BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces have forcibly moved dozens of women and children with alleged links to the Islamic State group to a tent camp near Mosul that authorities describe as a "rehabilitation camp" for IS suspects' families, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The camp is located in Bartella, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Mosul, and houses at least 170 families, mostly women and children from areas of western Mosul, where the last battles against IS took place before the city was declared liberated earlier this week, the New York-based group said.
The camp was opened on Sunday, following a directive from Mosul's district council that says "so-called ISIS families should be sent to receive psychological and ideological rehabilitation," HRW said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Citing interviews with some families, HRW says they were brought against their will because of accusations that they had relatives linked to IS.
"Iraqi authorities shouldn't punish entire families because of their relatives' actions," said Lama Fakih, the Mideast deputy chief at HRW. "These abusive acts are war crimes and are sabotaging efforts to promote reconciliation in areas retaken from ISIS," Fakih added.
HRW said the camp had a mobile medical clinic, but only very limited humanitarian services, with no schools, training, or other programs. At least 10 women and children died traveling to or at the camp, most of them because of dehydration, HRW added, citing medical workers at the site.
Iraqi officials told HRW that a committee will screen the families to allow those with no links to IS to leave.
The statement also warned that local authorities and tribal leaders issued calls for eviction to IS-linked families "in tandem with grenade and other attacks on the families, as well as threatening letters and demands to deny these families humanitarian assistance."
Mosul was captured by the militant group in June 2014.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared "total victory" in Mosul on Monday, after nearly a nine-month-long military operation backed by the U.S.-led coalition.
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