Islamic State is committing ‘staggering’ crimes in Iraq – U.N. report

October 3, 2014
(Residents watch militant Islamist fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

(Residents watch militant Islamist fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

Islamic State insurgents in Iraq have carried out mass executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used child soldiers in what may amount to systematic war crimes that demand prosecution, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a report based on 500 interviews with witnesses, also said Iraqi government air strikes on the Sunni Muslim militants had caused “significant civilian deaths” by hitting villages, a school and hospitals in violation of international law.

At least 9,347 civilians had been killed and 17,386 wounded so far this year through September, well over half of them since the Islamist insurgents also known as ISIL and ISIS began seizing large parts of northern Iraq in early June, the report said.

“The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein.

In a statement, he called again for the Baghdad government to join the International Criminal Court, saying the Hague court was set up to prosecute such massive abuses and direct targeting of civilians on the basis of their religious or ethnic group.

Islamist forces have committed gross human rights violations and violence of an “increasing sectarian nature” against groups including Christians, Yazidis and Shi’ite Muslims in a widening conflict that has forced 1.8 million Iraqis to flee their homes, according to the 29-page report by the U.N. Human Rights Office and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“These include attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.”

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