[JURIST] Two senior UN officials on Wednesday strongly condemned [press release] sexual violence by Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder] militants against minorities in areas under their control. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura [official profile], and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov delivered a joint statement from Baghdad, in which they described the such incidents as "savage rapes" and "barbaric acts." They made note of specific targeting of women and minorities by the IS, and even noted the possibility of some 1,500 Yazidi and Christian persons being sold into sexual slavery. The two officials further stated:
[W]e remind all armed groups that acts of sexual violence are grave human rights violations that can be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity. ... The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) will continue to monitor the situation in Iraq as it pertains to sexual violence to ensure accountability for perpetrators and to advocate for support and assistance to the survivors of these barbaric acts.Mladenov also urged the international community to work for the immediate release of women and girls held in captivity and to support the efforts of the Iraqi government.
Iraq has regressed further into disarray since the IS began its insurgency in 2013. Earlier this week a group of UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] Iraq and the international community to intervene against the IS jihadist advance on the displaced Yazidi people and other minority groups trapped in rebel-controlled territory in Northwestern Iraq. Last month the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported [JURIST report] that there is evidence of serious human rights violations committed by the IS and the Levant (ISIS), associated armed groups, Iraqi security forces (ISF) and associated forces in the preceding month, including some that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Also last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported [JURIST report] that Iraqi security forces have extrajudicially executed at least 255 Sunni prisoners. In June UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed grave concern [JURIST report] about the human rights abuses that are occurring in Iraq as a result of the ISIS insurgency. That same month, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a call for jihad [JURIST op-ed] against ISIS.