Syrian Kurds wait near the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey on Oct. 1, 2014. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds flooded into Turkey fleeing an onslaught by the Islamic State (IS) group that prompted an appeal for international intervention.
Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty

ISIS committing ‘staggering array’ of human rights abuses in Iraq, UN says


The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has committed a “staggering array” of human rights abuses and “acts of violence of an increasingly sectarian nature” in Iraq, the United Nations reported on Thursday.

The U.N. reports a harrowing list of offenses the terrorist militia perpetrated during a nine-week period in July, August and early September, shortly after the group took control of large areas of northern Iraq.

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“These include attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms,” the report notes. 

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These attacks—seen in just over two months—are “systemic” and “widespread,” according to the U.N. As of early September, 9,347 civilians have been killed and 17,386 have been wounded.

Ethnic and religious minorities are, predictably, some of the worst hit by these abuses: “ISIL and associated armed groups intentionally and systematically targeted these communities for gross human rights abuses, at times aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control.”

The news comes on the heels of the U.N. General Assembly, where the U.S. pushed to garner support for its 40-country coalition that’s currently attempting to decimate ISIS with airstrikes and by arming the armies on the ground combatting ISIS. 

U.S. airstrikes earlier this summer, after ISIS forces cornered civilians on a mountain, threatening them with death or starvation. Later, with the support of a 40-country coalition, the U.S. expanded airstrikes to Syria, where ISIS’s has much of its infrastructure and resources. 

President Obama’s plan to “degrade and destroy” ISIS won’t include American boots on the ground, the White House has repeatedly assured, instead relying on regional forces to try to combat the extremist jihadi movement.

But U.N. investigators also found that the Iraqi Security Forces and other aligned forces—the very people the U.S. and its partners are arming and training in their fight against ISIS—were also confirmed to have committed their own violations.

“These included air strikes and shelling as well as conduct of particular military operations or attacks that may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law,” the report said.

Related: To defeat ISIS, the US needs to hold the Iraqi government accountable, too

“This report is terrifying,” Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said in a release, noting that hundreds of allegations of civilian murders couldn’t be verified and weren’t included in the study.

The report was produced by both the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

ISIS committing 'staggering array' of human rights abuses in Iraq, UN says