WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Reported atrocities by Iraqi soldiers could risk some U.S. aid under a law forbidding assistance to those responsible for human rights abuses if they are confirmed, a key senator cautioned on Wednesday.
ABC News reported that some U.S.-trained units are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the Islamic State, citing an unnamed Pentagon official.
ABC said the investigation, conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with allegations of war crimes based partly on videos and photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners and displaying severed heads.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the author of the law, said foreign security forces are not eligible for U.S. aid if there is credible evidence that they have committed crimes such as torture, rape or executions of prisoners, if they are not being appropriately punished.
"If their (ABC's) information is accurate, the burden is on the Iraqi Government to punish those involved and on the Departments of State and Defense to insist that they do so and to offer support in investigating and punishing those involved as the law calls for," Leahy said in a statement.
"Otherwise the Iraqi units involved should be deemed ineligible for U.S. aid," he said.
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: "We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specifics."
The official was unaware of the specific instances cited in the ABC report, however.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Phil Stewart; editing by Andrew Hay)