A new report lists what it calls a staggering array of widespread, systematic violations by Islamic State militants against civilians in Iraq, many amounting to war crimes. The report issued by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq also documents abuses committed by Iraqi security forces between July 6 and September 10.
The report describes a litany of horrors in Iraq committed by IS militants including attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians.
Among the many gross violations perpetrated by the group are abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence against women and children, the forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of religious and cultural sites, and looting of property.
Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, tells VOA this is one of the most strikingly awful reports he has ever read. He says the brutal acts of violence committed by this militant group are of an increasingly sectarian nature.
“Just in a nine-week period, the range of the crimes-every way of harming civilians you can think of and lots of them apparently widespread and systematic," he said. "And, this is the key element when you talk about crimes against humanity, which is basically one of the worst crimes there is."
Colville added that groups are being targeted "purely because they are ethnic or of a religious nature. They are targeting women. They are targeting children. They are targeting people because of their professions and so on.”
So far this year, the report estimates more than 9,300 civilians have been killed and nearly 17,400 wounded, well over half of them since June, when IS seized large swathes of territory in northern Iraq. The report notes these figures are greatly underestimated because UN monitors are unable to access many remote areas to carry out their investigation.
Colville says the High Commissioner, Zeid Ra-ad Al Hussein, calls Islamic State "Takfiri" - that is a Muslim who accuses other Muslims of apostasy. Although, Colville adds, the High Commissioner does not believe the group is really religious.
“They are against anyone who does not fully agree with them," he said. "So, for this reason, you see ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] killing Sunni Muslims, as well as Shia, as well as Christians, as well as groups like Yazidis and Kurds and Faili Kurds and Shia, etc.-all of whom or many of whom are Muslims as well.
Colville says Takfiri "means basically anyone who does not believe exactly what you believe is an infidel and they will kill them. And, that is exactly what they are doing.”
The 29-page report also describes violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law allegedly committed by the Iraqi Security Forces and affiliated armed groups. These include air strikes and shelling and military operations or attacks that use a disproportionate amount of force.
The report accuses militia groups allied with the government of killings, abductions and other human rights violations that might amount to war crimes.
The U.N. Human Rights Chief is calling on the government of Iraq to join the International Criminal Court, so it can begin a serious judicial process, which, in time will bring perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice.