News / Middle East

UN Rights Chief Condemns 'Widespread' Islamic State Crimes in Iraq

An Islamic State militant uses a loud-hailer to announce to residents of Tabqa city that Tabqa air base has fallen to Islamic State militants, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014.
An Islamic State militant uses a loud-hailer to announce to residents of Tabqa city that Tabqa air base has fallen to Islamic State militants, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014.

United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday condemned “appalling, widespread” crimes being committed by Islamic State forces in Iraq, including mass executions of prisoners and “ethnic and religious cleansing”.

The persecution of entire communities and systematic violations by the al-Qaida offshoot, documented by U.N. human rights investigators, would amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes under international law, she said in a statement.

“Grave, horrific human rights violations are being committed daily by ISIL and associated armed groups,” Pillay said, citing targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, slavery, sex crimes, forced recruitment and destruction of places of worship.

“They are systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and are ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control.”

Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen were among the minorities targeted by the Sunni militant group, which has forced people to convert to their strict form of Sharia law, she said.

Islamic State insurgents have captured a third of Iraq with little resistance and declared a caliphate in the areas of Iraq and Syria it controls. It has drawn the first American air strikes in Iraq since the end of the occupation in 2011.

American Journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H. AP file photo, May 27, 2011American Journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H. AP file photo, May 27, 2011
American Journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H. AP file photo, May 27, 2011
American Journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H. AP file photo, May 27, 2011

Last week Islamic State released a video showing one of its fighters beheading the U.S. journalist James Foley, kidnapped in Syria in 2012. Their wealth and military might represent a major threat to the United States that may surpass that once posed by al-Qaida, the U.S. military says.

Some 1.2 million people have fled fighting and ISIL's advance in Iraq this year, the U.N. refugee agency says.

Mass executions, slavery

ISIL Attacks in Iraq
  • June 10: Mosul captured
  • June 11: Tikrit and parts of Beiji captured
  • June 12: Samarra and Dhuluiya captured
  • June 13: Jalawla and Saadiyah captured
  • June 14: Clashes in Ishaki and Dujail
  • June 16: Tal Afar captured

The al-Qaida splinter group seized control of the city of Mosul on June 10, in a spectacular show of strength against the Shi'ite-led Baghdad government.

ISIL loaded 1,000 to 1,500 prisoners from Badush prison in Mosul onto trucks and took them to a vacant area for screening, Pillay said. Sunni inmates were taken away again on the trucks.

“ISIL gunmen then yelled insults at the remaining prisoners, lined them up in four rows, ordered them to kneel and opened fire,” she said.

Up to 670 prisoners from Badush prison were killed by Islamic State on June 10, she said, quoting dozens of survivors and witnesses, some of whom survived by pretending to be dead.

“Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of civilians, after singling them out for their religious affiliation, may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge who steps down on Aug. 31 after serving six years as U.N, rights boss.

In northern Nineveh province, hundreds of Yazidis were killed and up to 2,500 kidnapped in early August, Pillay said, citing testimony from victims and witnesses. Yazidis fled their ancient homeland of Sinjar and other villages to escape the militants, who regard the ethnic minority as devil worshippers.

Those who agreed to convert are being held by ISIL, but witnesses report that among those who refused, “men were executed while the women and their children were taken as slaves and either handed over to ISIL fighters as slaves or threatened with being sold”, the U.N. statement said.

ISIL also killed and abducted hundreds of Yazidis in Cotcho village in southern Sinjar on Aug. 15, Pillay said, citing witness testimony including “harrowing phone calls”.

U.N. human rights investigators have received increasing reports of civilians being targeted for killing, she said, citing incidents of dozens being killed in Basra and Diyala.

In Baghdad, medical sources indicate that at least 15 bodies are found in the city on a daily basis. “All appear to have been bound and executed”, Pillay said.

Pillay called on the Iraqi government and international community to protect vulnerable ethnic and religious groups.

These included at least 13,000 Shia Turkmen in Salahuddin province besieged by ISIL forces since mid-June amid “fear of a possible, imminent massacre” and Yazidis in besieged villages of Sinjar who remain at “serious risk”, she said.   

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Comment Sorting
by: Not Again from: Canada
August 25, 2014 10:14 PM
Ms. Pillay has failed to mention that IS has embarked in a massive campaign to eradicate, not just Turkumen Shia, but all Shia Muslims; they have done it in all areas they control, they have sent their squads to attack/destroy Shia places of worship, and have selected all Shia Iraqi soldiers, captured, for immediate execution, which are massive war crimes. IS is in the process of destroying humanity; the entire World needs to stand against them, until such time as they cease to carry out their dastardly acts.
In Response

by: Linesman
August 25, 2014 11:23 PM
Navi Pillay, should apply her mind and be more consistent with her position, given all that has happened with the IS and James Foley. However what she has not mentioned is the fact that in Cape Town recently there was a large march by a certain section of the community in support of the Palestinians against Israel. Why she does not voice her concern over this is also worrying - a case of playing tennis on both sides of the fence?

by: anticasa from: Germany
August 25, 2014 1:25 PM
Up to now I have not heard by any politician or journalist what will happen When - not IF - ISIL turns from Syria and Libanon against Israel, in this way gaining even more support from parts of the Arab world?

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