Under the pretext that they are in the front lines in the war against ISIS they are literally left free to commit any aggressions and violate people’s rights, arrest and kidnap people, carry out murders, rob and confiscate people’s property or smuggle goods, and any other illegal act one could think of. And of course, there is no judicial prosecution to be afraid of. Just like the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, militant commanders – with various leverages at their disposal – are practically organized in parallel to the army and are in charge of all their own affairs, not being liable or accountable to anyone.
1. Launching arbitrary patrols and indiscriminate arrests for no reasons at all in Sunni areas and the Baghdad beltway has become a tactic used by sectarian militias. These illegal actions are ordered without any concerns at all by militant commanders to PMF forces, and they are being carried out systematically. One of the objectives of these militants’ actions, that have increased the waves of migrations and attacks against areas near Baghdad under the pretext of inspections or the threat of secret terror cells, is to force already homeless families to migrate to other areas.
2. The movement of military forces in urban areas, especially the city of Baghdad, is not authorized without permission from the Baghdad Operations Room. However, PMF units have been seen moving their troops in large convoys with armed escorts around the city to cement a climate of fear, all without any restrictions. In some cases when checkpoints or government forces stop their movement they resort to force and finally fire live shots and even arrest the security personnel at the checkpoint. All of a sudden everything changes and they start raising demands, asking questions and even beating the checkpoint personnel. These militants literally act as mafia members that kill people for a living. In one example when police officers attempted to prevent a number of militant vehicles from commuting in the city area, the militants retaliated by dispatching 30 vehicles and attacking the checkpoint, beating all the personnel. These actions were carried in complete impunity and none of the city’s security or military units didn’t even raise a finger to prevent them. These are flagrant violations of the law which can be held accountable in any country with an intact judicial system, and of course these militants would most definitely be punished for their actions. However, due to the climate of fear and terror, and people being terrified of the high possibility of being arrested and assassinated, there is practically no entity in place to hold these militants accountable for their actions.
3. In another example from Diyala Province, Asaeb al-Haq militants attacked Khalis prison and helped one of their commanders escape from custody. A number of police officers and prison guards witnessed the scene and some were arrested under the pretext of cooperating with prisoners, and others are now terrified of commuting out of their homes, fearing retaliation by militant forces. It is worth noting that raids and arbitrary arrests are amongst extrajudicial measures that militants are known to carry out as part of everyday life in Iraq.
4. Selling and smuggling arms, including illegal actions and corruption, has very much become a norm for PMF commanders. The scope of this corruption has escalated far further than just selling arms and small & medium arms ammo, reaching the point of smuggling and selling 107mm ‘mini-Katiusha’ and 122mm ‘Katiusha’ rockets, vehicles with single barrel and double heavy anti-aircraft artillery guns (14.5mm and 23mm). In various cases militant commanders have been seen to coordinate with seniors in the army warehouses, receiving missiles and heavy ammunition, and then selling off for various prices from $200 to prices much higher. The market for heavy weapons has become very overt these days and they are seen in various Baghdad areas, including Sadr City and Sho’le district. Many of these weapons and ammunitions have reached the hands of militant forces, and they are involved in more limited trade and arms smuggling with other militant groups. These myth markets have become the scene of trade for various types of weapons and also a source of some serious income for militant commanders that are acting under the pretext of ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’.