The Islamic State (IS) group has committed widespread abuses in Iraq and may be guilty of crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes, a new report by the United Nations Human Rights Office has found.
The report, which details and records a shocking list of abuses, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, killings, forced conversions, and the forced recruitment and use of children, recommends that the UN Security Council consider referring the situation in Iraq to the International Criminal Court.
The report, based on in-depth interviews with over 100 people who witnessed or survived IS abuses and violations between June 2014 and February 2015, found that militants conducted attacks against a number of ethno-religious groups in Iraq, including Yazidis, Christians, Turkomans, Kurds, Shi'a, Sabea-Mandeans, and the Kaka'e people.
In the case of the Yazidis, evidence points to the IS group's intention to destroy the Iraqi minority as a group, the report found. If that charge is confirmed, it may amount to genocide against the Yazidi people, the report says.
"Credible and consistent" testimony from Yazidi witnesses revealed that IS militants systematically separated Yazidi men from the women and children. The militants then took the men to nearby ditches and killed them.
Some Yazidis said that men were asked to convert to Islam, and then killed if they refused.
In some cases, villages were completely emptied of their Yazidi populations, the report found. In one case, on August 3, at least 80 Yazidi men from Qani village in Sinjar were rounded up, taken to a ditch, and killed.
The UN said that more investigations were needed to establish how many Yazidis were killed, though the numbers of deaths are thought to be in the thousands.
IS militants also abducted Yazidis on a mass scale, detaining large groups for months. Around 3,000 Yazidis are thought to remain in IS captivity.
The IS group also targeted groups thought to be connected to the Iraqi government. In one incident on June 12, up to 1,700 cadets from the Speicher army base were massacred by militants. An Iraqi government investigation into the Speicher incident has not yet been made public.
Gender-Based And Sexual Violence
The UN mission also collected witness testimony that showed "clear patterns" of sexual and gender-based violence against Yazidi women. Witness accounts offered information about rape, sexual slavery, systematic enslavement, and the forced transfer and sale of women.
Girls and unmarried women were inspected to "evaluate their beauty," survivors reported. Some were given as "gifts," while others were sold to militants.
The UN said its mission also obtained credible reports about the rapes of very young girls, including a 6-year-old who was reportedly sold to an IS militant in Syria.
Other witnesses said that doctors conducted forced abortions on Yazidi women in Ninewa Province. After the abortions, the women were sold.
Recruitment Of Children
The UN mission interviewed Yazidi children who escaped from the IS group after being abducted in August 2014. The children, aged between 8 and 15, recalled how they had been subjected to religious and military training, including how to launch small and medium-sized rockets.
One boy was told, "you have to be strong, because you will do this when you go to jihad for the Islamic State, you are an Islamic State boy now."
The UN said that other reports of child recruitment should be investigated further, including information from residents of Fallujah and Mosul that teenage children are manning checkpoints for the militants. In some areas under IS control in Syria and Iraq, the militants have reportedly set up training camps for children.
"It is unclear how many children received such training and how many are actively engaged in hostilities," the report says.
The report also documents other human rights violations in areas controlled by the IS group, including incidents of torture, extrajudicial killings, unfair trials, and inhuman treatment.
Some of the cases mentioned included two men convicted of homosexuality who were thrown by militants from the top of tall buildings; and 13 teenage boys who were sentenced to death for watching a soccer match.
However, the UN said that it was not possible to follow up on these cases because of a lack of access to IS-controlled areas.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk