In and around the small hamlet of Hammam al-Alil, just shy of 19 miles south of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, elements of an elite special forces unit from Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, along with Iraqi federal police, discovered the grisly remains of close to 300 corpses in varying states of decay in two different locations. Witnesses, along with inspectors from Human Rights Watch, described a barbaric scene at both sites, assailed by the penetrating stench of rotting flesh warmed in the arid winds of Nineveh.
The mass graves devised by Islamic State fighters, one of which was a deep well, were discovered on or around the 12th through the 17th of November, 2016. Suspected to be contained within these graves are local provincial police officers ISIS had rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and eventually killed over a two-year span during the jihadis’ unchecked occupation of Mosul and its surrounding region.
The well, the largest of the reported mass graves, entombed the decaying corpses of well over 200 yet-unidentified persons. The Iraqi federal police commander, Brigadier General Faris Radhi Abbas, said, “We believe the well contains more than 200 bodies. ISIS used this mass grave to kill and dump people over the past two years.”
Some civilian and Iraqi Army reports claim that some of the Islamic State’s victims were thrown into the well while still alive, left to die from their injuries in what can only be described as a living hell. One witness is said to have seen ISIS fighters in pickup trucks loaded with 100 to 125 prisoners drive to the now-confirmed mass grave site. He heard gunfire and screaming and saw the same trucks return empty. The same scenario played out the next night as well, with reports of 130 to 140 prisoners in the backs of ISIS trucks this time.
The IFP commander, General Abbas, went on to describe another mass grave burial site in the adjacent village known as Tal Adh Ahahab, located to the west of Hamman al-Alil, where the larger of the two graves was found. A total of 45 bodies were excavated as of 17 November, 2016 at the second site, where the Iraqi police commander stated, “ISIS terrorists have also planted bombs around this mass grave to prevent family members from recovering the bodies of their loved ones.”
These findings were also echoed and elaborated on by Human Rights Watch Deputy Director John Stork, who was part of the independent inspection team that investigated the mass graves. “This is another piece of evidence of the horrific mass murder by ISIS of former law enforcement officers in and around Mosul.” Mr. Stork leveled harsh sentiment toward the Islamic State’s latest actions, claiming in his report for Human Rights Watch, “ISIS should be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.”
Crimes against humanity and war crimes are prohibited under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute. But the court’s jurisdiction only applies to crimes committed in the territory of or by the nationals of countries party to the Rome Statute, or to situations identified as such by the U.N. Security Council. Iraq has not yet ratified the Rome Statute.
With the Mosul offensive now in its fourth week, and as the Iraqi coalition pushes farther into the city, it is beginning to look like more of these gruesome mass killing fields of the ISIS occupation will be discovered. They bring to light the terror that most in the region have been suffering from in silence since the Islamic State set up camp in their lands.
Featured image courtesy of CNN.com