Casualty figures fail to reflect terrible suffering of Iraq civilians

Friday 15/01/2016
Violence, death, abuse and displacement

BAGHDAD - The number of civilians killed in violence in Iraq over the past two years is "staggering", the United Nations said Tuesday, with a death toll of at least 18,802 people and another 36,245 injured.

Those figures, which are likely an underestimate, count casualties incurred from January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2015, according to a report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN human rights agency.

"Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq," UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned in a statement.

"The figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care," he pointed out.

The UN said around 3.2 million people have been internally displaced in Iraq since the beginning of 2014 when the Islamic State (ISIS) group took over large parts of the country.

The UN gave specific attention to the atrocities committed by the ISIS jihadists, detailing "numerous examples of gruesome public spectacles, including by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings."

It also decried reports of ISIS murdering child soldiers who tried to flee, and lamented that the jihadists "continued to subject women and children to sexual violence, particularly in the form of sexual slavery."

"These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide," according to the report, which was based largely on witness and victim testimony.

The experts also said numerous mass graves had been discovered in Iraq, including in areas that had been under ISIS control, but also some dating back to the rule of Saddam Hussein.