United Nations to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq

Reports from Iraq “reveal acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale” says UN Commissioner

UNHRC to investigate Islamic State ‘atrocities’ in Iraq

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) condemned violations committed by Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq that may amount to international crimes. Flavia Pansieri, the Deputy Human Rights Commissioner has detailed cases of targeted executions, slavery, forced conversions and intentional attacks on civilians in Iraq. Entire communities have been held hostage, imprisoned or besieged. 

She also reported that equally, Iraqi government forces had committed appalling atrocities since the beginning of June, though they were not of the same severity as the IS crimes. The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to send an emergency mission to investigate.

The conflict in Iraq increasingly embroiled the north of Iraq in a grip of terror in the last three months as IS and its allies have seized large parts of northern-western Iraq. Many thousands of Iraqis have been killed, mainly civilians.The exact number of refugees is not known but it is believed that more than a million people have fled their homes to places of safety.

Religious and ethnic cleansing


The emergency session was called for by Iraq, which was supported by its allies including the US and Iran.

The council adopted a resolution authorising a specialist team to be sent to Iraq to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq.

Iraqi Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani pleaded with the council “We are facing a terrorist monster […] oozing with barbarity,” he said. He explained how the group threatened his country, but added “Isis is not an Iraqi phenomenon, it is a transnational phenomenon that poses an imminent danger to all countries of the world.”

Pansieri admitted to being particularly concerned about the killing and persecution of religious and ethnic groups, some minorities.  “Christians, Yazidis, Shia, Turkomans and other ethnic groups had all been targeted by IS forces through particularly brutal persecution”. She continued “These communities have lived side by side, on the same soil, for centuries and in some cases for millennia. Many have been killed directly; others have been besieged and deprived of food, water or medication.”

“Hundreds of thousands of civilians from these communities have fled to remote and desolate locations where unconfirmed reports indicate that scores of children, elderly people and people with disabilities have been dying as a result of exhaustion and deprivation.”

The council heard that Yazidis had suffered extremely brutal treatment as IS moved its frontier forward.Those who refused forced conversion to Islam were executed and their womenfolk, including young girls, given as ‘slaves’ to those fighting with the IS forces. 

Iraqi security services were reported to have executed detainees in Tal Afar whilst militias loyal to the Iraqi government opened fire 73 men and boys in a mosque in the Khanaqin district northeast of Baghdad killing them all, according to Pansieri. She concluded her address by calling on the international governments to do more to protect all Iraqis and to hold to account those that had carried out or assisted in these acts were brought to justice.



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