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.