Footage and stills taken from an undisclosed location by Iraqi photographer Ali Arkady as part of a documentary film were released earlier this month.
The content appears to show an Iraqi special forces unit torturing and executing civilians and prisoners during their operation in Mosul against the so-called Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in 2016.
Soldiers in Iraqi army uniform, allegedly part of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division (ERD), can be seen shooting a prisoner, hanging detainees from ceilings and twisting their bodies into unnatural positions and beating civilians.
SOT, Ali Arkady, Cameraman (Arabic): "I stayed with them everyday, for a long time I worked alongside this unit, spent every day with them and slept when they slept. My equipment, my cameras – all of it was there. When they arrested and brought someone, they usually called me and I captured everything with my camera. Truth be told, I trusted them and believed in them, I had strong faith in them.
Over that short period of time, especially at the beginning, I truly believed they were heroes. They are brave and they do fight their enemy relentlessly. It’s a known fact. When I gradually saw deeply violent things, tortures, rapings, and lastly the killing, then as a journalist I decided that I had to publish this material and tell people about these crimes. I was just being professional. At first they didn't allow me to film tortures and some other bad stuff. But in a few days they said: “OK, you can film the interrogation, but don’t film tortures.” I said: “OK, no problem, I’m going to shoot the interrogation for my story.” I continued working with them, after a while they said: “We cannot tell you to stop shooting – we trust you. But after you're done, cut some scenes from the footage.” I was getting curious and more and more interested in the subject, so after 5 weeks of filming some really violent stuff, I decided to publish the material. In two or three weeks, it affected [me], when I came home they asked me: “What is wrong with you?” I realised I was psychologically affected by what I saw there, my state of mind was affected. I kept thinking about those people who suffered so much. I was very sad. The pain they experienced was passed on to me and I could feel it. There was torture, and then they would completely destroy them, and so on. But, when things started to get really severe, in the end of the week, they used to tell me that there will be killings, but I, as a simple cameraman, did not believe it would really be that way until I saw that happening with my own eyes. What I saw mysellf, that happened in the afternoon or evening of 20th of December. Captain Omar Nizar and Sergeant Ali Heydar burst into our room, there were two other journalists who worked for an international news agency, and they switched on their mobile phone. I could hear their voices on the recording and see how sergeant Heydar started to shoot that man, firing approximately six to nince bullets at the person. I could also hear Captain Omar saying, “Stop this, Heydar, stop, it’s enough. I want to talk with him” – and then he fired at him three times. The story they told me was that they decided to go to a hospital. That man worked there. They grabbed him, took him out and said, “Come on, show us where ISIS is. Sure thing you know where ISIS is.” The man answered that, as far as he knew, ISIS was not far from that place – in the Bazvaya village. Omar and Heydar said that when they had been about to enter the village they saw an old lady approach. I know that all villages in that area were empty, abandoned. There were no people in Bazvaya, though that is a large village. All people have been evacuated by the military. Some still live in Kojali, while I never saw anyone in neighboring villages. I don’t know exactly where that man was executed, but they said that it happened somewhere near the village. So, as I said, there was an old lady who came and shouted to them, “Don’t go there, to that village. There are ISIS snipers in it. If you go there they will kill you.” So, Oman and Heydar thought that the man wanted them killed and thus they decided to kill him. That’s what they told me. Two months ago or a little over two months ago my family, who live in Iraq, in the Khanaqin area to be exact, received a direct threat from these forces, specifically from Omar Nizar, via Facebook. My father logged in to Facebook and started talking with him, negotiating. He [Nizar] threatened my father, saying they would come for us in the night. He made several other threats, all of which can be seen on my page. I personally have received no threats, since I have had no contact whatsoever with them. But the threats addressed to my family were undoubtedly meant for me as well, even though personally I haven’t received any. But it means I’m in danger too."