Sunday 22 April 2018

Murder, slavery and torture exposed in UN Isil report

An army fighter prepares to fire a shell towards Isil militants in the northern Aleppo countryside, Syria (Reuters)
An army fighter prepares to fire a shell towards Isil militants in the northern Aleppo countryside, Syria (Reuters)

Stephanie Nebehay

An estimated 3,500 people, mainly women and children, are being held by Isil as slaves in Iraq, the UN has said.

The group, which also controls large parts of Syria, is responsible for acts that may "amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide", particularly against minorities, a report said.

Iraqi security forces and allied groups, including Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, have also killed and abducted civilians, the UN said.

"Some of these incidents may have been reprisals against persons perceived to support or be associated with Isil," it added.

At least 18,802 civilians were killed in violence in Iraq in the first 10 months of 2015, half of them in Baghdad, and 36,245 civilians were wounded, the report said, calling the figures "obscene".

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the UN human rights office estimated that 3,500 people were "currently being held in slavery" by Isil, which seized mainly Sunni-populated areas in the north and west in 2014.

"Those being held are predominantly women and children primarily from the Yazidi community," said the joint report, referring to a non-Muslim minority in northern Iraq.

"But a number are also from other ethnic and religious minority communities."

The Sunni Islamists, who claim responsibility for suicide bombings in Baghdad against Shia mosques and markets, should face prosecution for international crimes, said Francesco Motta, director of the UN human rights office in Iraq.

"They use civilians as shields. They use children in armed conflict. They also directly target civilian infrastructure and that can amount to war crimes but they can also constitute crimes against humanity," he told a news briefing.

The group seeks to "basically eliminate, purge or destroy minority communities," Mr Motta explained.

"We've seen communities like the Yazidi, in particular, bear the brunt of this. Yazidi were basically given the option by Isil to convert or to be killed.

"The intent seems clear... the international crime of genocide," he said. "The intention was to destroy part or the whole of the Yazidi people."

The report detailed Isil executions by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off buildings. Doctors, teachers and journalists opposed to its ideology have been "singled out and murdered by Isil".

"We have a lot of information on the recruitment of children, children as young as nine, to train them sometimes to use them as suicide operatives in their operations, but also forcing them to give blood and also take armed combat roles in other parts where conflict is taking place," Mr Motta said.

Between 800 and 900 children in Mosul had been abducted for military and religious training, the report said.

Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, was recaptured from Isil in late December and the tide of fighting appears to have turned against the group.

"We still have grave fears for civilians in areas under Daesh (Isil) control as the armed forces and those supporting the government move closer to those areas," Mr Motta added.

Irish Independent

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