UN rights chief slams ISIL 'war crimes'
GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
A displaced woman and child from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the ISIL in Sinjar town, rest as they make their way towards the Syrian border. REUTERS PhotoIslamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) jihadists are inflicting staggering human rights violations in Iraq which could amount to war crimes, a top United Nations official said on Oct. 2.
"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 human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
Zeid's comments came as his office and the UN's monitoring mission in Iraq released a joint report on the offensive carried out by the ISIL.
Covering the period from July 6 to September 10, the 29-page study listed a litany of gross abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.
It said they were being perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups "with an apparent systematic and widespread character."
Among them were attacks on civilians, including executions and looting, as well as the murder of captured government soldiers and officials.
On Oct. 1, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq announced that at least 9,347 civilians have been killed so far in 2014, and 17,386 wounded, well over half of them since the jihadists began overrunning swathes of the north in early June.
The report also cited abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence against women and children, including the forced recruitment of minors.
It also slammed the desecration and destruction of religious and cultural sites.
Minorities have born the brunt of the Sunni jihadists' attacks, with Turkmen, Shabak, Christians, Yazidi, Kurds and Shiite Muslims targeted for attacks "aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control".
"This report is terrifying," said Nickolay Mladenov, UN special envoy for Iraq.
He noted that hundreds of alleged killings of civilians were not included because they had not yet been adequately verified.
The report also pointed to violations of the international laws of war and human rights by Iraqi security forces and affiliated militias -- including potentially indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes and shelling.
Zeid called on Iraq to sign up to the International Criminal Court, thereby giving it jurisdiction to probe the "horrendous situation" in 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," he said.
Zeid, a Jordanian who took the helm of the UN's rights office last month, also pointed to a letter sent two weeks ago to the jihadists' leaders by scores of senior Muslim scholars from around the globe.
"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," he said, accusing the group of committing them on a "daily basis".