IS likely committing genocide against Yazidi minority in Iraq: UN

19th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Islamic State jihadists appear to be committing genocide against the Yazidi minority in Iraq, UN investigators said Thursday, calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice at the International Criminal Court.

The UN human rights office published a horrifying report describing killings, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers by the extremists, suggesting they may be guilty of "war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide."

The report, based on interviews with more than 100 witnesses and survivors of attacks in Iraq between June 2014 and February 2015, especially highlights brutal IS attacks on the Yazidis.

IS, which controls a swathe of territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, launched a series of systematic and widespread attacks on the Yazidi minority's heartland in the northern Nineveh province last August.

The jihadists consistently separated out men and boys over the age of 14 to be executed, while younger boys were forced to become child solders and women and girls were abducted as the "spoils of war", according to the investigators.

"These attacks were aimed at destroying the Yazidi as a group," said Suki Nagra, head of investigation, suggesting IS was guilty of "genocide" against the minority.

The report, which was ordered by the UN Human Rights Council last September following a request from the Iraqi government, pointed out that some villages "were entirely emptied of their Yazidi population."

- Clear chain of command -

Many Yazidi women and girls were sold into sexual slavery or handed over to IS members as "gifts", the report said, adding that witnesses had described hearing girls as young as six screaming for help as they were raped in a house used by IS fighters.

Boys as young as eight were forced to convert to Islam and given religious and military training, including being forced to watch videos of beheadings, the report said.

"One of the most shocking thing was how organised the attacks have been," Nagra told reporters.

The Yazidis at first thought they would be given the same choice as Christians in places overrun by the jihadists: to convert to Islam, pay a tax or leave.

But then the fighters received orders via telephone, and suddenly the men and older boys were being marched off to be executed.

"There was a clear chain of command," she said.

According to witness and victim testimony, foreign fighters from at least 10 countries, including a couple of westerners, had taken part in the attacks, as had some people from neighbouring villages.

The Yazidis, whose ancient religion has elements of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, are considered to be devil worshippers by the Sunni Muslim militants.

- Other religious groups targetted -

Other religious and ethnic groups have also been targeted, according to the report, including Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and Shia.

"No community has been spared," said Nagra, pointing to the thousands of Christians who fled their homes last June after being ordered by IS fighters to convert to Islam, pay a tax or leave.

Also in June, IS fighters attacked the Badoush prison, dividing the 3,000 inmates into groups, freeing the Sunnis and loading the remaining 600 mainly Shia inmates onto trucks, before driving them to a ravine and shooting them.

The jihadists have also ruthlessly targeted anyone perceived to be connected with the Iraqi government, the report said, pointing to the massacre last June of up to 1,700 cadets from the Speicher army base, after they reportedly surrendered.

One witness had described how the cadets were either shot or beheaded, and said he had seen several IS fighters "kicking heads around like footballs," Nagra said.

Faced with the horrific scope and details of these crimes, the investigators urged the Iraqi government to allow the cases to be tried before the International Criminal Court.

They also called on the UN Security Council to refer the cases to the international court.

"Ensuring that there's no impunity, that there will be accountability" is of the utmost importance, said Hanny Megally, who heads the UN rights office's Middle East branch.

The investigators meanwhile said Iraqi security forces and affiliated militia had also been accused of a range of serious crimes during their operations against IS.

A separate UN investigation into the situation in neighbouring Syria has also found that IS was committing large-scale atrocities in the war-ravaged country, likely amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

© 2015 AFP

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