Civil­ian death toll ‘stag­ger­ing’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Iraq wit­nessed a sharp in­crease in civil­ian deaths fol­low­ing the fall of large swaths of ter­ri­tory to the Is­lamic State group in the sum­mer of 2014. Now de­spite a string of re­cent bat­tle­field losses for IS, civil­ians in Iraq con­tinue to die at a “stag­ger­ing” rate, ac­cord­ing to a new United Na­tions re­port.

At least 18,802 civil­ians were killed and an­other 36,245 were wounded in Iraq be­tween the start of 2014 and Oct. 31 of last year, ac­cord­ing to the UN re­port re­leased Tues­day. In just one six-month pe­riod be­tween May and Oc­to­ber last year, more than 10,000 civil­ians were killed.

“De­spite their steady losses to pro-govern­ment forces, the scourge of ISIL con­tin­ues to kill, maim and dis­place Iraqi civil­ians in the thou­sands and to cause un­told suf­fer­ing,” UN en­voy Jan Ku­bis said in a state­ment, us­ing an al­ter­na­tive acro­nym for the ex­trem­ist group.

The num­bers are nowhere near the death tolls recorded dur­ing Iraq’s bloody civil war. In 2006 alone more than 34,000 civil­ians were killed, ac­cord­ing to UN data. The fol­low­ing year the Iraqi govern­ment re­fused to pro­vide the UN with death toll sta­tis­tics, stat­ing that the govern­ment wanted to pre­vent the data from paint­ing a neg­a­tive im­age of the coun­try.

But civil­ian ca­su­al­ties since the rise of IS in Iraq are con­sid­er­ably higher than the pre­ced­ing years of rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity. In 2011, the num­ber of civil­ian deaths due to vi­o­lence was at its low­est since the civil war, with fewer than 2,800 killed.

UN hu­man rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hus­sein said the civil­ian death toll may ac­tu­ally be con­sid­er­ably higher.

“Even the ob­scene ca­su­alty fig­ures fail to ac­cu­rately re­flect ex­actly how ter­ri­bly civil­ians are suf­fer­ing in Iraq,” he said in a state­ment.

The UN re­port also doc­u­mented a wide range of hu­man rights abuses, in­clud­ing the IS group’s con­scrip­tion of some 3,500 peo­ple into slav­ery. Many of those are women and chil­dren from the Yazidi religious mi­nor­ity who were taken hostage in the sum­mer of 2014 and forced into sex­ual slav­ery. It said an­other 800 to 900 chil­dren were ab­ducted from Iraq’s se­cond largest city, Mo­sul, for religious and mil­i­tary train­ing.

AP FILE PHOTO

An Aug. 13, 2015, photo shows peo­ple car­ry­ing the body of a vic­tim killed in a truck bomb­ing in Bagh­dad, Iraq. A UN re­port says 19,000 civil­ians have been killed in un­der two years.

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