IS extremists guilty of war crimes

Residents of Tabqa city and Islamic State militants tour the streets in celebration after IS took over Tabqa air base. Picture: Reuters
Residents of Tabqa city and Islamic State militants tour the streets in celebration after IS took over Tabqa air base. Picture: Reuters
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THE United Nations has condemned “appalling widespread” crimes being committed by Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq, warning they would be war crimes under international law.

The report by UN human rights chief Navci Pillay said crimes included mass executions of prisoners, slavery, sexual attacks and “ethnic and religious cleansing”.

The persecution of entire communities and systematic violations by the al-Qaeda offshoot have been documented by UN human rights investigators.

Her statement came as London mayor Boris Johnson provoked a row by claiming that those returning from Iraq who had been there “for no good ­reason” should be detained.

The crisis also saw the Assad regime in Syria making advances to the West to co-operate in fighting IS, after the US suggested it might extend its air attacks on the Islamic extremists into Syria.

In her statement, Ms Pillay described “grave, horrific human rights violations [that] are being committed daily by IS and associated armed groups”.

She cited targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, slavery, sex crimes, forced recruitment and destruction of places of worship.

“They are systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and are ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control.”

Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen were among the minorities targeted by the Sunni militant group, which has forced people to convert to their strict form of Sharia law, she said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has rejected calls for tougher measures to combat the threat posed by British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria, saying that a new law would not remove the danger from IS extremists.

Mr Clegg said he would listen to what the police and intelligence services said they needed to tackle the “hateful ideology” of IS rather than accepting Mr Johnson’s proposals.

Speaking on a visit to India, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “I think the issue is incredibly important, that we should make sure that those young men who are attracted to this hateful ideology, they shouldn’t be able to come back and do harm on the streets, and that is now our number one priority.

“It’s what the police, the authorities and security services are working flat-out on; I have huge confidence in the outstanding work they do.”

Intelligence agencies are also close to identifying the killer of US journalist James Foley, believed to be a British extremist.

Mr Johnson said Britain must take on IS and “try to close it down now”, warning that doing nothing would mean a “tide of terror will eventually lap at our own front door”.

He called for new laws that would mean anyone visiting Iraq and Syria would be automatically presumed to be terrorists unless they had notified the authorities in advance.

In a separate development, Syria said it would co-operate in any international efforts to fight IS militants, after Washington signalled it was considering extending the battle against the group into Syrian territory.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged Western and Arab governments to engage with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to fight IS insurgents.