UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay talks during an
interview to Reuters in her office in Geneva earlier this
month. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
The United Nations has condemned "appalling, widespread"
crimes by Islamic State forces in Iraq, including mass
executions of prisoners that could amount to war crimes.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned "grave, horrific
human rights violations" being committed by Islamic State, a
Sunni Muslim group which has seized large areas of Iraq and
Syria to the alarm of the Baghdad government and its allies
in the West.
Up to 670 prisoners from Badush prison in the city of Mosul
were killed by Islamic State on June 10, Pillay said in a
statement quoting survivors and witnesses to the "massacre"
as telling UN human rights investigators.
"Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of
civilians, after singling them out for their religious
affiliation, may amount to war crimes and crimes against
humanity," Pillay said.
Islamic State (ISIL) loaded 1,000 to 1,500 prisoners from the
jail on to trucks and took them for screening, Pillay said.
Sunni inmates were then separated and removed.
"ISIL gunmen then yelled insults at the remaining prisoners,
lined them up in four rows, ordered them to kneel and opened
fire," she said.
Islamic State fighters have made gains against Kurdish forces
in the north in recent weeks, seizing towns, oilfields and
Iraq's largest dam. Backed by US air power, Kurdish forces
later took back control of the Mosul dam.
An Islamic State video last week depicting the beheading of
American journalist James Foley prompted revulsion in the
West and calls for tougher action against the jihadists,
including taking the fight to them in Syria as well as Iraq.
Some experts have suggested that attacking Islamic State in
Syria should involve coming to some sort of arrangement with
the government of President Bashar al-Assad, seen in the West
as a pariah since an uprising against him began three years
Syria said it would cooperate in any international efforts to
fight Islamic State in the country, after Washington
signalled it was considering extending the battle against the
militants into Syrian territory.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem presented his country as a
vital partner in the war against Islamic State.
"Syria, geographically and operationally, is the centre of
the international coalition to fight Islamic State," Moualem
said in a televised news conference. "States must come to it
if they are serious in combating terrorism," he added.
Asked about the prospect of US air strikes against Islamic
State in Syria, Moualem said his government was ready to
cooperate with any country fighting militants. But air raids
without Damascus's approval would be seen as hostile acts.
While the White House indicated last week that it was
considering taking on Islamic State in Syria, Washington has
also supported the insurgency against Assad and there has
been no sign of any shift in US policy towards him.
GERMANY KEEPS DISTANCE
Germany said on Monday it has had no diplomatic contacts with
the Assad government and no plans to rekindle ties because of
the threat posed by Islamic State.
The statement by a German foreign ministry spokesman followed
a report in The Independent, a British newspaper, which said
the United States had shared intelligence with Syria via
Germany's BND intelligence service.
"The regime of President Assad has committed unbelievable
injustice in every form during the civil war that has been
raging for 3-1/2 years. Nearly 200,000 people have died," the
spokesman, Martin Schaefer, told a news conference.
"To be honest it is very difficult to imagine that all this
can be ignored in the name of Realpolitik," he said.
Russia, Syria's major ally, urged Western and Arab
governments to overcome their distaste for Assad and engage
with him to fight Islamic State insurgents. "I think Western
politicians are already realising the growing and
fast-spreading threat of terrorism," Foreign Minister Sergei
The growing perception in the West and in Baghdad that
Islamic State represents a threat to the region and beyond
has shaken old alliances and enmities.
While there have been suggestions that the West may find
itself dealing with Assad, old enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia
have united in welcoming this month's appointment of incoming
Shi'ite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Iraq.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian left
for Riyadh on Monday, the state news agency IRNA reported.
This would mark the first visit to Saudi Arabia by a senior
government official since President Hassan Rouhani was
elected in 2013, promising to try to improve Tehran's
relations in the region and with the West.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are enmeshed in a
struggle for influence in the Middle East and back opposing
sides in conflicts and political disputes in Iraq, Syria,
Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.
IRNA said Abdollahian was due to meet Saudi Foreign Minister
Prince Saud Al Faisal. Riyadh officials were not available to
comment, but Saudi-owned satellite news channel al-Arabiya
said the Iranian minister would arrive on Tuesday for talks.
The visit follows talks in Baghdad on Sunday between Abadi
and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who
reaffirmed Tehran's support for Iraq's territorial unity and
its fight against militants.
Abadi said on Monday that talks on forming a new government
were constructive and predicted a "clear vision" on a unified
administration would emerge within the next two days, state
Abadi is tasked with forming a power-sharing government that
can tackle deepening sectarian violence and counter Islamic
In Baghdad, a suicide bomb attack in a Shi'ite mosque on
Monday killed at least nine people and wounded 21, police and
medical sources said.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying
in a statement that it was to avenge an attack on Friday when
Shi'ite militiamen opened fire in a Sunni mosque in Diyala
province north of Baghdad on Friday, killing 68 people.