War crimes and genocide: IS systematically killing religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, study finds

Michael Walsh
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Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, alternatively known as Abu Ala al-Afri, was a senior Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) official who reintegrated himself into ISIL following his release from prison in early 2012 and traveled to Syria to work in a Syria-based ISIL network. Al-Qaduli joined al-Qaida in 2004 under the command of now deceased al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and served as al-Zarqawiâs deputy and the AQI amir (leader) of Mosul, Ninawa Province, Iraq. (Rewards for Justice/US State Department)

Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli

The Islamic State is systematically killing religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq in an effort to eliminate them from the region permanently, according to a new report.

Several human rights groups released on Friday what they consider to be the first legal analysis for war crimes proceedings against IS.

The report, titled “Between the Millstones,” says the jihadists are guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide for their persecution of Christians, Kaka’i, Shabak, Turkmen and Yazidi.

“You could argue that ISIS’ quest for purity is very similar to what the Nazi party was looking for,” William Spencer, executive director of the Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), said in an interview with Yahoo News. “What was happening in World War II was so incredible, nobody believed it [at first]. But here everyone is aware of it and believes it.”

Spencer, lead author of the report, says military action against the Islamic State receives the majority of the public’s attention, but we must also focus on the worsening refugee crisis.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warned on Thursday that almost 12 million people have been displaced by the Syrian Civil War, AFP reported.

“As the level of despair rises, and the available protection space shrinks, we are approaching a dangerous turning point,” he told the U.N. Security Council.

The bloodshed in Syria and Iraq has created what may be the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

“We need immediate planning for the post-ISIS era,” Guterres said. “Refugees need a reason to go home. They need a safe and secure place to go home regardless of what happens on the battlefield.”

In other words, it’s not only about going after the villains with weaponry but also helping the innocent with increased humanitarian assistance.

After addressing the immediate crisis, the study proposes, the international community must work toward legal and social reforms to stop the marginalization of minorities in the area.

The study focuses on the conditions of minorities in the region since the city of Mosul fell to the militant group in a June 2014 offensive. This advance caused a massive upsurge of displacement.

Minorities already faced discrimination and violence before the arrival of the Islamic State, Spencer says, but now their existence is under threat: More than 2 million people have been displaced.

“These atrocities cannot go unremarked and unaddressed; the Iraqi Government and the international community have to obtain accountability and redress for the victims,” Alison Smith, legal counsel for No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), said in a news release.

IILHR and NPWJ complied the report with two other nongovernmental organizations: Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

On Thursday, the groups presented their legal case to the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

They released the study to the general public the following morning.