UN appeals for more Iraq support amid “staggering” war crimes

20 Jan 16

The United Nations special representative for Iraq has called on the international community to step up its support to the nation following revelations of a “staggering” civilian death toll and possible genocide.


Ján Kubiš’ comments came after a report released yesterday revealed that at least 18,800 civilians were killed and a further 36,245 injured between January and October last year, with warnings the true figures are likely to be much higher. Around 3.2 million people have been internally displaced due to the violence.

“The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering,” the report stated. “The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law.

“These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide.”

While the report found ISIL, who have targeted scores of people to be killed, abducted or brutally punished, to be the primary force exacting such a heavy toll on the population, it also alleges violations and abuses by the Iraqi Security Forces and associated groups, including militia and tribal forces, popular mobilisation units and the Peshmerga – the military forces of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The UN also indicated that reports have been received of unlawful killings and abductions perpetrated by some elements associated with pro-government forces.

ISIL victims include those perceived to oppose their ideology, those affiliated to the government, police officers, former public officials and electoral workers, tribal and religious leaders and professionals, including doctors, lawyers and journalists.

The incidents not perpetrated by ISIL may have been reprisals against persons perceived to support or be associated with them, the report explained.

“Moreover, as civilians move around the country, fleeing violence, they have continued to face government restrictions on their ability to access safe areas. Once they reach such areas, some have experienced arbitrary arrests in raids by security forces and others have been forcibly expelled.

“The conduct of pro-government forces’ operations raises concerns that they are carried out without taking all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects,” it said.

The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that the civilian death toll in Iraq may be considerably higher and called for urgent action to put an end to the seeming carte blanche violent perpetrators are enjoying.

“Even the obscene causality figures fail to accurately reflect how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq. The figures capture those killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from lack of access to basic food, water or medical care,” he said.

Kubiš called on the international community to enhance its support to Iraq’s humanitarian, stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in areas liberated from ISIL, as well as on the parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians from violence. 

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