‘Staggering array’ of gross human rights abuses in Iraq – UN report

This Christian Iraqi family fled the town of Qaragosh, 30km east of Mosul, in June 2014, after militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took control of Mosul and other areas of northern Iraq. Photo: IRIN/Louise Redvers

2 October 2014 – A “staggering array” of gross human rights abuses and “acts of violence of an increasingly sectarian nature” were committed by the group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) over a period of nine weeks, the United Nations reported today.

The report, produced jointly by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, covers the period from 6 July to 10 September, also cites a number of violations committed by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and associated forces battling ISIL.

“This report is terrifying,” said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov, calling on Iraqi leaders to “act in unity to restore control over areas that have been taken over by ISIL and implement inclusive social, political and economic reforms.”

The UN human rights officers describe 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,” according to the report.

“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.

ISIL and associated armed groups “intentionally and systematically targeted these communities for gross human rights abuses, at times aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control.”

They also murdered captured soldiers and other security forces or government personnel, according to the report.

Despite the horrific nature of the report, hundreds of allegations concerning the killing of civilians were not included because they had not yet been sufficiently verified.

Many of these acts “may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

He strongly recommended that the Government of Iraq considers acceding to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) and, as an immediate step, accepts the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction with respect to the current specific, horrendous situation facing the country.

“This type of situation, 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,” Mr. Zeid noted.

The report also documented violations by ISF and affiliated armed groups, such as air strikes and shelling, as well as military operations and attacks that may have violated principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law.

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