Amnesty: US-Backed Coalition Violated International Law in Mosul Killings

Troops Used Unnecessary Force and Indiscriminate Targeting

A new report from human rights group Amnesty International today is harshly critical of the tactics used by Iraq forces and their allies (i.e. the US) in the invasion and occupation of the ISIS-held city of Mosul, saying they flagrantly violated international law and might amount to war crimes.

The report centered on the massive civilian death toll in attacks, particularly escalating as the battle moved into western Mosul, saying Iraqi forces regularly used unnecessary amounts of force and indiscriminate targeting which put civilians at undue risk.

Amnesty research director Lynn Maalouf was quick to note that ISIS had unlawfully used human shields, but that this “does not lessen the legal obligation of pro-government forces to protect civilians.” That position is true from a legal perspective, but appears to stand in contrast to the Pentagon’s statements, which have couched all of the biggest incidents of civilian deaths in their airstrikes as ISIS’ fault. Indeed, the US “Law of War Manual” has struggled with this issue in recent revisions.

Amnesty officials criticized the use of imprecise explosive weapons in the attacks on densely populated parts of Mosul that were known to be full of civilians unable to escape, saying it was inappropriate, and amounted to repeated violations of international law with respect to targeting civilians.

Amnesty also took issue with the drastic under reporting of civilian deaths in Mosul, saying 5.805 were likely killed in just a four month span. While the Pentagon hasn’t offered its own figures for that entire period yet, their figures for the four months are likely to be no more than a couple of hundred.

Pentagon officials were naturally dismissive of the reports, with Gen. Stephen Townsend insisting they were untrue, and that Amnesty is not in “a position of authority” and therefore has no right to make such statements about the war crimes in the first place.

Townsend went on to echo the usual claims of “extraordinary care” by the US, despite the massive body count, bragging he believes the war in Mosul was the most precise ever, in the history of the human race.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.