Middle East

UN accuses Islamic State of 'gross rights abuses'

An IS member in Raqqa, Iraq (29 June 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Islamic State fighters began over-running large parts of northern Iraq in early June, committing what the UN says were serious human rights abuses

A "staggering array" of human rights abuses has been committed by Islamic State (IS) militants and associated armed groups over a nine-week period in Iraq, the UN says.

It says that abuses committed between 6 July to 10 September may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

It also accuses Iraqi security forces and their associates of violations.

Turkish MPs are to meanwhile vote on a motion on military action against Islamic State.

Jihadist militants are said to have reached within a few kilometres of Kobane, a Syrian Kurdish town, sending tens of thousands of refugees into Turkey.

While Turkey's parliament is expected to approve some form of military intervention, it has lingering concerns about IS retaliation and about aiding the Kurds. Turkey has fought a long civil war with its Kurdish minority.

IS controls a broad swathe of territory, spanning a borderless stretch of Syria and Iraq.

'Terrifying report'

The UN report, produced jointly by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is based on almost 500 interviews.

It says that abuses perpetrated by IS and associated armed groups have an "apparent systematic and widespread character".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The report also details rights violations committed by the Iraqi security forces and affiliated armed groups
Image copyright AP
Image caption The report accuses IS fighters of persecuting religious and ethnic communities and subjecting women and girls to sexual violence

"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," the report says.

"[They are] 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."

Its reports says that the victims of the abuses - including women, children, police officers, soldiers, journalists and members of Iraq's diverse ethnic and religious communities - have been subjected to "gross human rights abuses, at times aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control".

"This report is terrifying," Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iraq's political leaders have been urged by the UN to show unity and restore control over areas taken by IS

He said that hundreds of other allegations concerning the killing of civilians were not included because they had not yet been properly verified.

"Iraqi leaders must act in unity to restore control over areas that have been taken over by IS and implement inclusive social, political and economic reforms," Mr Mladenov said.

The report also details rights violations committed by the Iraqi security forces and affiliated armed groups during the same period.

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

On Wednesday, Unami announced that overall a total of at least 9,347 civilians had been killed so far in 2014 and 17,386 wounded - well over half of them since IS began over-running large parts of the north in early June.

IS fighters are said to have continued their advance on Kobane, which is being defended by a Kurdish militia backed by US air strikes.

Heavy mortar fire has been heard around the town, according to a correspondent for the AFP news agency across the border in Turkey.

A Kurdish official told the agency that the better-armed IS fighters were only two to three kilometres away in places.

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