Amnesty International on Tuesday said tactics used by Iraqi forces and their U.S.-led coalition allies in the battle for Mosul violated international humanitarian law and might amount to war crimes.
The rights group said in a report the IS militant group had also flagrantly violated humanitarian law by deliberately putting civilians in harm’s way to shield their fighters and impede the advance of Iraqi and coalition forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, declared victory in Mosul on Monday, three years after IS seized the city and made it the stronghold of a “caliphate” the Sunni Islamist group said would take over the world.
A 100,000-strong alliance of Iraqi government units, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shi’ite militias launched the offensive to recapture the city in October, with air and ground support from the international coalition.
Much of Mosul has been destroyed in grinding street-to-street fighting.
According to the UN, thousands of civilians have been killed and nearly a million forced to flee their homes.
Amnesty said Iraqi forces and the coalition had carried out a series of unlawful attacks in west Mosul since January, relying heavily on Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), weapons with crude targeting capabilities that wreaked havoc in densely populated areas.
“Even in attacks that seem to have struck their intended military target, the use of unsuitable weapons or failure to take other necessary precautions resulted in needless loss of civilian lives,’’ it noted.
The report said some cases appeared to have constituted disproportionate attacks.
Stephen Townsend told a news briefing in Washington that he strongly rejected the statement that coalition strikes violated international law.
“I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful or excessively targeted civilians.
“I would challenge the people from Amnesty International or anyone else out there who makes these charges to first research their facts and make sure they are speaking from a position of authority,’’ Mr. Townsend, a lieutenant general, said.
He added that he believed the fight against Islamic State was the “most precise campaign in the history of warfare.”
However, the Iraqi defence ministry was not immediately available to comment on the Amnesty report.