Think the Islamic State is bad? Check out the ‘good guys’

Global Post: SULIMANIYAH, Iraq — Executing hundreds of prisoners without trial. Arbitrarily arresting villagers along sectarian lines. Hanging bodies from power lines to instill fear in the local community. Gunning down dozens of civilians as they gather to pray.

If this sounds like a checklist for the Islamic State, or IS, try looking across the front line at one of the United States’ key allies on the ground. While the world is focused on the IS terror threat, the US-trained and backed Iraqi government forces and their band of ruthless Shia militia groups have been carrying out atrocities of their own against Sunni civilians, on a scale that in some ways parallels their “terrorist” counterparts.

“Atrocities are being committed on both sides [by government-backed Shia militias and IS],” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser. “The crimes being committed by Shia militias throughout Iraq amount to war crimes. These are not one-off cases. They are systematic and widespread.”

The Sunni extremist IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has grabbed headlines with their ruthless tactics in Iraq. Their systematic executions of Yazidis, Shia Muslims and Western hostages have been widely reported.

But Sunni civilians have also suffered. They are often labeled “terrorists” or “Islamic State supporters” by Iraqi authorities and civilians alike based on no more than ethnicity or sect. They also face arbitrary arrests and even execution at the hands of government forces.

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