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UN report details “staggering array” of human rights violations in northern Iraq

PHoto: Flickr / Mustafa Khayat / 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

3 October 2014 - A new UN report lists a “staggering array” of gross human rights abuses and “acts of violence of an increasingly sectarian nature” committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups over a nine-week period, as well as a number of violations committed by Iraqi security forces (ISF) and associated forces in their efforts to combat ISIL.

“This report is terrifying,” said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov, noting that hundreds of other allegations concerning the killing of civilians were not included because they had not yet been sufficiently verified.

The report covers the period from 6 July to 10 September and lists a litany of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross abuses of human rights that have been perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups, “with an apparent systematic and widespread character.”

“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,” the report says.

“Members of Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious communities, including Turkmen, Shabak, Christians, Yezidi, Sabaeans, Kaka’e, Faili Kurds, Arab Shi’a, and others have particularly been affected by the situation,” the report continues.

Photo: Flickr / Mustafa Khayat / 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) Violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law, committed by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and affiliated armed groups during the same period, are also reported. “These included air strikes and shelling as well as conduct of particular military operations or attacks that may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law,” the report says.

On Wednesday, the UN Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, announced that overall a total of at least 9,347 civilians have been killed so far in 2014 and 17,386 have been wounded, well over half of them since ISIL began overrunning large parts of the north in early June.

“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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“This type of situation”, Zeid continued, “where massive gross violations and abuses are taking place, including direct targeting of many thousands of civilians because of their religious or ethnic identity, is precisely why the International Criminal Court was created.I strongly recommend that the Government of Iraq considers acceding to the Rome Statute, and, as an immediate step, accepts the exercise of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction with respect to the current specific, horrendous situation facing the country.”

"I also note the detailed letter sent on 19 September to the head of the so-called ISIL group by 126 leading Muslim scholars from all across the world," Zeid added.

"It clearly states that in Islam it is forbidden to kill the innocent, or to kill emissaries, ambassadors and diplomats -- hence also journalists and aid workers; torture and the re-introduction of slavery are also forbidden, as are forcible conversion, the denial of rights to women and a multitude of other acts being carried out by this Takfiri group on a daily basis."

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