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UN rights experts urge intervention to protect minorities in Iraq

[JURIST] A group of UN human rights experts on Tuesday urged Iraq and the international community to intervene against the Islamic State (IS) [CFR backgrounder] jihadist advance on the displaced Yazidi people [National Geographic backgrounder] and other minority groups trapped in rebel-controlled territory in Northwestern Iraq. The UN experts are part of the Special Procedures [official website] of the UN Human Rights Council [official website] and consist of specialists in minority rights, internal displacement, summary execution, religious freedom and violence and discrimination against women. The group warned that the endangered Yazidi population, forced to escape their home in Sinjar [map] and hide in the nearby mountains, are in imminent danger, facing attack "within days or hours." Many of the refugees are without food and water and UNICEF [official website] reported the deaths of 40 Yazidi children last week from dehydration. Muslim IS members, with their goal of ridding Iraq of religious minorities, are "systematically hunting down minority groups" and demanding they "convert or die." The UN experts state that the human rights violations by IS and other insurgents could amount to war crimes [ICC definition] and crimes against humanity [ICC materials]. The UN is urging that humanitarian aid be dispensed immediately to protect the refugees from "mass atrocity and potential genocide."

Iraq has experienced mounting unrest since IS (also known as ISIS) began its insurgency in 2013. The UN [JURIST report] and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] have consistently expressed [JURIST report] alarm over the violence occurring in the country including numerous executions of Iraqi civilians, religious leaders and government affiliates [JURIST reports] by IS members and the Iraqi government's execution [JURIST report] of Iraqi nationals for terrorism related offenses [JURIST reports]. The IS-instigated atrocities in Iraq began in June of 2013, two years after US troops pulled out [JURIST feature] of the country. This violence was soon followed by the rebel group detonating [JURIST report] a series of car bombs near Bagdad in order to facilitate a prison raid, killing 60 people.

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