The UN’s human rights chief has expressed alarm at reports of extrajudicial killings and summary executions in Iraq as jihadists advance across the north, warning that civilians were particularly at risk.
“I am extremely concerned about the acute vulnerability of civilians caught in the cross-fire, or targeted in direct attacks by armed groups, or trapped in areas under the (militants’) control,” Navi Pillay said in a statement.
The rights chief said the situation in Iraq was deteriorating rapidly amid reports of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings and the massive displacement of an additional half a million people” by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
In the past week, the fighters from the Islamist group have overrun a succession of major towns and cities and were moving closer to Baghdad on Friday.
According to the UN mission in Iraq, “the number of people killed in recent days may run into the hundreds and the number of wounded is said to be approaching one thousand”, Pillay said.
She warned the parties to the conflict that they are obliged under international law to treat humanely members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms.
The UN had received disturbing reports after the capture of Iraq’s second city Mosul, including the suicide of four women who had reportedly either been raped or forced to marry militants.
Pillay also said she was deeply disturbed by reports that ISIL fighters had actively sought out soldiers, police and others, including civilians, believed to be associated with the government.
One report included the “summary executions” of Iraqi army soldiers, as well as of 17 civilians, believed to have been working with the police, on one particular street in Mosul City on June 11.