ISLAMIC State militants and associated groups have carried out a “staggering array” of human rights abuses against captured soldiers and civilians in Iraq over a period of just nine weeks, the United Nations has said.
Investigators said abuses committed between 6 July and 10 September may be war crimes or crimes against humanity.
The UN also accused Iraqi government security forces and their associates of violations.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami) said on Wednesday that at least 9,347 civilians had been killed so far in 2014 and 17,386 wounded – well over half of them since IS militants began overrunning large parts of the north of the country in early June.
In other developments yesterday, Turkish MPs were due to vote on military action against IS.
The militant group, which controls vast swathes of Iraq and Syria and has captured weaponry from fleeing Iraq forces, is believed to have reached within a few kilometres of Kobane, a Syrian Kurdish town, which has sent tens of thousands of refugees streaming over the border into Turkey.
The UN report, produced by Unami and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is based on nearly 500 interviews with refugees and others from the area. It says abuses have an “apparent systematic and widespread character”.
It reads: “These include attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence.
“[They are] perpetrated against women and children; forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.”
Investigators say the victims – including women, children, police officers, soldiers, journalists and members of Iraq’s ethnic minorities such as Christians and Yazidis – have been subjected to “gross human rights abuses, at times aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control”.
Nickolay Mladenov, special representative for Iraq of the UN Secretary-General, said: “This report is terrifying.”
Hundreds more allegations concerning the killing of civilians were not included because they are yet to be verified, he said. He added: “Iraqi leaders must act in unity to restore control over areas that have been taken over by IS and implement inclusive social, political and economic reforms.”
The UN report also details rights violations committed by the Iraqi security forces battling IS, also known as ISIL. The the report states: “These included air strikes and shelling as well as the conduct of particular military operations or attacks that may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law,”.
In a single massacre on 12 June, about 1,500 Iraqi soldiers and security officers from the former Camp Speicher US military base are said to have been captured and killed by IS.
Women have been treated particularly harshly, the report said. “ISIL attacked and killed female doctors, lawyers, among other professionals,” it stated.
In August, it added, militants took 450 to 500 women and girls to the Tal Afar citadel in the Nineveh region where “150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly Yazidis and Christians, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves”.
RAF strikes at targets close to the Syrian border
British jets have hit Islamic State forces in support of a Kurdish advance in north-west Iraq.
The Ministry of Defence said RAF Tornado GR4s used a Paveway guided bomb to attack a pick-up truck.
The RAF began hitting IS targets on Tuesday, four days after parliament authorised UK involvement in the international military campaign.
Tornados have been deploying Brimstone missiles and Paveway bombs against vehicle and fixed weapons positions, mainly in support of Kurdish forces in the north west.
That strikes are apparently taking place so close to the border could fuel calls for the British operation to be extended into Syria – a move which ministers have said would require a further vote in the House of Commons.
In other developments yesterday, Islamic State militants launched an assault on a small town in western Iraq.
The attack against the town of Hit started at dawn when the militants, using at least three suicide bombers, attacked checkpoints at its entrances, military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said.
Mr Moussawi said there were causalities among the security forces but no precise figure was available.
A resident said militants were seen taking control of the mayoral office and roaming the streets with pick-up trucks fitted with machine guns as the dead bodies of security force members lay in the streets.
“Ninety per cent of the town of Hit has been overrun by militants,” said Adnan al-Fahdawi, a provincial council member.
It is believed the attack started with suicide car bombs.