Hashid Shaabi, an umbrella organisation of Shia militia groups, on Thursday denied Amnesty International’s report saying the militias have committed war crimes using weapons provided to the Iraqi military by the United States, Europe, Russia and Iran.
The rights group said that the Shia Muslim militias were using weapons from Iraqi military stockpiles to commit war crimes including enforced disappearances, torture and summary killings.
Its report focused on four powerful militia groups, most of which receive backing from Iran: the Badr Organisation, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah and Saraya al-Salam.
“It is very clear in this report that it is purposefully slandering an official government institution, which has in fact spearheaded the fight against terrorism and liberated the cities and neutralized the terrorist groups,” said al-Assadi.
Hashid Shaabi, also known as Popular Mobilization forces (PMF), is a predominantly Shia militia group backed by Iran which has fought alongside Iraqi troops against Islamic State (IS).
Parliament voted for the Hashid to formally become part of Iraq’s armed forces in November but the session was boycotted by Sunni Muslim representatives, who worry the move will entrench Shia majority rule as well as Iran’s regional influence.
Iraqi and Western officials have expressed serious concern about the government’s ability to bring the Shia militias under greater control.
Amnesty International said states wishing to sell arms to Iraq should ensure strict measures to ensure weapons will not be used by militias to violate human rights.
The Hashid deny having sectarian aims or committing widespread abuses. They say they saved the nation by pushing ISIS back from Baghdad’s borders after the army crumbled before the jihadists’ lightning advance in 2014.
There have been few accusations of serious abuses by the Hashid since the start of a major offensive on Oct. 17 to retake the northern city of Mosul from ISIS. Various Hashid groups have joined in that battle, and a top U.S. general told The Daily Beast last week they had been “remarkably disciplined”.