Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Amnesty International accuses Australia of ‘war crimes’ in fight against Islamic State, The New Daily, 12 July, 2017.

9:42pm, Jul 12, 2017 Updated: 4h ago

Amnesty International accuses Australia of ‘war crimes’ in fight against Islamic State

Amnesty report says Australia, as part of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State, has committed war crimes in Iraq. Photo: Getty
John Stapleton

Australia has committed war crimes in Iraq as the second-largest contributor to the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State, according to an Amnesty International report.

While Iraq and the United States have claimed victory over IS in Mosul, thousands of bodies still lie in the pulverised ruins.

Almost one million people have fled. The Iraqi Army has lost up to 40 per cent of its attack force. Estimates of the number of civilians killed range over 13,000. The exact number will never be known.

Amnesty International spokesperson Diana Sayed told The New Daily the 225kg bombs dropped into the crowded streets of Mosul had a shock radius of 230 metres and resulted in needless casualties.

“Pro-government forces, including Australia, failed to take feasible precautions to protect civilians during the battle for west Mosul – through launching barrages of indiscriminate, disproportionate and otherwise unlawful attacks, and failing to provide adequate warnings prior to bombardments. The realities of living under the Islamic State often meant people were trapped and unable to leave their homes,” she said.

“Australia and its allies in Iraq should publicly acknowledge the massive loss of lives during the Mosul operation.”

The report, titled ‘At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq’, said Iraqi and US forces did not meet humanitarian law requirements.

“Iraqi government and US-led coalition forces failed to adequately adapt their tactics to these challenges – as required by international humanitarian law – with disastrous consequences for civilians. Pro-government forces relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects. These weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped.”

If military planners were unaware of the likely civilian toll, it quickly became evident.

“It was pro-government soldiers who assisted in countless front-line rescues, digging bodies out of collapsed buildings, separating the injured from the dead and arranging the transport of thousands to medical facilities,” the report said.

High Commissioner for the United Nations Human Rights Office, Zeid Al Hussein, said he urged the coalition to comply with humanitarian laws.

“I repeatedly called on coalition partners to ensure that military operations complied with international humanitarian law,” he said in a statement this week.

“Airstrikes were a significant factor in causing civilian casualties.”

An Iraqi woman and children flee the Old City of Mosul on July 3 as Iraqi-forces closed in on Islamic State fighters. Photo: Getty

The Amnesty International report came in the days after Human Rights Watch argued there had been major breaches of international law in its ‘Civilian Casualties Mount in West Mosul: Coalition’ report.

The group has also reported on mass graves in government-controlled areas, indicating war crimes.

A spokeswoman for the group Belkis Wille told The New Daily: “All of the families I speak to have a story about neighbours, loved ones or friends being killed in airstrikes. The people coming out of west Mosul are the most traumatised I have ever interviewed.”

Experts warn that Islamic State, far from being defeated, have created a major jihad spectacle which will drive recruitment.

Security expert Professor Clinton Fernandes told The New Daily: “While the public is generally unaware of most US military operations, since the media has largely been scrubbed clean of this kind of coverage, radical groups rely on satellite TV and the internet to get a different message out.”

Terror expert Dr Clarke Jones told The New Daily the deaths of so many civilians could drive extremism.

“Here is another case where the West has stepped in and caused the death of innocents. There are a lot of angry people. They see this injustice and want to take action,” he said.

Defence Minister Marise Payne was unavailable for comment.

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