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UN to investigate Islamic State violence in Iraq

The United Nations' top human rights body approved Monday to investigate alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law committed by the Islamic State and associated militant groups in Iraq since June. Adopted by the Human Rights Council during a special session on the human rights situation in Iraq, the resolution requests "the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urgently to dispatch a mission to Iraq to investigate.... and establish the facts and circumstances of such abuses and violations, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability."  It also condemns "in the strongest possible terms, the systematic violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law...which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity… and in particular, all violence against persons based on their religious or ethnic affiliation as well as violence against women and children."

Calling on the Iraqi government to ensure that all perpetrators are brought to justice, the Human Rights Council asked the international community to assist the Iraqi authorities to ensure the protection of, and assistance to, those fleeing from the areas affected by terrorism, in particular members of vulnerable groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, as well as members of ethnic, religious and other minorities.

The Council also urged the international community to strengthen their efforts in assisting Iraq to restore peace, stability and security in the areas controlled by the Islamic State and associated groups, and in protecting civilians at the request of the Government of Iraq, and notably the threatened minorities, in order to ensure the return of internally displaced people to their homes.

At least 1,420 Iraqis were killed and another 1,370 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence last month, according to casualty figures released Monday by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.

Unverified information from the Anbar health directorate reported 268 civilians were killed and 796 injured in August.

"In August alone the UN estimates that 600,000 people have been displaced while thousands continue to be targeted and killed by ISIL [known as the Islamic State] and associated armed groups simply on account of their ethnic or religious background," UN Special Representative Nickolay Mladenov said.

"Despite the difficult conditions, urgent measures are being taken by the government of Iraq, the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the international community to alleviate the suffering of those fleeing the violence and to secure the return of displaced people to their places of origin in safety and dignity," he said.

The IS-led chaos has so far displaced an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis from their homes, and has mainly targeted Shia Muslims, Turkmen, Ezidis and Christians. 

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