New UN report shows ‘relentless assault’ on civilians in ISIL-controlled Syria

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UNITED NATIONS: A UN report on Friday revealed shocking accounts of a rule of terror imposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in its controlled areas in Syria.
The report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry, entitled “Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria,” painted a devastating picture of war crimes committed by ISIS, also known as ISIL or Da’esh.
“Based on over 300 first-hand victim and witness accounts, the report provides a unique insight from Syrian men, women and children who fled or who are living in Da’esh-controlled areas,” Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, told reporters here.
Executions, amputations and lashings in public spaces have become a regular occurrence, he said. “Women have been killed, often by stoning, for unapproved contact with the opposite sex. Children have also been the victims, perpetrators and witnesses of Da’esh executions.”
Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the four-member commission, on Friday urged international action to hold the perpetrators of such actions, including ISIL commanders named in the report, accountable for possible “crimes against humanity.”
With the capacity and means to attack the civilian population on a large scale, ISIL has carried out mass victimization against civilians, including segments of the population on the basis of gender, religion and ethnicity, said the report.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established on Aug. 22, 2011, by the Human Rights Council with a mandate to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Middle East country.
The report details ISIL’s horrific abuse of Yazidi women and girls, some of whom, after being abducted in Iraq in September 2014, were taken into Syria and sold into sexual slavery. Distressing accounts were collected of forced marriages of girls as young as 13 to ISIL fighters.
Children have also been the victims, perpetrators and witnesses of ISIL executions. The armed group employs education as a tool of indoctrination, aiming propaganda at children to foster a new generation of recruits. In Raqqah city, children are gathered for screenings of videos depicting mass executions of government soldiers, desensitizing them to extreme violence, the report said.
Where ISIL has occupied areas with diverse ethnic and religious communities, minorities have been forced either to assimilate or flee.
“There is a manifest pattern of violent acts directed against certain groups — notably Christians, Shias and Kurds — with the intent to curtail and control their presence within ISIS areas,” said Commissioner Vitit Muntarbhorn.
The group, whose fighters had seized vast swaths of territory in northern Iraq since June and announced the establishment of a caliphate in areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, has released videos showing the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker.
The group has also attacked journalists and activists trying to communicate the daily suffering of those living under its yoke. Scores have been abducted, disappeared, tortured and executed.
The report detailed ISIL’s killing of captured belligerents during its recent military assaults, including the killings of more than 200 captured soldiers from Tabqa airbase in Ar-Raqqah and the killing of hundreds of members of the Al-Sheitat tribe in Dayr Az-Zawr, both in August 2014.
As an armed group bound by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and customary international law, ISIL has violated its obligations toward civilians and persons hors de combat, amounting to war crimes, the Commission said in its report.
“The commanders of ISIS have acted willfully, perpetrating these war crimes and crimes against humanity with clear intent of attacking persons with awareness of their civilian or hors de combat status,” said Commissioner Carla del Ponte.
The report recommended engaging international accountability mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), to hold individuals, including ISIL commanders, responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The commission emphasized that the lack of a political process had allowed extremism to fester and it was urgent to reach a sustainable solution to the ongoing armed conflict in Syria through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process.