World Bulletin/News Desk
Both fighters and Iraqi government forces have killed civilians and committed atrocities in three months of fighting, senior U.N. officials said in an emergency debate on the conflict on Monday.
There was "strong evidence" that fighters from ISIL and linked groups had carried out targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, sexual abuse and torture, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri told the session.
Iraqi police have executed detainees while Iraqi soldiers have shelled towns and carried out air strikes killing and injuring many civilians, Pansieri said, opening the meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"Systematic and intentional attacks on civilians may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Individuals, including commanders, are responsible for these acts," she said, referring to crimes committed by both sides.
Pansieri voiced deep concern at persecution of Christians, Yazidis, Shia, Turkmen and other ethnic groups by ISIL forces that have swept through western and northern Iraq since June, driving 1.2 million Iraqis from their homes.
"The reports we have received reveal acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale. I am particularly concerned about the persecution that is taking place," Pansieri said.
Iraqi police have also executed detainees in Tal Afar and government-allied militias opened fire on a mosque in Khanaqin district northeast of Baghdad killing 73 men and boys, she said.
Iraqi soldiers have shelled towns and carried out air strikes near Kirkuk, Falluja, and Salahuddin, killing and injuring many dozens of civilians, she added.
Iraq's human rights minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani told the session ISIL was threatening the makeup of his country.
"The land of ancient Babylon is subjected to threats starting to its very independence, they are attempting to change its demographic and cultural composition," he said in Arabic.
ISIL was not just a problem for his country, he added. "It is a trans-national phenomenon that poses an imminent danger to all countries of the world, it defies all human rights principles and international law."
The U.S. ambassador to the rights forum, Keith Harper, urged Iraq's Prime Minister designate Haider al-Abadi to set up a multi-ethnic government that would investigate all allegations against government forces and "terrorist groups".
"The stories that have emerged from ISIL's bloody assault on Iraq are the ones of nightmares. Christians and others have been driven from their homes with the threat of 'convert or die'," Harper said.
The one-day session was called by Iraq with the support of allies including the United States. The 47-member state forum is expected to agree to Baghdad's request to send a team of U.N. experts to investigate crimes committed by ISIL and others in the conflict.
"ISIL acquired a huge potential: it now controls colossal financial resources that it has seized, is pursuing illegal oil trade and has a considerable arsenal of modern weaponry. All this could have been avoided if the international community had taken measures at the time to remove this cancer at an early stage of its formation," he said.
Violence killed at least 1,420 in August
Another 1,370 Iraqis were wounded and 600,000 people forced to flee, the U.N. added, as Islamic State militants, who have grabbed large areas of territory since June, pushed into land controlled by Kurdish troops and targeted religious minorities.
"Thousands continue to be targeted and killed by ISIL (Islamic State) and associated armed groups simply on account of their ethnic or religious background ... The true cost of this human tragedy is staggering," said the U.N. representative in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov."
The UN said the casualty figures could be far higher, but it could not get indepent verification of reports of hundreds of incidents in areas under ISIL's control.
Violence killed 1,737 people, mostly civilians, in Iraq in July, and 2,400 in June, the U.N. data showed.