GENEVA — U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay says the dramatic deterioration of the situation in Iraq is alarming.
Issuing a call to parties to the conflict, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said all groups are obliged under international law to treat members of armed forces who lay down their arms humanely, warning that murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture constitute crimes of war.
The U.N. rights chief issued the warning amid reports of summary executions and extrajudicial killings by forces allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, says Pillay is also urging combatants to respect, protect and meet the basic needs of civilian populations.
“The full extent of civilian casualties is not yet known, but reports received by UNAMI, the U.N. Mission in Iraq to this point suggest the number of people killed in recent days may run into the hundreds, and the number of wounded is said to be approaching 1,000," he said.
"We have received reports of the summary execution of Iraqi army soldiers during the capture of Mosul, and of 17 civilians in one particular street in Mosul City on the 11th of June,” added Coleville.
The United Nations reports around a half-million people have fled their homes since ISIL militants overran major towns and cities earlier this week. Prior to these events, UNAMI reports, a sustained upsurge in violent terrorist acts had already taken a very heavy toll of civilian lives.
Recent figures released by UNAMI show nearly 800 Iraqis have been killed and more than 1,400 others have been injured in acts of terrorism and violence between January 1 and May 30.
Colville says ISIL is deliberately hunting down anyone associated with the Iraqi government. “These appear to be targeted specific killings of people associated with government, government agencies, civilians working with police, etc," he said.
"And, that is extremely alarming. There is a real concern that the ISIL checkpoints that are now all over the place appear to be used to sort of hunt down and identify people who are associated with the government in any way,” he said.
Colville says there also are reports of violations by the Iraqi army against civilians. He says the U.N. has received disturbing reports that Iraqi security forces shelled civilian areas during the fighting last week. He says this resulted in a large number of civilian casualties, including allegations that up to 30 civilians may have been killed.
He says other reports indicate that Iraqi soldiers were turning civilians back at checkpoints, preventing them from fleeing the city in search of safer areas.