The United Nations says in a new report that Iraq’s war with Islamic State militants led to more than 18,800 civilian deaths and more than 36,000 wounded between January 2014 and October 2015.
The report is based largely on testimony from victims, survivors or witnesses of violations and says that during the period from May to October of last year, nearly 4,000 civilians were killed and more than 7,000 wounded. About half of these deaths took place in the capital, Baghdad.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani tells VOA the figures do not fully capture what is happening in Iraq.
“These only include the people who were directly killed by violence. This does not include the countless others who have died from the lack of access to basic food, to water, and to medical care. And, also bear in mind that the security situation in Iraq prevents us from doing a lot of our work. So, really, even the casualty toll of those killed directly by violence could be much higher than what we have managed to document,” said Shamdasani.
UN blames Islamic State
U.N. monitors blame most of these deaths on Islamic State, known also as ISIS and ISIL. It says victims include those perceived as being opposed to the terror group's ideology and rule, such as government civil servants, doctors and lawyers, journalists and tribal and religious leaders. It says women and children are subject to sexual violence, particularly in the form of sexual slavery.
FILE - People gather in front of the mall in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 11, 2016. Gunmen stormed into the mall Monday, spraying bullets at shoppers before blowing themselves up.
The report finds people judged by Islamic State's self-appointed courts are subjected to punishments such as stoning and amputations. It details numerous examples of public executions, including shootings, beheadings, bulldozing, burning people alive and throwing people off the top of buildings.
Crimes against humanity
Shamdasani says some of the incidents amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. She says IS systematically targets ethnic and religious minorities, the most well-known being Yazidis.
FILE - Kurdish Peshmerga forces inspect a site in Hardan village in northern Iraq, Dec. 22, 2014, where Islamic State group fighters allegedly executed people from the Yazidi sect captured when they swept through the area in August.
“They are either forced to convert or be killed. So, there is a case to be made that ISIL has the intent to systematically destroy either in part or in whole entire communities, which is why we are raising the alarm bell. This could amount to genocide, which is a serious international crime,” she said.
The U.N. finds pro-government forces also are guilty of human rights violations and abuses and says it has received reports of unlawful killings and abductions perpetrated by those forces. It notes some of these incidents may have been reprisals against supposed IS supporters.
WATCH: Related report by VOA's Zlatica Hoke