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UN Rights Chief: Iraqi Citizens Suffering 'Horrific' Persecution, Ethnic Cleansing by ISIL

( [email protected] ) Aug 26, 2014 05:44 PM EDT

International Aid to Iraq Citizens, ISIS killings
Workers unload trucks laden with hundreds of tents for families displaced by recent fighting in Iraq (Photo: UNHCR/E. Colt)

The United Nations human rights chief recently denounced the gruesome and appalling crimes committed continuously in Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other militants and urged the United Nations to ensure such criminals do not go unpunished, .

"[ISIL] is systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and is ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under its control," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement to the press.

"Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of civilians, after singling them out for their religious affiliation may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity," she continued.

According to the UN News Center, such violations include targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, destruction of places of religious and cultural significance, and the besieging of entire communities because of ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.

Those primarily targeted include religious minorities such as Christians, Yezidi, Shabaks, Turkomen, Kaka'e and Sabaeans. Many who refused to convert have been tortured and killed; witnesses report that men are being executed while the women and their children have been forced into slavery by ISIL.

"UN staff members in Iraq have been receiving harrowing phone calls from besieged civilians who are surviving in terrible conditions, with little or no access to humanitarian aid," Ms. Pillay said. "One of the women abducted by ISIL managed to call our staff, and told them that her teenage son and daughter were among the many who had been raped and sexually assaulted by IS gunmen. Another said her son had been raped at a checkpoint."

Since June 15 of this year, at least 13,000 members of the Shia Turkmen community in Amirli in Salah al-Din Governorate, among them 10,000 women and children, have been besieged by ISIL. Those held captive are reportedly enduring harsh conditions with severe food and water shortages, and a complete absence of medical services.

In addition, according to interviews by UN human rights monitors with displaced families, ISIL is forcibly recruiting boys aged 15 and above, and positioning them at the front-line in battle situations, as human shields.

The Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has also verified reports of a massacre of prisoners and detainees in Mosul's Badoush Prison on 10 June. According to interviews with 20 survivors and 16 witnesses of the massacre, ISIL gunmen loaded between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners onto trucks and transported them to a nearby uninhabited area, executing an estimated 670 of them and displacing the others. .

"I urge the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of these vicious crimes do not enjoy impunity," said Ms. Pillay.

"Any individual committing, or assisting in the commission of international crimes, must be held accountable according to law."