A newly internally displaced woman reacts upon her arrival at Al Khazar camp near Hassan Sham, east of Mosul, Iraq Oct. 28, 2016.
A newly internally displaced woman reacts upon her arrival at Al Khazar camp near Hassan Sham, east of Mosul, Iraq Oct. 28, 2016.

GENEVA - The U.N. human rights office reports Iraqi civilians are increasingly being used as pawns by Islamic State militants in their battle for Mosul.  The agency says it has received credible reports of hundreds of executions, mass abductions, and the use of civilians as human shields.  

The agency reports Islamic State militants have been forcing people living in the outskirts of the city of Mosul out of their homes and pushing them into the city to be used as human shields.   It says that has been going on since the Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul began October 17.

Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says IS, also known as ISIL, has abducted nearly 8,000 families or more than 47,000 people and forced them at gunpoint into strategic IS locations.

“ISIL’s depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men, and children as human shields," said Shamdasani. "Many of those who refused to comply were shot on the spot.  And, even among those who did comply, many of them, including 190 former ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) officers and 42 other civilians were shot dead.” 

The Mosul offensive

Shamdasani says the cruel behavior is provoking revenge killings of people suspected of being members of IS.  She says some individuals have embarked on revenge killings and have vowed there will be “eye for eye revenge.”

She says the high commissioner for human rights is urging people to refrain from vigilante justice and to treat captured IS fighters in accordance with international human rights law.  However, she tells VOA his appeal is failing to deter some people from attacking those they believe to be members of IS.

“However, what is very encouraging is that there are tribal leaders who actually are encouraging their people not to exact revenge attacks," said Shamdasani. "They are saying let us hand them over to the criminal justice system because otherwise we will be making things worse.  And, this is extremely wise and really it is the only way forward towards peace.”   

Shamdasani agrees some people claiming to be internally displaced are actually IS militants.  She says it is important to screen everyone who arrives at camps for IDPs to separate those who have run from IS in fear of their lives from the men responsible for their suffering.