Iraq’s Civilians Continue to Bear the Brunt of Instability: UAE Paper/Newswire
ROME, Jan 22 2016 (IPS) – At least 18,802 people were killed in Iraq and another 36,245 were injured; this is the number of civilians killed in violence over the past two years and it is staggering.
The figures given are most likely an underestimate and are casualties incurred from January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2015, according to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Human Rights Agency (OHCHR). About half of the deaths reported took place in Baghdad alone.
Emirates News Agency carried a commentary from the Gulf Today looking at the new United Nations report on Iraq and the instability rocking the region.
“The reason is that the figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but ignores the fact that countless others have died from lack of access to basic food, water or medical care,” said ‘The Gulf Today’ this week.
“Around 3.2 million people have been internally displaced in the country since the beginning of 2014 when the dreaded Daesh group took over large parts of the country. As is known now, the Daesh terrorists engaged in numerous inhuman activities including killings in gruesome public spectacles, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings.
“Child soldiers who tried to flee were mercilessly murdered by the terrorists, while continuing to subject women and children to sexual violence, particularly in the form of sexual slavery.
“As per the UN report, an estimated 3,500 people, mainly women and children, are believed to be held as slaves in Iraq by Daesh militants who impose a harsh rule marked by gruesome public executions.
“Such horrors were what led to Iraqi refugees attempting to escape to Europe and other regions. Ramadi has been touted as the first major success for Iraq’s US-backed army since it collapsed in the face of Daesh’s advance across the country’s north and west in mid-2014,” said the paper.
“But, as per indications, clearing the city of militants and explosives could take weeks. The discovery of more civilians than expected trapped among the ruins, after what the survivors say was a deliberate effort by fighters to use them as shields, suggests future battles against Daesh could be more complicated.
It said, “Ramadi, where nearly half a million people once lived, sadly has witnessed widespread destruction. The heartless terrorists continue to kill, maim and displace Iraqi civilians in the thousands and create endless suffering. Many of the actions by Daesh militants surely amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
“The perpetrators of such deeds should be made accountable and pay for the extreme cruelty they committed,” concluded the newspaper.
“The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering,” said the UN report. “The so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law. These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”
The report compiled by UNAMI and OHCHR is based largely on testimony given by the victims. Some of these people were survivors and witnesses of human rights violations. Among those giving the accounts were internally displaced people.
“During the reporting period, ISIL killed and abducted scores of civilians, often in a targeted manner,” the report notes. “Victims include those perceived to be opposed to ISIL ideology and rule; persons affiliated with the government, such as former Iraqi security forces (ISF), police officers, former public officials and electoral workers; professionals, such as doctors and lawyers; journalists; and tribal and religious leaders.”
The report adds that “others have been abducted or killed on the pretext of aiding or providing information to Government security forces. Many have been subjected to adjudication by ISIL self-appointed courts which, in addition to ordering the murder of countless people, have imposed grim punishments such as stoning and amputations.”
“ISIL continued to subject women and children to sexual violence, particularly in the form of sexual slavery,” the report said.
The UN indicated that concerning reports have also been received of unlawful killings and abductions perpetrated by some elements associated with pro-Government forces.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein indicated that the civilian death toll may be actually much higher, and called for urgent action for those freely committing the violence to stop it.
“Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” he said. “The figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care.”
“This report lays bare the enduring suffering of civilians in Iraq and starkly illustrates what Iraqi refugees are attempting to escape when they flee to Europe and other regions. This is the horror they face in their homelands,” Said the Human Rights Commissioner.
Mr. Zeid also made an appeal to the government to undertake legislative amendments to grant Iraqi courts jurisdiction over international crimes and to become party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.