Daesh forces in Iraq have abducted tens of thousands of men, women and children from areas around Mosul and are using them as "human shields" in strategic sites in the city as Iraqi troops advance, the UN human rights office said today.
The extremist militant group killed at least 232 people on Wednesday, including 190 former Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) personnel and 42 civilians who refused to obey their orders, the UN said.
"[Daesh]'s depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilians to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Earlier, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani cited "credible reports" that Daesh had forced "tens of thousands of people from their homes in sub-districts around Mosul and have forcibly relocated numbers of civilians inside the city itself."
This was to "use them as human shields, to be able to keep them close to military installations…to try to frustrate the military operation against them," she told a briefing.
Nearly 8,000 families, of roughly six people each, were abducted in four sub-districts including Shora, she said. "Many of those who refused to comply were shot on the spot."
Shia militias raise fears of sectarian reprisals
In related developments, Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups are about to launch an offensive on Daesh positions west of Mosul, directly participating in the military campaign to take back the city, a spokesman said today.
Al Hussein has voiced deep concern at reports that Shia militias in the areas south of Mosul have "embarked on revenge killings and have vowed on television that there would be 'eye-for-eye' revenge against those who sided with Daesh," Shamdasani said.
Aside from atrocities and abuses committed by the Iraqi government, some villagers have been prevented from returning to their villages due to their perceived support of Daesh. No evidence was provided by Iraqi authorities to verify these allegations.
The UN has said that government screening is in place to check people fleeing Mosul but the process must be carried out in humane conditions respecting international standards.
"Captured [Daesh] fighters and those perceived to have supported them must be treated fully in accordance with international law and held accountable for their crimes by properly constituted tribunals," Al Hussein said.