U.N. Reports Nearly 19,000 Iraqi Civilian Deaths in 22 Months
Nick Cumming-Bruce, The New York Times
19 January 2016
GENEVA — Nearly 19,000 Iraqi civilians have died and more than three million have fled their homes over a 22-month period marked by a “staggering” level of violence, the United Nations said on Tuesday, in a report that starkly demonstrated why huge numbers of Iraqis were seeking refuge in Europe.
Fighting between the Islamic State, Iraqi security forces and pro-government militias from the start of 2014 to the end of October 2015 left at least 18,802 civilians dead, the United Nations mission in Iraq said in a report compiled jointly with the organization’s human rights office in Geneva.
Nearly double that number of civilians has been wounded in the fighting, the report said, adding that officials had emphasized that the casualty estimates were a minimum.
“Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” the United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said in a statement, which noted that “countless others” had died from the lack of access to food, water and medical care.
The United Nations said that systematic and widespread atrocities committed by the Islamic State could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Among many “grim public spectacles” the United Nations documented was an episode in July in which Islamic State forces drove a bulldozer over people forced to lie in a street in the northern city of Mosul.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has also posted a video showing men being killed in various ways: after being placed in a car that was then hit with a rocket-propelled grenade; drowned in a cage lowered into water; and decapitated with explosives.
Around 3,500 people, mainly women and children and mostly from Iraq’s Yazidi minority, were still held as slaves by the Islamic State, with some of the women sold as sex slaves, according to the report.
In Mosul, the group reportedly killed 19 women who had refused to have sex with its fighters, the United Nations said.
Islamic State units have abducted hundreds of children around Mosul, forcing those older than 10 to undergo military training, the report said. In one area, the Islamic State used child soldiers to kill 15 of its fighters accused of losing battles, and it killed 18 youths under the age of 18 for deserting the front line.
Most of the casualties were inflicted by the Islamic State, according to Francesco Motta, head of the United Nations human rights office in Baghdad.
The report, however, also detailed allegations of summary killings and abductions by security forces, pro-government militia and Kurdish pesh merga fighters, including reprisals against those suspected of supporting the jihadists, and civilian casualties inflicted by government airstrikes or the shelling of civilian areas.
The conflict has forced more than three million people to flee, including more than a million school-age children, but the United Nations reported instances in which government forces had denied displaced people access to safe areas; others who managed to reach safety, notably around the northern city of Kirkuk, were said to have faced police raids and arbitrary arrests.
Intense violence has continued around Iraq since October: The United Nations study does not take into account intense fighting in recent months around Baiji, Sinjar or Ramadi — all former Islamic State strongholds. Nor does it take into account a surge in guerrilla-style terror attacks in Baghdad and Diyala Province, among other places, as ISIS has sought to keep a high profile despite losing territory.
Genocide Watch is the Coordinator of Alliance Against Genocide. Founded in 1999, the Alliance is made up of over 50 organizations from around the world and was the first coalition of organizations focused completely on preventing genocide.