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UN report documents litany of human rights violations in Iraq, including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity

Human rights violations in Iraq

18 July 2014

BAGHDAD/GENEVA (18 July 2014) – A UN report released Friday documents a litany of serious human rights violations committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups between 5 June and 5 July, including some that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report also documents violations committed by Iraqi security forces (ISF) and associated forces.

The report, compiled by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights office, is based on direct monitoring activities as well as a variety of sources, including civilian victims and witnesses. It documents the “untold hardship and suffering” that has been imposed upon the civilian population, “with large-scale killings, injuries and destruction and damage of livelihoods and property.” Where information has been cross-checked and verified, specific incidents are detailed in the report.

“ISIL and associated armed groups have carried out many of these attacks in a systematic manner heedless of the impact on civilians, or have systematically targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure with the intention of killing and wounding as many civilians as possible,” the report states. “Targets have included markets, restaurants, shops, cafes, playgrounds, schools, places of worship and other public spaces where civilians gather in large numbers.”

Among the systematic and egregious violations perpetrated by ISIL, the report lists:

·    The direct, deliberate targeting of civilians in the conduct of military operations and disregard for the principles of distinction or proportionality in the context of military operations;
·    Killings, including executions, of civilians, captured ISF personnel, and individuals associated with the Government of Iraq;
·    Kidnapping of civilians, including of foreign nationals;
·    Targeted killings of political, community and religious figures;
·    Killings, abductions and other crimes and human rights violations against members of ethnic, religious and other minorities;
·    Killing and physical violence against children; the forced recruitment of children;
·    Wanton destruction of civilian property; robbery and plunder of civilian property; targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure (including hospitals and schools); attacks on protected installations (such as dams); and attacks on places of cultural significance and places of religious worship.

The report also documents violations committed by the ISF and affiliated forces, including summary executions or extrajudicial killings of prisoners and detainees, which may also amount to war crimes. The report casts doubt over adherence by the ISF and affiliated forces to the principle of distinction and proportionality and whether they undertook the necessary precautions to protect civilians during the conduct of hostilities.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov deplored the heavy toll the conflict is taking on Iraqi civilians.

“International law requires that both the Iraqi State and armed groups take all measures to minimize the impact of violence on civilians, respect the principles of distinction and proportionality when carrying out military operations, and take steps to ensure the safety and protection of civilians by enabling them to leave areas affected by violence in safety and dignity, and to access basic humanitarian assistance at all times,” he said.

“The United Nations is fully engaged with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government and civil society organizations to provide basic humanitarian assistance to all civilians who have been displaced or who remain in areas affected by violence.”

The report also notes that children have been disproportionately affected by the conflict.

“In all conflict-affected areas, child casualties due to indiscriminate or systematic attacks by armed groups and by Government shelling on populated areas have been on the rise,” it states. “Credible information on recruitment and use of children as soldiers was also received.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said she was particularly concerned about the protection and welfare of members of vulnerable groups who remain in areas affected by the armed conflict, especially women, female-headed households, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and members of minority groups.

“Every day we receive accounts of a terrible litany of human rights violations being committed in Iraq against ordinary Iraqi children, women and men, who have been deprived of their security, their livelihoods, their homes, education, healthcare and other basic services,” she said.

“The deliberate or indiscriminate targeting of civilians, the killing of civilians, the use of civilians as shields, the hindering of access for civilians to humanitarian assistance may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. Parties to the conflict are required by international human rights law and international humanitarian law to prevent such violations and abuses from taking place.”

Pillay also stressed the obligation of the Government of Iraq to investigate serious violations and to hold the perpetrators to account.

Mladenov reiterated his call to the Iraqi political leadership to quickly move forward with the political process.

“Now that a Speaker of Parliament has been elected, it is vital that Iraqi leaders quickly move forward on the nomination of a new President and a new Government. An inclusive political process, cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil as well as a nationally accepted security plan are important elements in restoring the rule of law and bringing the country back from the brink of chaos,” Mladenov stressed.

The report notes that in the month of June, at least 1,531 civilians were killed in Iraq and 1,763 were wounded. Some 1.2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced as a result of the violence – including over 600,000 since the beginning of June alone.


The full report is available here:

For more information, please contact:
In Geneva: Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]), Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9769 / [email protected] ) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / [email protected] )
In Baghdad: Eliana Nabaa, Director of Public Information/Spokesperson, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) ( +964 790 193 1281, [email protected])

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