The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has welcomed the Government’s decision to conduct a full investigation into the alleged sectarian killing of dozens of civilians by armed groups in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province.
According to media reports, at least 70 Sunni Muslims were killed by Shi’a militiamen on 26 January in Barwanah after Government forces managed to liberate the town from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) grip.
“It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that all armed forces are under its control, that rule of law is respected and that civilians are protected in all areas of the country, including those areas recently liberated from ISIL,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNAMI, in a press release.
“Any individual found by this investigation to have been responsible for killings must be held accountable according to law,” Mr. Mladenov continued, adding that those who have fled from ISIL should be allowed to return to their homes in peace and security that must be provided by the local police and in line with national and international human rights standards.
Since the beginning of 2014, Iraq has experienced a surge in violence as militants associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conduct an ongoing offensive against the Government, threatening the country’s overall stability as well as the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
In December alone, 1,101 Iraqis were killed and another 1,868 were wounded in what UNAMI defined as “acts of terrorism and violence,” The country experienced the peak of devastation in June with a total of 4,126 civilian casualties. UNAMI also noted that Baghdad was the worst-affected Governorate for the month of December with a total of 1,051 casualties reported.
Nonetheless, due to difficulties in conducting on-the-ground verifications of casualty figures, the UN Mission has repeatedly warned that the figures reported “have to be considered as the absolute minimum.”