In response to a Human Rights Watch report, the Prime Minister's Media Office states: The organization relied on unverified testimony, and its report includes fallacies and incites sectarianism

The report titled ‘Ruinous Aftermath: Militia Abuses Following Iraq’s Recapture of Tikrit’ focuses on the withdrawal Daesh and acquits it of acts of destruction and sabotage, murder and pillage that it has pursued in areas under their control. HRW has relied on unverified video recordings and telephone calls reporting acts of robbery, looting and destruction, and recorded them as local eyewitness testimony, and questioned without justification the numbers of victims of the Speicher massacre, which Daesh admitted that it had committed. We recall here that the Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi had issued strict orders on 03/04/2015 to the military and security forces to address the cases of sabotage carried out by gangs who want to distort the victories achieved by the Iraqi army and popular mobilisation and called for troops stationed in Tikrit to capture of every person who commits such acts, and the preservation of property and facilities in Salahudin province, and the restoration of services and inhabitants to their homes, and hand over responsibility for the cities to the local police.
The Prime Minister ordered the withdrawal of the popular mobilisation from Tikrit the instant it was liberated, and security of the city was handed over to the local police, and there were undisciplined elements, some of whom were arrested.

The truth omitted from the report deliberately, is that the Daesh terrorist organisation was still booby-trapping houses before withdrawing from them to inflict casualties among the ranks of the Iraqi forces seeking to liberate cities, and Iraqi forces gave dozens of casualties as it entered booby-trapped houses or during its dismantling of explosives placed around and inside the homes of citizens.

What is regrettable is that the report focused, and without any reservation, on the sectarian dimension, although the operation to liberate Tikrit was successful and with the participation of the sons of the city of Tikrit and its clans who volunteered alongside fellow fighters from the rest of the components of the Iraqi people.

It is worth mentioning that the city of Tikrit was abandoned by its inhabitants after being captured Daesh, and when it was liberated and entered by the Iraqi forces, there were no civilians at all, who only returned to it after its liberation.

The measures taken by the Iraqi government to protect civilians led to the return of 80% of Tikrit residents as well as residents of other areas in Salahudin, including al-Dawr which most of its population had returned, and Al-Alam whose population returned gradually, which means that the citizens in these liberated areas trust the security forces there, and feel more secure there than they are in the areas that they were displaced to.

What is surprising is that the organization admits it did not visit the city of Tikrit and the alleged witnesses who they relied on had left the city to the northern areas of Iraq when Daesh entered it, meaning they did not see the alleged destruction of houses, and despite all this the organization relied on their testimony and built its report on these testimonies that should not be relied upon given the fact that the persons mentioned were far from locations of the events in the liberated areas of Tikrit. The Iraqi government had permitted for all international media to enter Tikrit, and the organization or its representatives could have sent people to see the facts and events on the to come out with a fair and accurate report fair.

With our appreciation for the intentions of the organization and its efforts in the defence of human rights, we look forward to its reporting being more accurate and based on real evidence, and we call on them to cooperate with the official Iraqi authorities to provide them with the verified evidence and information and statistics they hold.

Iraq is locked in a fierce war with terrorist gangs who do not respect the sanctity of a child or an elderly person or a woman or a non-combatant, and kill innocent citizens in a wholesale manner, and certainly there are acts of revenge and reactions by some victims, however the government and security forces, in spite of the battle and the devastating war conditions, are committed to respect of human rights and the protection of civilians and to hold the negligent accountable.

We reiterate the position of the Iraqi government strongly rejecting any violation of human rights, and its seriousness in holding offenders to account and bring them to justice, and that the government is committed to achieving justice and protecting the lives and property of citizens, and to prosecute offenders who kill innocent people and destroy property regardless of their affiliation and faith.

Prime Minister’s Media Office
Monday 22 September 2015