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Meltdown in Iraq: The new battle for Baghdad
June 18, 2014, 9:11 am
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The Middle East appears on the brink of wider sectarian war engulfing Iraq, with radical Islamist insurgents wantonly kidnapping, torturing and killing civilians, UN human rights investigators said in a report on Tuesday.

Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have routed Baghdad's army and seized the north of Iraq in the past week, linking it with a major swathe of territory previously taken in eastern Syria during the civil war there.

"We predicted a long time ago the dangers of spillover both ways, which is now becoming a regional spillover," said Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international law expert who took part in the inquiry. "We are possibly on the cusp of a regional war and that is something we're very concerned about."

UN human rights Navi Pillay said on Monday forces allied with ISIL in northern Iraq had almost certainly committed war crimes by executing hundreds of non-combatant men over the past five days.

The Middle East appears on the brink of wider sectarian war engulfing Iraq, with radical Islamist insurgents wantonly kidnapping, torturing and killing civilians, UN human rights investigators said in a report on Tuesday.

Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have routed Baghdad's army and seized the north of Iraq in the past week, linking it with a major swathe of territory previously taken in eastern Syria during the civil war there.

"We predicted a long time ago the dangers of spillover both ways, which is now becoming a regional spillover," said Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international law expert who took part in the inquiry. "We are possibly on the cusp of a regional war and that is something we're very concerned about."

UN human rights Navi Pillay said on Monday forces allied with ISIL in northern Iraq had almost certainly committed war crimes by executing hundreds of non-combatant men over the past five days.

"Victims describe...the agony of being encircled, shelled and bombarded while slowly starving," the Brazilian chief investigator, Paulo Pinheiro, told reporters in Geneva.

The team of about 20 UN investigators has interviewed 3,000 Syrians in Syria or neighbouring countries via Skype.

They say they have documented war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides and have drawn up four confidential lists of suspects for future prosecution.

"The international community, and specifically the (UN) Security Council, have yet to demand that the individuals perpetrating crimes against the men, women and children of Syria are held responsible. Through their inaction, a space has been created for the worst of humanity to express itself," the report said.

The inquiry has received thousands of photos published in January, smuggled out by a former Syrian military police photographer who said the images showed people tortured and killed in government-run detention centres.

"Many are emaciated, almost all bear marks of horrific abuse, including strangulation, mutilation, open wounds, burns and bruising," Pinheiro said. "Such injuries are consistent with torture methods previously documented by the commission in our 12 reports until now."

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