The U.S. military continues to work with a blacklisted Iraqi special forces unit despite overwhelming evidence that its officers have engaged in human rights abuses for at least two years.
In hours of footage captured by Iraqi photojournalist Ali Arkady, licensed by ABC News and broadcast on World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline last week, officers of an elite Iraqi unit called the Emergency Response Division (E.R.D.) are shown directing the torture and execution of civilians in Mosul late last year. A U.S. military spokesman said that while an investigation of new evidence of atrocities committed by the E.R.D. is warranted, there is no legal reason the U.S. cannot continue to work with the unit.
The unit had already been blacklisted in March 2015 under the Leahy Act, which requires foreign military units to be banned from receiving U.S. military aid if there is “credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” Top American commanders, however, have continued to praise the successes of the E.R.D. and boast of a “fruitful partnership” between the U.S. military and the unit, including coordinating airstrikes on ISIS.
“The photos are sickening. They clearly depict war crimes,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who authored the federal law 20 years ago, said in a statement to ABC News. “That they were brazenly lauded by the unit’s leader suggests that they were far from aberrations. It is my understanding that the United States no longer supports the Iraqi unit involved, but we should insist that the individuals responsible, and particularly the leaders, be prosecuted and appropriately punished. The fact that U.S. military personnel praised the Iraqi unit’s cooperation is deeply disturbing and requires further investigation by the Pentagon.”
A spokesperson for the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve in Baghdad said officials were not previously aware of the atrocities documented by Arkady, and the U.S….