Images of war crimes allegedly carried out by Iraqi units trained, equipped and advised by American forces deployed there have routinely been posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for years but identifying victims and confirming the time and place of such atrocities is often difficult.
Human Rights Watch says it was able to confirm the location of one of four incidents in videos posted on Iraqi Facebook pages in recent days, which the group says showed regular Iraqi army troops and Federal Police beating several ISIS suspects with rifle butts, a table and their fists, as well as a video showing two detainees tossed off a cliff and being shot after landing on the ground below.
Wille said all four videos were published on Facebook this week by an Iraqi, Salah al-Imara, who regularly publishes information about military activities in and around Mosul.
The new images are reminiscent of those broadcast during an ABC News investigation that aired on “Nightline” in May called “The Torture Tapes," in which award-winning Iraqi photojournalist Ali Arkady embedded with an Iraqi special forces unit and was allowed to film hours of torture sessions conducted by officers from the unit.
The ABC investigation with Arkady and his agency VII Photo found that the Iraqi Emergency Response Division was advised by U.S. troops and the unit also used American-donated heavy weapons such as "Carl Gustaf" anti-tank launchers and Humvee trucks, even though they had been banned under U.S. law from receiving military assistance because of past human rights abuses.
The past abuses by the Emergency Response Division, such as beheadings of prisoners, were disclosed in an earlier ABC News investigation in 2015, "Dirty Brigades: No Clean Hands in Iraq's ISIS Fight."
"Some of the Federal Police divisions previously prevented from receiving equipment and training have since overcome past issues and are now permitted to be trained and equipped, but the ERD have not," Scrocca said.
In response to ABC News’ most recent investigation, “The Torture Tapes,” focusing on the Emergency Response Division, it appears some of the officers in ERD were relieved from field duty, but ABC News has not learned of any further actions.
On Thursday, two Iraqi military spokespersons appeared at a Pentagon briefing and addressed the latest allegations.
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul Rasoul said they are following the social media reports that have surfaced, and anyone found guilty of violating human rights "will be held accountable," while suggesting the new videos could be fabricated by those seeking to diminish the victory over Mosul.
The Interior Ministry has created an investigative committee to look into these allegations, and some members of the force who have engaged in inappropriate conduct have already been suspended, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, another spokesperson for Baghdad Operations Command and the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, told reporters, adding that the Iraqi government "wants to be transparent" as it looks into these reports.
But Human Rights Watch says even the Iraqi Army soldiers shown tossing two men off a cliff in one of the new videos are part of the large force trained by the U.S. and its allies since 2015, and they are seen on video carrying American-made and donated M16A2 rifles.
"These are the very troops that the US has been arming and training for years," Wille, the HRW investigator, told ABC News today. "While primary responsibility for investigating these abuses lie with the Iraqi authorities, I hope the coalition and the U.S. in particular are taking a hard look at these abuses and asking themselves why we still see soldiers carrying out war crimes with impunity."