A new report from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq accuses Islamic State militants of committing acts that “may also amount to war crimes” in Iraq, including “executions, rape and forced recruitment of children,” according to Reuters.
“ISIL and associated armed groups have carried out many of these attacks in a systematic manner heedless of the impact on civilians, or have systematically targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure with the intention of killing and wounding as many civilians as possible,” the report says, according to a U.N. press release on the matter.
Reuters says that the U.N. had earlier reported 1,531 of 2,400 killed in Iraq in June were civilians. Much of the violence has been blamed on sectarian conflict and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s role in fanning anti-Sunni sentiment among his fellow Shiites.
In an interview with the German daily Bild published Friday, Maliki said he would not be stepping down.
“In free and democratic elections, we won the most votes and the constitution says that the leader of the strongest faction forms the government, so I want to run for the post of prime minister in parliament,” Maliki said, according to a Reuters translation.
But as we’ve reported previously, many experts see Maliki as a drag on a reconciliation process that is necessary if Iraq is to move past sectarian violence and the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Absent an agreement, the conflict is likely to persist and worsen the humanitarian challenges cited by the U.N.
“Every day we receive accounts of a terrible litany of human rights violations being committed in Iraq against ordinary Iraqi children, women and men, who have been deprived of their security, their livelihoods, their homes, education, healthcare and other basic services,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.
On Sunday, the group claimed responsibility for a string of car bombs that killed at least 27 over the weekend, according to a report from Al Jazeera. Just this year, at least 5,576 Iraqi civilians have died in the fighting.
President Barack Obama has sent a small number of military advisors to Iraq to assist the government in its fight against the Islamic State militants, but there is little desire on the part of the administration or U.S. public to re-engage in the country on a larger scale.
But on Sunday, the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon wrote in the Washington Post that Obama should send thousands more troops to Iraq given what he argues are the unreliability of the smaller numbers and drone technology.
That, however, is unlikely in the current climate, particularly with several pressing foreign policy crises on the president’s agenda.
But the fighting and related political crisis still pose a large humanitarian challenge for the world community.
“The United Nations is fully engaged with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government and civil society organizations to provide basic humanitarian assistance to all civilians who have been displaced or who remain in areas affected by violence,” said Nickolay Mladenove, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Iraq.
But the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq used his Friday sermon to criticize both the country’s government and international organizations.
“The institutions concerned with this are still not meeting the scale of the hardships and suffering, despite the promises that we heard of help,” Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said through an aid.
According to the U.N., about 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced due to the conflict with the Islamic State, with more than half of that total coming since the beginning of June.