Perpetrators of Iraq "horrors" must face justice, says UN rights expert

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The Deputy High Commissioner called on the Iraq government to protect civilians in Mosul, pictured here. Photo: HCR/S. Baldwin

One of the UN's top human rights leaders on Wednesday said it was "painful” to contemplate abuse carried out by ISIS extremists in Iraq, amid evidence that pro-government forces were also responsible for terrible violations.

In her office’s report on the strife-hit country, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri told the UN Human Rights Council of "horrible, horrible violations" by the separatist fighters and said they needed to be brought to justice.

The abuses include the repeated rape of girls as young as six, according to Pansieri, who was also critical of the Iraqi government, citing the alleged use of barrel bombs by Iraqi security forces.

Daniel Johnson has more.

In her address, the Deputy High Commissioner said that 2014 had been the deadliest year for Iraqi civilians since 2006.

She described how ISIS "deliberately committed shocking and serious crimes" including the repeated rape of very young girls, who were then sold on to other extremists.

In addition, ethnic Yezidi boys as young as eight have been forcibly conscripted by ISIS and forced to watch videos of beheadings.

"The people who remain in zones under ISIL control suffer horrors that are painful for me even to tell you about…however, I'm also bound to report that although the government has steps some very encouraging steps to restore confidence among Iraqi communities, this cannot mask the fact that its forces and allies continue to violate human rights of people in the country…"

Amid this "relentless cycle of violence", the Deputy High Commissioner said that civilians in Mosul needed protection to prevent further violations from pro-Iraqi militia if and when they retook the city from ISIS.

The UN expert spoke of the alleged use of barrel bombs in civilian areas by Iraqi security forces and called for the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

She also called for Iraq to sign up to the Rome Statute so that it fell under the ICC's jurisdiction.

In response, the Iraqi delegation said such "isolated" rights violations could "in no way" be compared with the "transboundary terrorism" practised by ISIS.

The Iraqi minister for human rights, minister Mohammed Al- Bayati added that his country was studying the request to join the ICC.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'44"

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