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LONDON — At least 18,802 civilians have been killed in Iraq in ISIS-linked violence in under two years, a United Nations report said Tuesday — with millions of others forced from their homes and thousands more held as slaves.
“The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering,” said the report by the Office of the United Nations High Comissioner for Human Rights [PDF link here].
ISIS continues to commit “systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law,” it said, adding that some of those act amount “crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”
U.N. monitors recorded at least 55,047 civilian casualties as a result of the conflict between Jan. 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2015, with 18,802 people killed and 36,245 wounded, it said.
Over the same period, 3.2 million people became “internally displaced” including over one million school-age girls and boys.
“The persistent violence and scale of the displacement” limit their access to housing, clean water and education, the report said.
It also documented human rights abuses, saying some 3,500 people are believed to be held as captives, mostly women and children from the Yazidi religious minority who have been forced into sexual slavery.
U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said the civilian death toll may be considerably higher.
"Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq," he said in a statement.
ISIS punishes and kills those who refuse to abide by its code of behavior, the report said. “Journalists and homosexuals were targeted for killing; journalists were shot, those accused of being homosexual were thrown from the tops of buildings,” it said.
“ISIS continues to deliberately target civilians and civilian infrastructure in its campaign of violence and terrorism and employed tactics, such as IEDs and possibly other methods, which were used indiscriminately or directly targeting civilians.”
In conclusion, the report calls on the international community to help Iraq’s government in providing humanitarian support for displaced civilians and locating and excavating suspected mass graves.