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
0

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.


China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

Updated 36 sec ago
0

China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

  • Xi says Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption”
  • High costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap”
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping has promised to set high standards for China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative, seeking to dispel complaints the many billion dollars in projects leave developing countries with too much debt.
Xi avoided mentioning debt complaints in a speech opening a forum attended by leaders from some three dozen countries to celebrate his signature foreign initiative. But he said Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption.”
Developing countries welcome the initiative to expand trade by building roads, ports and other facilities across Asia and Africa to Europe. But high costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap.”
The United States, Russia, Japan and India also worry Beijing is trying to build a trade and political network centered on China and expand its strategic influence at their expense.
Xi’s government is trying to revive the initiative’s momentum after the number of new projects plunged last year. That came after Chinese officials said state-owned banks would step up scrutiny of borrowers and some governments complained projects do too little for their economies and might give Beijing too much political sway.
Countries including Malaysia and Thailand have canceled or scaled back projects while Ethiopia and others have renegotiated debt repayment.
Xi noted China’s finance ministry on Thursday issued guidelines for assessing debt risks for borrowers. The ministry said those “debt sustainability guidelines” are based on the standards of the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions.
The president tried to allay complaints about lack of economic benefits and political influence, saying Belt and Road is “not an exclusive club” and promotes “common development and prosperity.”
“We need to pursue open, green and clean cooperation,” Xi said. “Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption.”
His audience at a Beijing conference center included Prime Ministers Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Lee Hsien-Loong of Singapore and Adiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and leaders or envoys from Greece, Serbia and Malaysia.
Xi said Beijing also wants to expand the scope of its initiative by encouraging cooperation among Belt and Road countries on health, water resources, agriculture and science and technology. He promised to fund scholarships for students from Belt and Road countries.