By Idris Okuducu
ERBIL, Iraq (AA) – The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has condemned the reported abuse of civilians in Fallujah, where a military offensive is now underway aimed at retaking the Sunni-majority city from the Daesh terrorist group.
"Iraqi army forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi militia must not mistreat civilians in areas recaptured from Daesh," Jabbar Yaver, secretary-general of the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
An umbrella group of Iraqi Shia militias, the Hashd al-Shaabi is currently helping the Iraqi army in the ongoing campaign to retake Fallujah from Daesh.
"It’s unacceptable that civilians are being subject to mistreatment simply because they are Sunnis or were living in Daesh-held parts of the city," he said.
Yaver made the comments amid reports that civilian residents of Fallujah -- who are fleeing the Iraqi army offensive -- were being mistreated by security forces and allied militias.
Earlier this week, the Iraqi government said it was investigating reports that 17 civilians from Fallujah had been executed by Shia militiamen.
According to Yaver, Kurdish peshmerga forces have been instructed to respect international human rights conventions on the protection of civilians.
Farsat Sofi, a member of the Kurdish regional parliament’s human rights committee, said Daesh militants sometimes disguised themselves as internally displaced civilians in an attempt to infiltrate secure areas.
"This, however, should not be used as an excuse to treat everyone as a terrorist," Sofi, who is also a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said.
On Thursday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Iraqi government to investigate reports of abuse being committed against civilians in Fallujah.
"The Iraqi government needs to control and hold accountable its own forces if it hopes to claim the moral upper hand in its fight [against Daesh]," Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, said in a statement.
"It’s high time for Iraqi authorities to unravel the web of culpability underlying government forces’ repeated outrages against civilians," he said.
On Tuesday, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, urged the Iraqi government to ensure that all civilians fleeing the Daesh-held city were being treated in accordance with international human rights laws and conventions.