Security Council has ‘obligation to act now’ to protect civilians from ISIL – UN rights expert

22 June 2015

A United Nations expert appointed by the world body’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council appealed today for the Security Council to take immediate action to enforce international law and protect civilians living “in daily fear for their lives” in areas controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) where “shocking crimes are being committed on an industrial scale.”

“The Security Council has an obligation to act,” Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, was quoted as saying in a press release on the presentation of his latest reporton the gross violations committed by ISIL and the pressing need for accountability.

“Given the reports of genocide, all members of the Security Council may now have a specific responsibility to take action to prevent this most serious of international crimes,” Mr. Emmerson said.

As a Special Rapporteur, Mr. Emmerson is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity, works on a voluntary basis, is not UN staff and does not receive a salary for their work.

He noted that, so far, the UN Security Council has only determined that ISIL represents a threat to international peace and security and it has stressed the need to bring perpetrators to justice. “But the Council has conspicuously failed to either authorise military action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, or to refer the situation in Iraq and Syria to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

“States are under an obligation to take measures to protect civilian populations from widespread and systematic acts of violence and terrorism,” Mr. Emmerson concluded. “It is essential that any response be grounded in respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and refugee law.”

He went on to say that “whether these dreadful crimes qualify as genocide or not, the time has come to recognize that permanent members [of the Security Council] have a responsibility to refrain from using their veto powers to block action aimed at ending atrocity crimes.”

“This approach now has the support of many States, civil society organisation and entities of the UN,” he noted, adding that “this mandate also unequivocally supports efforts to bring about this desperately need reform.”

Mr. Emmerson described in his report how different entities have found clear evidence of persecution and summary execution of religious and ethnic minority communities on a mass scale, arbitrary execution of community leaders, journalists, intellectuals and others, mass disappearances, forced religious conversions and systematic torture.

“As many as 700 people were reportedly murdered in one such massacre,” according to the press release on the report.

According to the report, the enforcement of summary justice in areas under ISIL control includes public beheading, shooting, stoning, lashing and amputation.

“Mutilated corpses are put on public display as a deterrent,” it said. “Systematic gender-based violence, rape and sexual slavery are a part of everyday life. Homosexual men are routinely targeted on grounds of their sexuality.”

In addition, children have been subjected to summary execution, arbitrary detention and torture, and forced to take part in military training, and significant religious and cultural sites have been systematically destroyed.

“In short, those living under the terror of ISIL are in daily fear for their lives,” Mr. Emmerson said. “These shocking crimes are being committed on an industrial scale and amount to an affront to the conscience of the entire international community.”


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