Iraq PM says corruption led to Camp Speicher massacre during visit to Tikrit

The site of the horrific massacre will be turned into a museum

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi visits Tikrit and  the site of the camp Speicher massacre. Photo: Media Office of the Prime Minister, Iraq
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Iraq’s rampant corruption, mismanagement and erroneous policies caused the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre committed by ISIS, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said on Wednesday.

The mass killing, in which an estimated 1,700 unarmed, predominantly Shiite soldiers from Camp Speicher - a former US base outside the city of Tikrit - were killed, became a symbol of ISIS’s brutality against Iraqis.

"Corruption, mismanagement and lawless policies are the causes of these tragedies, we must remember that our unity, institutions and national affiliation will prevent the recurrence of such massacres," Mr Al Kadhimi said during a visit to the site.

The camp had "witnessed one of the most heinous massacres of humanity, and the innocent blood that fell here awakened the Iraqi conscience," he said.

It is rare for senior Iraqi officials to visit sites of bloodshed, which can be seen to reflect the government's inability to maintain security and control over the country.

The terrorist group posted images of the hundreds of soldiers they killed online.

The fall of Tikrit in 2014 was part of the ISIS onslaught that stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away as the militants advanced and captured key cities and towns in the country’s north and west.

Mr Al Kadhimi said the government will transform the site of the crime into a museum to “immortalise the sacrifices of Iraqis.”

“We must always remember this innocent blood by preserving the victories that were achieved over terrorism and preserving our national identity,” he said.

After the fall of Mosul in June 2014, nearly 3,000 soldiers from all over Iraq were ordered by their superiors to change into civilian clothes and leave Speicher camp.

Those carrying weapons were told to leave them behind.

Many of the soldiers were captured by the insurgents, who took them to various locations around Tikrit and executed them one by one in the worst single atrocity committed by the group.

Videos showed masked gunmen bringing the soldiers to a bloodstained concrete river waterfront inside the presidential palace complex in Tikrit, shooting them in the head and throwing them into the Tigris River.

Some of the bodies were buried in mass graves that were found after government forces recaptured the city in 2017.

The prime minister said his office has put pressure on authorities to “accelerate the distribution of benefits to the victim’s families.”

"We must learn from the lessons of the past in order to avoid the repetition of such tragedies and massacres," Mr Al Kadhimi said.

Last June, the a UN team known as Unitad, set up in 2017 to hold ISIS accountable for its crimes, said that a war crimes probe found the terror group had committed seven types of international war crimes during the massacre.

“Unitad categorises seven types of international crimes committed by ISIS against innocent Iraqis during the Camp Speicher massacre,” Karim Khan, the former head of the team said during a virtual UN session.

“We remember the victims and remain committed to investigate the incident, collect evidence and build case files in line with international standards to support courts in Iraq to hold criminals accountable and bring justice to victims,” Mr Khan said.

In 2016, Iraq hung 36 militants sentenced to death over the mass killings. It was the highest number of killings that the government had carried out since ISIS took over in 2014.

The executions were carried out at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya.