Islamic State militants have carried out mass executions, abducted girls as sex slaves and used child soldiers in what may amount to systematic war crimes in Iraq that demand prosecution, the UN said today.
It said ISIS fighters had committed gross human rights violations of an 'increasing sectarian nature' against groups including Christians, Yazidis and Shi'ite Muslims in a widening conflict that has forced 1.8 million Iraqis to flee their homes.
However, it also said Iraqi government air strikes on the Muslim militants had caused 'significant civilian deaths' by hitting villages, a school and hospitals in violation of international law.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein said: 'The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.'
It came as Turkey's parliament was debating a motion to give the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State.
In a statement, he called again for the Baghdad government to join the International Criminal Court, saying the Hague court was set up to prosecute such massive abuses and direct targeting of civilians on the basis of their religious or ethnic group.
The report said the ISIS atrocities 'include attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.'
However, the bodies have not been exhumed and the precise toll is not known.
No one disputes that Iraqi military recruits were led off the base near Tikrit unarmed and then machine gunned in their hundreds into mass graves by Islamic State, whose fighters boasted of the killings on the Internet.
Women have been treated particularly harshly, the report said: 'ISIL (has) attacked and killed female doctors, lawyers, among other professionals.'
In August, it said, ISIS took 450-500 women and girls to the Tal Afar citadel in Iraq's Nineveh region where '150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIS fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves'.
But the report also voiced deep concern at violations committed by the Baghdad government and allied fighters, including air strikes and shelling that may not have distinguished between military targets and civilian areas.
At least 9,347 civilians had been killed and 17,386 wounded so far through September, well over half of them since the Islamist insurgents began seizing large parts of northern Iraq in early June, the UN said.