although "ultimately the obligation to put a stop to this and to free these families lies with the Iraqi government," the US-led coalition has "a significant level of obligation to make sure this operation is conducted in line with international law."
Amnesty International also issued a damning report slamming the US-led coalition in Mosul for misplaced and excessive airstrikes and wants it to publicly admit its failure to protect civilians.
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