On the fifth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of at least 643 Iraqi men and boys by Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militias during military operations to retake control of Fallujah from the so-called Islamic State group, Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said:
“For five years, the families of these men and boys have been living in anguish, not knowing the fate of their loved ones, or whether they are even alive. Young boys were ripped away from their parents and entire families torn apart. The families deserve to know what happened to their loved ones. They deserve an end to their suffering.
For five years, the families of these men and boys have been living in anguish, not knowing the fate of their loved ones, or whether they are even aliveLynn Maalouf, Amnesty International
“To date, the Iraqi authorities have never publicly revealed the outcome of an investigation into disappearances and abuses committed during the retaking of Fallujah, leaving families in a perpetual state of limbo.
“The Iraqi authorities must end this anguish and reveal the fate and whereabouts of those forcibly disappeared by the PMU. We also urge the authorities to publicly disclose the findings of their official investigation and hold those responsible to account.”
On the morning of 3 June 2016, thousands of men, women and children fleeing the area of Saqlawiya in the Anbar region were met by a group of men armed with machine guns and assault rifles. Witnesses identified the armed men as members of the PMU based on emblems on their uniforms and flags. The armed men took an estimated 1,300 men and boys considered to be of fighting age away from their families. At sunset, at least 643 men and boys were boarded onto buses and a large truck. Their fate remains unknown. The remaining men were taken to what survivors described as the “yellow house”, where they reported being tortured and subjected to other ill-treatment.
On 5 June 2016, the Office of Iraq’s then-Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, set up a committee to investigate disappearances and abuses committed in the context of military operations to retake Fallujah. The committee’s findings have never been made public. The Iraqi authorities did not respond to Amnesty International’s request for information at the time.
The PMU are comprised of large, well-established militia groups and are legally considered part of the Iraqi Armed Forces.