The full devastation wrought upon Iraq by the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, was detailed in a UN report published on Thursday, highlighting a “staggering array" of human rights abuses, including mass executions, the use of child soldiers and the abduction of women for use as sex slaves.
The publication, which was based on 500 interviews, also highlighted the civilian deaths caused by Iraqi military airstrikes against the militants, with around 10,000 civilians believed to have perished in the fighting since the start of the year. A further 17,000 have been wounded, the report concludes.
In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, said: "The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity."
The UN also demanded the Iraqi government help in bringing to justice those who persecute civilians for their ethnicity or religious beliefs, noting the “sectarian nature” of the human rights violations that have targeted Christians, Yazidis and Shi'ite Muslims.
The statement continued: "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."
“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 report also told of a brutal massacre in June, in which of 1,500 Iraqi soldiers were butchered by ISIL insurgents and buried in a mass grave close to a former US base near Tikrit. In August, 500 women were taken from their homes by ISIL, with the report indicating that around 150, mainly Christian and Yazidi had then been transported to Syria to be sold as sex slaves.