Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder] militants have executed 49 people [press release] in the Libyan city of Sirte since seizing control in February 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text] Wednesday. According to the report, IS has taken control of all aspects of life in Sirte with their strict interpretation of Islamic law. Residents of the city reported public beheadings, corpses hanging from scaffolding and masked individuals breaking into residents’ homes and taking them in the middle of the night. IS has been in control of the entire city since August. There are no grocers or hospitals, and schools in the city are no longer in session. HRW called for parties to the conflict in Libya to take all feasible measures to protect citizens within the city.
IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been accused of war crimes on a massive scale. In March US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a speech at the State Department, declared [JURIST report] that IS “is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.” Shortly before, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution [JURIST report] denouncing the actions of IS as “genocide” and calling for the establishment of international and domestic tribunals by UN member states. In December Amnesty International said that IS is in possession of a “large and lethal” arsenal [JURIST report] due to decades of reckless arms trading and the poorly regulated international flow of weapons into Iraq. In November IS claimed responsibility [JURIST report] for a series of coordinated attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 individuals.