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UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraq to Join ICC

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.
FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Iraq on Tuesday to join the International Criminal Court to address grave human rights violations perpetrated by the Islamic State group and other parties that have led to the deaths of thousands and displacement of more than two million people in that country.

In his first briefing to the 15-nation council since taking up his post in September, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the crimes committed by Islamic State fighters are so “monstrous” that they should be examined by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

“The scale and violence of ISIL’s brutality towards civilians shreds every principle relevant to human rights," Zeid said, referring to another name for the militant group.

He warned that genocide may have been committed in Iraq, particularly with regard to Islamic State atrocities committed against the Yazidi religious minority.

Zeid said that out of the 11 offenses the ICC defines as crimes against humanity, the group is likely guilty of involvement in as many as nine of them. He said the Islamic State group has also committed war crimes.

Scale, gravity of violations

The commissioner noted that it is the primary responsibility of a state to prosecute crimes in its territory, but that the violations committed in Iraq are of such a scale and gravity that they qualify as international crimes.

He urged Baghdad to join the International Criminal Court so the court would have jurisdiction.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the council that 3.6 million people are living in Islamic State-controlled areas in Iraq and more than 2 million of them urgently need humanitarian assistance.

Amos said that while the jihadist group bears responsibility for the majority of the atrocities being committed, it is not the only perpetrator of human rights abuses.

“Armed groups, including militias affiliated with the government, continue to carry out brutal acts of violence against civilians. Entire communities have been uprooted resulting in a significant humanitarian impact," Amos said.

Amos said 5.2 million people across Iraq are in need of humanitarian assistance.

More than two million have been displaced from their homes and 100,000 have fled the country, registering as refugees in neighboring states.

Amos said that despite financial assistance at the start of the crisis, funds have been used and without an urgent infusion of $85 million in the next few days the World Food Program’s work will be severely disrupted starting in January.

The United Nations said that violence so far this year has killed at least 10,000 people in Iraq and injured 20,000 more.