Belfast Telegraph

We cannot fail Iraqis once more

By Patrick Corrigan

Killings and abductions by the Islamic State (formerly Isis) are mounting as the militants continue their advance through north-west Iraq. Fearing for their lives, thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled their homes.

My Amnesty colleague Donatella Rovera has been in Iraq for weeks now, gathering evidence on atrocities committed by Islamic State (IS).

She spoke to relatives of one 18-year-old boy and his 44-year-old uncle, who were abducted at an IS checkpoint in June.

The boy's mother found their mutilated bodies two days later.

She showed us photos of the bodies; their heads had been smashed with heavy objects and their hands were cuffed behind their backs. One had his throat cut and his body partially burned.

Abductions like this have taken place in every town and village that has fallen under IS control.

The IS strategy is becoming increasingly apparent: to clear the north-west of Iraq of all non-Sunni Muslim minorities – Shias, Christians and Yezidi (an offshoot of the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian faith) are all in the IS gunsights.

Spreading terror is part of the strategy – hence the distribution by IS of pictures and videos showing them executing civilians.

IS is not the only group that has committed war crimes. Amnesty has evidence to show more than 100 Sunni detainees were killed in cold blood by government forces and Shia militias before withdrawing from northern cities like Mosul.

IS and all armed groups and forces on every side of the conflict must end the killing and torture of prisoners and attacks on civilians. All are war crimes under international law.

Meanwhile, in spite of the start of US air-drops, humanitarian aid is still not getting through to thousands trapped and in desperate need.

The international community has failed Iraqis too often – and with such devastating consequences – in recent years. It must not do so again.

  • Patrick Corrigan is Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director

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