Isis ‘May Have’ Seriously Violated International Law: UN

Isis ‘May Have’ Seriously Violated International Law: UN

 A U.N. report published Thursday (November 2) concludes that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/Daesh) perpetrated serious and systematic violations that amount to “international crimes” during the nine-month military campaign to liberate Mosul City in Iraq.

The report, by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is based on direct witness testimony, and documents mass abductions of civilians, the use of thousands as human shields, the intentional shelling of civilian residences, and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians trying to flee the city.

A total of 2,521 civilians are estimated to have been killed, and 741 by ISIS execution, during the fight between ISIS and the internationally-backed Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that ended in July, the U.N. rights office said in a report.  

“During the course of the operation to retake Mosul City thousands of civilians were subjected to shocking human rights abuses and clear violations of international humanitarian law,” said the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. “The execution-style killing of civilians, the suffering inflicted on families, and the wanton destruction of property can never be tolerated in any armed conflict, and those responsible must answer for their heinous crimes.”

Mosul, Iraq's second city, was captured by ISIS in 2014 and became the capital of the group's self-styled "caliphate" in the country. More than 824,000 people were displaced by the fighting, the report said.

The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, said “Daesh’s [ISIS] reign of terror has spared no one, inflicting untold suffering on unarmed residents whose only guilt is that they lived in the areas under ISIS’s control. Their evil acts did not stop at killing and terrorizing residents, as they wantonly destroyed cultural and religious monuments, including the city’s iconic leaning minaret Al-Hadba, in total disregard of history and Islam, the religion this terrorist organisation falsely claimed to represent.”

The report also noted that at least 74 mass graves, created since 2014, have been discovered in areas previously held by ISIS in Iraq. The number of bodies in these locations varies greatly, from a few bodies to possibly thousands. The U.N. called on the Government of Iraq to protect these graves [according to law], to preserve evidence of the crimes committed to assist in identifying the perpetrators [as well as the victims].

With regard to ISF and associated militia forces, UNAMI/OHCHR recorded several instances of alleged violations and abuses of human rights by them. The investigative team has advocated with Iraqi authorities for prompt and thorough investigations to be carried out and for those responsible to be brought to justice but the outcome is not yet clear in those cases.

So far the investigative team has recorded 461 civilian deaths as a result of airstrikes during the most intensive phase of the ISF-led offensive from 19 February. In almost all cases, UNAMI/OHCHR could not determine who specifically responsibility for those strikes was, but the report urged that all civilian casualties [potentially caused by international forces] be thoroughly investigated and the results made public.

The reports notes that “Iraqi courts do not have jurisdiction over international crimes committed in Iraq. Additionally, Iraq is not a Party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court and has not accepted the jurisdiction of the Court under article 12(3) of its Statute. The Government is currently examining national and international mechanisms to address international crimes committed by ISIL.”

The U.N. rights office urges the Iraqi government to invite the International Criminal Court to investigate the country's situation "as an immediate step."

The U.N. human rights investigators believe that "by prosecuting those responsible for 'international crimes' in Mosul the Iraqi authorities would be sending a message to the people of Iraq who have suffered, no matter when or where, that justice is eventually delivered.”