As Iraqi forces are trying to retake Mosul from the Islamic State’s occupation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for the protection of civilians. Zeid warns that the ISIS fighters are using civilians as human shields.
A large-scale military offensive is underway to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) fighters.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State (IS) is a militant organization.
With a strong force of over 70,000 fighters under its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIL is attacking different nations with the aim to set up a large Islamic State called the Caliphate. It is believed that now ISIS has a presence in nearly 30 countries of the world.
“We are gravely worried by reports that ISIL is using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance, keeping civilians close to their offices or places where fighters are located, which may result in civilian casualties,” said Zeid.
The High Commissioner voiced particular concern regarding the women, children and men held captive by ISIL, especially those from ethnic or religious communities who are at extreme risk.
“There is a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” he said.
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“The killings and abuses committed by ISIL fighters when they captured Mosul in 2014, and the horrors they have subjected its inhabitants to ever since, should leave us in no doubt as to the risk civilians face as the fighting for control of Mosul and surrounding areas continues,” said Zeid.
“My Office has verified information regarding several incidents since 17 October where ISIL has forced people to leave their homes in outlying villages to head to Mosul. We also have reports that ISIL fighters have shot dead civilians who have tried to rise up against them or who they suspect are disloyal,” he said.
Among the reports received by the UN Human Rights Office is that ISIL forced some 200 families out of Samalia village to walk to Mosul on 17 October.
Also on 17 October, 350 families fled Najafia village in Nimroud Sub-district, towards Mosul, highlighting ISIL’s apparent policy of preventing civilians from escaping to areas controlled by the Iraqi security forces.
The UN Human Rights Office is also examining reports that at least 40 civilians were shot dead by ISIL in one of the villages outside Mosul.
“We know ISIL has no regard for human life, which is why it is incumbent upon the Iraqi Government to do its utmost to protect civilians,” Zeid stressed.
Zeid stressed that the security screening of civilians leaving areas controlled by ISIL to ensure they are not ISIL fighters should be carried out only by lawful authorities such as the Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi police.
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