The UN has released a report that claims the continuing war in Iraq has led to huge death tolls and massive levels of internal displacement. 18, 802 non-combatants lost their lives between 1 January 2014 and 31 October 2015, whilst 3.2 million fled their homes. Approximately one third of the refugees are children and as many a 900 youths were abducted by IS for religious education and military training.
The report, compiled by UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, says that although many of the deaths were conflict-related, there are many instances of civilians being specifically targeted by IS because they opposed its ideology, had previously worked with the government, or were simply members of professions (such as lawyers and doctors).
One of the standout features of the report is the wide range of methods used to kill people. According to eyewitnesses, people were shot, beheaded, bulldozed, burned alive or simply thrown from the roof of a high building.
However, IS is not alone when it comes to committing atrocities. Government forces and other anti-IS groups are also accused in the report of committing serious human rights violations and failing to take sufficient action to minimise civilian casualties.
UN investigators also claim to have found numerous graves, but they were not all filled with IS victims. A number of Saddam Hussein-era sites have been uncovered, including one believed to contain the bodies of those killed during a 1991 uprising in Basra.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, said “despite their steady losses to pro government forces, the scourge of ISIL continues to kill, maim and displace Iraqi civilians in the thousands and to cause untold suffering. I strongly reiterate my call to all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians from the effects of violence.” However, the likelihood of anyone heeding Kubiš’s call seems remote and it seems clear that as the conflict continues, Iraqi civilians will continue to be injured and killed by both sides.