[JURIST] Analysts at Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] announced Thursday that members of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) [BBC backgrounder] executed more than 160 men [press release] in at least two locations between June 11 and 14. HRW concluded that ISIS committed mass executions [press release] after seizing control of the city of Tikrit [JURIST report] earlier this month, extrapolating from satellite photography and photographs released by ISIS of the executions. Although ISIS claims to have killed more than 1,700 Iraqi soldiers [RT report] in the executions, military experts estimate approximately 170 deaths based on the photographs.
Earlier this month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] announced that the numerous executions that have occurred in Iraq "almost certainly amount to war crimes" [JURIST report], citing reports of ISIS slaying hundreds of non-combatant men and civilians, including religious leaders and government affiliates. Also in June Pillay reminded [JURIST report] opposition groups to abstain from inhumane treatment of detainees as international law requires. Iraq's political environment since the pullout of US troops in 2011 has become increasingly unstable, especially with the recent advance of ISIS militants into several Iraqi cities. ISIS, formed in 2013 and possibly surpassing al Qaeda as the most dangerous jihadist group, is an offshoot of al Qaeda and is estimated to have 10,000 Sunni fighters in Iraq and Syria [JURIST news archives]. Its goal appears to be to create an Islamic political territory straddling the Syrian-Iraqi border.