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Babil massacre increases demand to reform Iraqi security forces

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi refers to the "heartbreaking massacre" and reinforces his commitment to security reform after 20 family members are killed based on specious charges.
Members of the Iraqi federal police force stand guard at a checkpoint in Baghdad, on January 29, 2021.

BAGHDAD — A group of security forces raided a rural house in the village of Rashayed located in Babil province on Dec. 30, killing 20 members of the same family.

The father of the family, Rahim Kadhim al-Ghurairi, was initially accused of being part of a drug trafficking network and then of being affiliated with the Islamic State. 

The event gained international media attention when an official from the Interior Ministry, Saad Maan, posted a video on Twitter showing the destroyed house of the dead family.

Soon after, however, it appeared that the attack was part of a family dispute, as Rahim’s brother-in-law used his personal influence within the security forces to settle a family score.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi traveled to the province on Jan. 5, to the area of Jibla where the family’s house is located, to follow up on the issue.

In his visit, he said, “What happened is a real heartbreaking massacre, criminals hiding under the cover of state institutions and committing a heinous crime that cannot be tolerated.”

He also mentioned the steps that would be taken to ensure justice and prevent any such events from happening again.

Kadhimi fired Babylon's police chief and intelligence director and Jibla's intelligence director, referred them for investigation, and directed all those involved to be interrogated and tried with maximum penalties.

He tasked the national security adviser with preparing a plan to reform the process of security institutions and eliminate the loopholes for those who exploit personal interests. He instructed the adviser to develop a plan to organize the conduct of security and intelligence in a way that prevents the recurrence of such events.

Similar events have occurred in the past where innocent people were arrested on trumped-up charges. For example, three months ago a man was sentenced to death on charges of killing his wife — only for his wife to appear a month after. This shows the entire investigation that found the man guilty was based on assumptions and a lack of solid evidence.

Prior to his visit to Jibla, Kadhimi said in his Cabinet meeting that in his visits to prisons during his premiership, he met many detainees who spent years locked up on false accusations. He confirmed that he will hold talks with the president of the Supreme Judicial Council to coordinate the formation of a committee to look into cases suspected of hinging on trumped-up charges.

The disarray and corruption within the security forces brought about the fall of Mosul in 2014 when an Iraqi army of 27,000 soldiers failed to defend the city against hundreds of militants.

At the time, most soldiers were not adequately trained; some were given positions only due to personal relations they had rather than possessing the merits required by the position. Some were known as ghost soldiers where their names were only registered by the commander who took a portion of their salary while they worked second jobs.

The lack of professional conduct and corruption further weaken the state’s security apparatus as local militant groups make the case against the effectiveness of security forces and justify their possession of arms, which are not controlled by the state. 

This was seen after Shiite militias liberated Mosul. Not only did they not hand over the city to state security forces, but they also remained in the city to extort businesses and people alike to solidify their presence in the areas and fund their election campaigns for which they won seats in parliament.

Along with corruption and illegal influence within the state forces by those who take advantage in pursuit of their own personal gains, the lack of cooperation and communication between the executive and judicial branches also plays a critical role in weakening Iraq’s ability to provide justice and safety to its citizens. The frequent wrongful arrests and search warrants granted without due diligence increasingly lead people to take matters into their own hands and deliver justice as they see fit.