The Islamic State (IS) may have committed all three of the most heinous international offences, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, according to a report issued by the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Genocide is a “manifest pattern of similar conduct aimed at the destruction” of a particular group, the report explained, whereby it argued that IS “may have perpetrated these crimes against the Yazidi population”, according to Efe news agency
The UN Human Rights Council requested the UN high commissioner for human rights to prepare the report last September, after convening a special session to address the Iraqi crisis.
The high commissioner sent a special investigative mission to Iraq late last year, where members of the mission interviewed more than 100 people who witnessed and survived IS attacks between June 2014 and February 2015.
The report documents the brutal and targeted killings of hundreds of Yazidi men and boys in the Ninewa plains last August, who were murdered by IS members after being separated from their wives and children.
As for the women, they were abducted as “spoils of war”, and were sold as sex slaves.
Yazidi girls between the age of six and nine were repeatedly raped by the jihadi militants, the report recounts, also revealing how several pregnant women lost their pregnancies due to rape or repeated abuse.
The report added that children under the age of 15 were recruited by IS militants, forced to convert to Islam, received military training and were “forced to watch videos of beheadings several times”.
In addition to targeting Yazidis, the report of the UN high commissioner for human rights tackled other abuses committed by IS, such as murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery, forced conversion and recruitment of child soldiers, which may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The report added that IS inflicted other brutal practices against other ethnic minorities, such as Shias, Christians, Kurds and Turkmens, among others.
On the other hand, the report also documents atrocities committed by the Iraqi army and its allied militias, including murder, torture, abduction and forced displacement.
In the summer of 2014, as the operation against the IS progressed, militias allied to the Iraqi government operated “with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake”, according to the text of the document.
As narrated by a witness in the report: “We hoped for the best when the Iraqi army and the ‘volunteers’ liberated the area from ISIL (as IS was formerly known). Instead, once the ‘volunteers’ took control they pillaged, burnt and blew up houses, claiming that all villagers are part of ISIL. This is not true; we are just ordinary poor people.”
The report concludes by reminding the Iraqi government of its responsibility to ensure that all organised armed forces, groups and units are placed under a command held accountable for the conduct of its subordinates.