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UN rights chief cites evidence of war crimes in Iraq

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Tuesday that the numerous executions [press release] that have occurred over the past week in Iraq "almost certainly amount[] to war crimes." Pillay cited reports of "cold-blooded" killings of hundreds of non-combatant men and civilians, including religious leaders and government affiliates, by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) [BBC backgrounder]. The killings have taken place primarily in the Tikrit area and have included several Imams who allegedly refused to swear allegiance to ISIS. Pillay commented on Iraq's struggles over the past decade and commended its citizens on their resilience. Pillay fears the provocative language of the Sunni insurgents indicates that more chaos and bloodshed is likely and urged national leaders to unite in resisting the opposition's "efforts to rip the country apart along sectarian or geographic lines."

On Friday Pillay reminded [JURIST report] opposition groups to abstain from inhumane treatment of detainees as international law requires. Iraq's political environment since the pullout of US troops in 2011 has become increasingly unstable, especially with the recent advance of ISIS militants into several Iraqi cities. ISIS, formed in 2013 and possibly surpassing al Qaeda as the most dangerous jihadist group, is an offshoot of al Qaeda and is estimated to have 10,000 Sunni fighters in Iraq and Syria [JURIST news archives]. Its goal appears to be to create an Islamic political territory straddling the Syrian-Iraqi border.

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