More than 18,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between 1 January, 2014, and 31 October, 2015, due to conflict in the country and violence perpetrated by militants, mainly of the Islamic State group. More than 3 million people were internally displaced in the last two years, a United Nations report revealed on Tuesday.
One of the worst atrocities recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was violence against women and children by Isis, with the terror group taking more than 3,500 sex slaves. The slaves were largely women and children from the Yazidi community and some from other religious minorities.
Terror attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted in vehicles or detonated by suicide bombers resulted in hundreds of death. More than 1,700 civilians were killed by explosives from May to October last year, the report said.
The UN report mentioned several Isis executions that began in Iraq after its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic State caliphate from Mosul in May 2014. Isus, also called Daesh, carried out hundreds of executions by barbaric methods such as beheading, throwing victims off high towers, stoning, shooting and even burning people alive.
"Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq. 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," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.
"This report lays bare the 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."
In their recommendations, the United Nations bodies called on all parties in the conflict in Iraq to respect international laws on human rights and ensure safety of civilians. They also urged the Iraqi government to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced and ensure accountability of the actions of the security forces.
Here are some of the main findings of the UN report:
Civilian deaths: At least 18,802 people were killed and 36,245 were wounded from January 2014 to October last year in Iraq, with Baghdad and Anbar being the most affected regions.
Th UN, however, said the actual figure of civilian casualties can be much higher.
Displacement of civilians: At least 3,206,736 people were internally displaced in Iraq between January 2014 and September 2015, including a million children of schoolgoing age. While 56,587 families were able to return to their towns and villages after government and coalition forces retook areas from Isis, many of these people found their houses completely destroyed and several areas still remain booby-trapped.
Isis terror attacks and executions: The report lists out scores of executions of government officials carried out by Islamic State, such as the firing-squad execuition of 300 civil servants in Mosul in August 2014, and the murder of hundreds of civilians on charges of spying and blasphemy.
Isis also abducted and abused hundreds of children to train them to become soldiers.
Isis terror attacks claimed a high number of casualties, with bomb blasts at religious sites and targeting minorities or government buildings killing many.
The UN bodies also reported receiving information on Isis using chemical weapons, such as chemical mortar shells, to hit Kurdish positions near the Mosul dam in June 2014. The terror group also reportedly used mustard gas against Peshmerga forces.
Isis violence against women and children: According to the UN, there are at least 3,500 people still being held as sex slaves in Iraq — mostly women and children. The document reveals the much-reported abuse of Yazidi girls and women at the hands of Isis fighters.
The report also highlighted the rampant use of child soldiers by the terror group. It mentioned the abduction of 800-900 children in Mosul for religious education and military training.
Human rights violations by pro-government forces: The UN reported several instances of civilian deaths due to airstrikes conducted by US-led coalition forces. Shelling by Iraqi security forces also led to many civilian casualties.