Amnesty chides weapons suppliers for surge in war crimes by Iraq militias

Members of Peace Brigades, a Shiite militia group loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, heading to Tikrit, where Iraqi troops backed by Shiite fighters and Iranian advisers are fighting extremists, drive off Baghdad, in this March 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Updated 06 January 2017

Amnesty chides weapons suppliers for surge in war crimes by Iraq militias

LONDON: Pro-government Iraqi paramilitaries accused of war crimes are using arms from at least 16 countries, including the US and Iran, according to an Amnesty International report released on Thursday.
The predominantly Shia militias were formed in 2014 to support the Iraqi government in its fight against the Daesh group and have since committed war crimes, Amnesty said.
The Sunni Arab community has been targeted by paramilitaries, which have acted with total impunity in carrying out extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances, among other crimes.
“International arms suppliers, including the USA, European countries, Russia and Iran, must wake up to the fact that all arms transfers to Iraq carry a real risk of ending up in the hands of militia groups with long histories of human rights violations,” said Patrick Wilcken, an arms control researcher at Amnesty.
The London-based rights group used field research and analysis of photo and video evidence since June 2014 to document the arms used by the paramilitaries, which Amnesty said were manufactured in at least 16 countries.
Tanks, machine guns and sniper rifles were among more than 100 types of arms used by the groups according to Amnesty.
Weaponry has been supplied by Iraqi state institutions or with the authorities’ approval, while militia members have also purchased weapons on the private market including online sales.
Iran was named as a major military sponsor of militias which are accused of serious human rights violations.
Despite the paramilitaries formally becoming part of the Iraqi military last year, Amnesty said its request to the defense ministry for details of accountability mechanisms went unanswered.
“Instead of unequivocally hailing militias as heroes fighting to put an end to Daesh (Islamic State) atrocities, thereby emboldening them, the Iraqi authorities must stop turning a blind eye to systematic abuses that have fed sectarian tensions,” said Wilcken.
Amnesty also called on countries selling arms to Iraq to put measures in place to ensure the weapons are not used by militias guilty of abuses.

Meet the woman who reunites Syrian pets with their refugee owners

Updated 53 min 42 sec ago

Meet the woman who reunites Syrian pets with their refugee owners

  • The woman has helped transport 400 cats and 15 dogs into Europe
  • The foundation was featured in a Netflix documentary called Dogs

A Syrian refugee in the Netherlands has revealed how she is helping reunite stranded pets in war-torn Syria with their owners abroad, London daily The Metro said Sunday.

Animals Syria is a non-profit foundation that helps save the lives of pets in Syria and reunites them with their owners overseas, and is run by Rawaa Kilani and her friend Irma.

Kilani said before she fled Syria in 2016, she found an injured cat, that she named Lucy, and nursed back to health.

After fleeing to the Netherlands, she was approached by a woman named Irma, who had an unusual request which inevitably led to the creation of the foundation, Animals Syria.

Irma said she wanted to adopt a paralyzed animal, and asked Kilani to let her take Lucy.

Since then, Kilani and Irma have enabled the transportation of 400 cats and 15 dogs to Europe, and another 44 dogs to the US. Animals Syria also rescued some birds, foxes, a monkey and even a donkey.

Kilani said people who are fleeing Syria are usually unable to take their pets with them, because most of them are escaping the war on boats. So, they entrust their loved ones with their pets or leave them at foster homes.

After the owners settle in their new asylums, Animals Syria helps reunite owners with their pets by organizing the medical procedures and documents required for the transportation. Kilani says the process of vaccinating, micro-chipping and preparing the paperwork might sometimes require up to four months.

Most of the work of the foundation is done by Kilani and Bashir, who is based in Syria. Two volunteers help Syria Animals by feeding strays in Syria and two of her friends provide foster homes while the trips are arranged.

The foundation even starred in a Netflix documentary, Dogs, showing how they helped a dog, Zeus, reunite with his owner in Germany.

Kilani’s foundation focuses on disabled animals now, as they have lower chances of surviving in Syria.

When they just started, most of the expenses were covered by Kilani and Irma. Now, the foundation relies on donations, which are usually small and insufficient.

Animals Syria have a Facebook page, where they post stories of rescued animals and offer links for donations.