UN report paints horrifying picture of life under IS

Updated 15 Nov 2014

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In this March 30, 2014 photo, Islamic State militants wave Al Qaeda flags as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. — AP
In this March 30, 2014 photo, Islamic State militants wave Al Qaeda flags as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. — AP

GENEVA: Islamic State (IS) ‘commanders’ are liable for war crimes on a “massive scale” in northeast Syria where they spread terror by beheading, stoning and shooting civilians and captured fighters, according to UN investigators.

The UN experts told world powers on Friday to make sure the commanders guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity were held accountable by the International Criminal Court.

The latest report by the independent UN investigators is based on interviews with more than 300 men, women and children who fled or still live in IS’s north-eastern stronghold, including Aleppo.


‘Morality police’ order lashing and amputation for offences such as smoking cigarettes and theft


“In carrying out mass killings of captured fighters and civilians following military assaults, IS members have perpetrated egregious violations of binding international humanitarian law and the war crime of murder on a massive scale,” said the report.

Foreign fighters, many of them recruited by violent videos, have swollen the group’s ranks and dominate its leadership structure, according to the report.

“The commanders of IS have acted wilfully, perpetrating these war crimes ... They are individually criminally responsible,” it added, saying the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi wielded “absolute power”.

Since US-led air strikes began targeting IS militants in Syria in late September, “civilians living in Minbij (Aleppo) described how IS fighters began to position themselves in civilian houses and farms,” the 20-page report said.

“Air strikes on IS positions have led to some civilian casualties,” it said, without giving an estimate.

Around 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict, the United Nations says.

IS enforces its edicts, based on its radical interpretation of Islamic law, through al-Hisbah “morality police” who order lashings and amputations “for offences such as smoking cigarettes or theft”, the report said.

Children are pressed to inform on their parents, women are executed for unapproved contact with men, and Christians and other minorities are forced to pay taxes or convert, it said.

“IS has beheaded, shot and stoned men, women and children in public spaces in towns and villages across north-eastern Syria,” it said.

“The mutilated bodies of male victims are often placed on display, a warning to the local population of the consequences of failure to submit to the armed group’s authority,” it added.

Executions have been recorded in Aleppo, Raqqa, Idlib, Al-Hassakeh and Deir Al-Zor provinces, the investigators said. “Witnesses saw scenes of bleeding bodies hanging from crosses and of heads placed on spikes along park railings,” the experts said.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2014