Amnesty says Kurds conducting campaign to uproot Arabs in north Iraq


Kurdish forces have bulldozed, blown up and burned down thousands of Arab homes across northern Iraq in what may constitute a war crime, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a report published on Wednesday.

In the report, Amnesty said it found evidence of a "concerted campaign" by the Kurds to uproot Arab communities in revenge for their perceived support of Islamic State, which overran around one third of the country in the summer of 2014. Kurdish peshmerga forces have since driven the insurgents back in the north with the help of airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition, expanding their control to include ethnically mixed territories they claim as their own.

"KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) forces appear to be spearheading a concerted campaign to forcibly displace Arab communities by destroying entire villages in areas they have recaptured from IS in northern Iraq," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response advisor.

"The forced displacement of civilians and the deliberate destruction of homes and property without military justification, may amount to war crimes."

The report, based on field investigation in 13 villages and towns and testimony gathered from more than 100 witnesses, also includes satellite imagery showing large-scale destruction of homes in Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces. Arab residents who fled their homes are also barred by Kurdish forces from returning to recaptured areas, Amnesty said.

KRG officials have previously denied similar charges of forced displacement and destruction, invoking the threat of re-infiltration by Islamic State and the danger of homemade bombs and booby-traps left behind by the militants.

Amnesty urged the coalition to ensure that any assistance provided to the KRG was not fuelling abuses, which it described as an attempt to reverse the Arabisation campaign conducted under former dictator Saddam Hussein, when thousands of Kurds were uprooted.

"KRG forces have a duty to bring to justice in fair trials individuals who are suspected of having aided and abetted IS crimes," Rovera said. "But they must not punish entire communities for crimes perpetrated by some of their members or based on vague, discriminatory and unsubstantiated suspicions that they support IS."    (Reuters)

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