UN report : ISIS may have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide
ISIS and Shiite militia groups may have perpetrated serious crimes in Iraq.
The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have committed all three of the most serious international crimes – namely war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – according to a report issued by the UN Human Rights Office on Thursday.
The report, compiled by an investigation team sent to the region by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights late last year, draws on in-depth interviews with more than 100 people who witnessed or survived attacks in Iraq between June 2014 and February 2015. It documents a wide range of violations by ISIS against numerous ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, some of which, it says, may amount to genocide.
It also highlights violations, including killings, torture and abductions, allegedly carried out by the Iraqi Security Forces and associated militia groups.
The report finds that widespread abuses committed by ISIS include killings, torture, rape and sexual slavery, forced religious conversions and the conscription of children. All of these, it says, amount to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some may constitute crimes against humanity and/ or may amount to war crimes.
However, the manifest pattern of the attacks against the Yezidi “pointed to the intent of ISIS to destroy the Yezidi as a group,” the report says. This “strongly suggests” that ISIS may have perpetrated genocide.
The report, requested by the UN Human Rights Council at the initiative of the Government of Iraq,* cites the brutal and targeted killings of hundreds of Yezidi men and boys in the Ninewa plains last August. In numerous Yezidi villages, the population was rounded up. Men and boys over the age of 14 were separated from women and girls. The men were then led away and shot by ISIS, while the women were abducted as the ‘spoils of war.’ “In some instances,” the report found, “villages were entirely emptied of their Yezidi population.”
Some of the Yezidi girls and women who later escaped from captivity described being openly sold, or handed over as “gifts” to ISIS members. Witnesses heard girls – as young as six and nine years old – screaming for help as they were raped in a house used by ISIS fighters. One witness described how two ISIS members sat laughing as two teenage girls were raped in the next room. A pregnant woman, repeatedly raped by an ISIS ‘doctor’ over a period of two and a half months, said he deliberately sat on her stomach. He told her, “this baby should die because it is an infidel; I can make a Muslim baby.”
Boys between the ages of eight and 15 told the mission how they were separated from their mothers and taken to locations in Iraq and Syria. They were forced to convert to Islam and subjected to religious and military training, including how to shoot guns and fire rockets. They were forced to watch videos of beheadings. One child was told, “This is your initiation into jihad….you are an Islamic State boy now.”
Brutal treatment was meted out by ISIS to other ethnic groups, including Christians, Kaka’e, Kurds, Sabea-Mandeans, Shi’a and Turkmen. In a matter of days in June, thousands of Christians fled their homes in fear after ISIS ordered them to convert to Islam, pay a tax, or leave.
Also in June, around 600 males held in Badoush prison, mostly Shi’a, were loaded onto trucks and driven to a ravine, where they were shot by ISIS fighters. Survivors told the UN team that they were saved by other bodies landing on top of them.
Those perceived to be connected with the Government were also targeted. Between 1,500 to 1,700 cadets from Speicher army base, most of whom are reported to have surrendered, were massacred by ISIS fighters on 12 June. The findings of Iraqi Government investigations into both the Badoush and Speicher incidents have yet to be made public.
ISIS fighters are reported to have relied on lists of targets to conduct house-to-house and checkpoint searches. A former policeman stated that when he showed his police ID card to ISIS fighters, one of them slashed the throats of his father, five-year-old son and fivemonth-old daughter. When he begged them to kill him instead, they told him “we want to make you suffer.”
The investigation team received information from numerous sources who alleged that Iraqi Security Forces and affiliated militia had committed serious human rights violations during their counter-offensive operations against ISIS.
During the summer of 2014, as their military campaign against ISIS gained ground, the report says, militias seemed to “operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.”
In mid-June, fleeing Iraqi forces allegedly set fire to an army base in Sinsil, in Diyala province, where 43 Sunnis were held prisoner. In another incident, at least 43 prisoners were allegedly shot dead in the al-Wahda police station in Diyala. Villagers reported being rounded up and taken to al-Bakr airbase at Salah-ad-Din where, the report says, torture is allegedly routine. There were also numerous accounts of Sunnis being forced from their homes at gunpoint.