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Act now to prevent industrial scale human rights violations by ISIL – UN expert calls on the Security Council

GENEVA (22 June 2015) – United Nations human rights expert Ben Emmerson today urged the UN Security Council to take effective action to enforce international law and protect civilians in areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL).

“The Security Council has an obligation to act,” said the Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, during the presentation of his report* on the gross violations committed by ISIL and the pressing need for accountability.

“Given the reports of genocide, all members of the Security Council may now have a specific responsibility to take action to prevent this most serious of international crimes,” he said. “But whether these dreadful crimes qualify as genocide or not the time has come to recognise that permanent members have a responsibility to refrain from using their veto powers to block action aimed at ending atrocity crimes.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that this approach now has the support of many States, civil society organisation and entities of the UN. “This mandate,” he stated, “also unequivocally supports efforts to bring about this desperately need reform.”

In his report, Mr. Emmerson describes how different entities have found clear evidence of persecution and summary execution of religious and ethnic minority communities on a mass scale, arbitrary execution of community leaders, journalists, intellectuals and others, mass disappearances, forced religious conversions and systematic torture. As many as 700 people were reportedly murdered in one such massacre.

The enforcement of summary justice in areas under ISIL control includes public beheading, shooting, stoning, lashing and amputation. Mutilated corpses are put on public display as a deterrent. Systematic gender-based violence, rape and sexual slavery are a part of everyday life. Homosexual men are routinely targeted on grounds of their sexuality.

Children have been subjected to summary execution, arbitrary detention and torture, and forced to take part in military training. Significant religious and cultural sites have been systematically destroyed.

“In short, those living under the terror of ISIL are in daily fear for their lives,” the expert said. “These shocking crimes are being committed on an industrial scale and amount to an affront to the conscience of the entire international community.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that, so far, the UN Security Council has only determined that ISIL represents a threat to international peace and security and it has stressed the need to bring perpetrators to justice. “But the Council has conspicuously failed to either authorise military action under Chapter 7 of the Charter, or to refer the situation in Iraq and Syria to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

“States are under an obligation to take measures to protect civilian populations from widespread and systematic acts of violence and terrorism,” Mr. Emmerson concluded. “It is essential that any response be grounded in respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and refugee law.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/HRC/29/51):   http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session29/Pages/ListReports.aspx


Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. On 1 August 2011, he took up his functions on the mandate that was created in 2005 by the former United Nations Commission on Human, renewed by the UN Human Rights Council for a three year period in December 2007, in September 2010 and again in March 2013. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the UN 2006 Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy: http://www.un.org/terrorism/strategy-counter-terrorism.shtml

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