Credible reports indicate that more than 231 civilians attempting to flee western Mosul have been killed since 26 May, including at least 204 over three days last week alone.
The UN Human Rights Office has been documenting ISIL’s use of civilians as human shields and its slaughter of those attempting to flee since the start of the Mosul operation, but recent reports indicate a significant escalation in such killings.
On 26 May, ISIL reportedly shot at civilians trying to flee al-Shifa neighbourhood in western Mosul, killing 27 people, including 14 women and five children. Their bodies were reportedly buried two days later by neighbours.
On Thursday, 1 June, also in al-Shifa, ISIL reportedly shot and killed at least 163 civilians, including women, men and children, next to a Pepsi factory. Sources reported that the civilians were fleeing armed clashes between ISIL and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
The bodies of those who died were reportedly left on the street for several days following the killings. In addition to those who died, an undetermined number of civilians went missing.
On Saturday, 3 June, ISIL reportedly shot and killed at least 41 civilians in the same neighbourhood, as they attempted to flee towards ISF locations.
“Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families – there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
“I call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that those who are responsible for these horrors are held accountable and brought to justice in line with international human rights laws and standards. The victims of such terrible crimes must not be forgotten.”
The murder of civilians, as well as the intentional directing of an attack against civilians who are not directly taking part in hostilities, are war crimes.
There are also reports of civilian casualties caused by recent air strikes, including one in Zanjilly, another ISIL-held area of western Mosul, where a strike on 31 May reportedly caused between 50 and 80 civilian deaths.
The UN Human Rights Office in Iraq is seeking further information about these attacks.
The High Commissioner called on the Iraqi Security Forces and their Coalition partners to ensure that their operations comply fully with international humanitarian law and that all possible measures are taken to avoid the loss of civilian lives.
He urged the Iraqi authorities to ensure that any allegations of human rights violations committed by Iraqi Security Forces are also fully investigated and those responsible held accountable.