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Hundreds of Iraqis 'forcibly disappeared' by Kurdish forces, says HRW

The whereabouts and status of more than 350 prisoners held by KRG is unknown [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 December, 2017

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Kurdish police and soldiers have been accused by Human Rights Watch of the enforced disappearance of at least 350 Iraqis, suspected of being linked to the Islamic State group.
Kurdish forces have been accused of "forcibly disappearing" hundreds of detainees in Iraq after they were arrested on suspicion of being linked to the Islamic State group.
Human Rights Watch said the whereabouts and status of more than 350 prisoners held by the Kurdistan Regional Government is unknown.

"Families in Kirkuk are desperate to know what has become of their detained relatives," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"The secret, incommunicado detentions raise grave concerns for their safety."

Most of those missing are Sunni Arabs detained by the Kurdish Asayish security agency on suspicion of IS "affiliation" after Kirkuk was taken from the militant group in 2014, HRW said.

It added the disappearance of the detainees came to light after Iraqi government forces retook Kirkuk from the Kurds in October following a military offensive from Baghdad after a controversial independence referendum.

Local officials told Human Rights Watch the prisoners were no longer in the official and unofficial detention facilities in and around Kirkuk, the US-based rights group said. 

When forces whisk away hundreds of people without explanation, it's no wonder that their families have serious concerns for their safety

The fate of those missing has already sparked protests from anxious relatives and drawn the attention of the authorities in Baghdad. 

In November, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an investigation after dozens of complaints from Arab families about relatives they say have not been heard from since their arrest by Kurdish forces.

In 27 cases Human Rights Watch has heard about through witness interviews, relatives said they had asked local Asayish or police forces about their relatives but did not receive an official acknowledgement of the detention or information about where their relative was being held or why.

HRW urged authorities to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances by Asayish or Peshmerga forces.

"When forces whisk away hundreds of people without explanation, it's no wonder that their families have serious concerns for their safety," Fakih said. "It is the Kurdistan Regional Government's responsibility to immediately provide information on their relatives' fate or whereabouts, and to end the practice of disappearances."

Agencies contributed to this report

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