MESOP Iraq: Islamic State Executions in Tikrit / Watch Pictures & Human Rights Watch Report

New Analysis Triples Toll, to 560-770

  • Ali, one of the few survivors of a mass execution at the Presidential Palace in Tikrit, is visible among more than 60 captives prior to execution in a still frame from a YouTube video posted by Islamic State.

  • Still frame from a YouTube video posted by Islamic State shows partially buried execution victim at the Water Palace mass grave site in Tikrit.

    The barbarity of the Islamic State violates the law and grossly offends the conscience.
Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director

(Erbil) – New evidence about executions carried out by the Islamic State (IS) in Tikrit after it seized the city in June 2014 triples the estimated death toll and shows additional execution sites, Human Rights Watch said today.Information from a survivor and analysis of videos and satellite imagery has confirmed the existence of three more mass execution sites, bringing the total to five, and the number of dead to between 560 and 770 men, all or most of them apparently captured Iraqi army soldiers.

“Another piece of this gruesome puzzle has come into place, with many more executions now confirmed,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “The barbarity of the Islamic State violates the law and grossly offends the conscience.”

Islamic State fighters, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), killed between 160 and 190 men at the two execution sites that Human Rights Watch previously identified. The total is likely to climb further still as more evidence emerges, Human Rights Watch said.

Islamic State fighters took control of Tikrit on June 11. The next day it claimed to have executed 1,700 “Shi’a members of the army,” posting videos of hundreds of captured men in civilian clothes, who it claimed had surrendered at the nearby Iraqi Speicher military base.

Photos later posted on social media showed IS fighters loading captives in civilian clothes onto trucks and forcing them to lie in three shallow trenches with their hands bound. Some images showed masked gunmen firing weapons at these men.

Based on an analysis of satellite imagery and photographs available at the time, Human Rights Watch concluded on June 27 that two of the trenches were in a field about 100 meters north of the Water Palace in Tikrit. The location of the third trench was not identified.

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After analyzing a recently released Islamic State video of the execution of detainees and satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch has identified three new execution sites from that period, with an additional death toll of between 285 and 440. The locations of two of the sites have been precisely identified based on the imagery and witness evidence, while the location of the third site remains approximate based on the account of a survivor.

The largest of the three newly identified execution sites is a concrete slab on the north side of the Saladdin Al Ayubi building, within Tikrit’s presidential palace compound. Video images, cross referenced with satellite imagery, indicate that approximately 250 to 400 men were executed at this site at approximately 9:30 a.m. on either June 12 or 13. Satellite imagery recorded on June 16 reveals no mass of bodies as shown in the video, but what appear to be blood stains, presumably left from the mass execution, are visible on the concrete.

Satellite imagery also shows signs that earth-moving equipment was used on a dirt field next to the concrete slab. Human Rights Watch analysis also identified areas of raised earth consistent with a mass grave.