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U.N. delivers tough words, little action on ISIS

Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights

By Delia M. Arias De Leon

UNITED NATIONS – The outgoing U.N. human rights chief is taking a stance on the crimes against humanity committed by the jihadist group Islamic State, or ISIS, but effective, decisive action from the U.N. or other governmental bodies to stop the killing remains to be seen.

Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, condemned the widespread and systematic violation of human rights perpetrated by ISIS, charging it and other armed jihadist group are daily committing “grave, horrific human rights violations.”

“U.N. staff members in Iraq have been receiving harrowing phone calls from besieged civilians who are surviving in terrible conditions, with little or no access to humanitarian aid,” Pillay said.

He noted one of the women abducted by ISIS managed to call UNHCHR staff and told them her teenage son and daughter were among many who had been raped and sexually assaulted by ISIS fighters. Another said her son had been raped at a checkpoint.

She highlighted the systematic targeting of men and women based on their religious, ethnic or sectarian affiliation. This form of ethnic cleansing, she said, amounts to crimes against humanity.

The announcement comes only days after Pillay publicly called out the U.N. Security Council for its lack of action.

Referring to the civil war in Syria, she said in her most recent address to the Security Council she “firmly believe(d) that greater responsiveness by the council would have saved hundreds of lives.”

She also cited crises in numerous other areas, including Iraq, and asserted they “hammered home the full cost of the international community’s failure to prevent conflict” and “none of these crises erupted without warning.”

The Security Council passed a resolution Aug. 15 condemning the “gross, systematic and widespread abuse” of human rights and placed six persons affiliated with the Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria on its terrorist sanction list. The council also released a statement condemning the beheading of journalist James Foley by ISIS and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

However, there are no more scheduled meetings on Iraq until next month, and the crisis shows no signs of waning.

International bodies apparently are at a loss what to do. On Sunday, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, insisted ISIS is merely a regional threat and did not recommend airstrikes against Syria until it is determined that the terror group posed a legitimate threat to the United States.

Last weekend, the U.N. envoy for Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, called for immediate action to prevent a possible massacre in the northern town of Amerli, which has been besieged by ISIS militants for the past two months, leaving citizens without access to food or water.

In a statement issued from Baghdad by the U.N. assistance mission in Iraq, the envoy urged the Iraqi government to do “all it can to relieve the siege and to ensure that the residents receive life-saving humanitarian assistance or are evacuated in a dignified manner.”

Mladenov also pledged that the U.N. Iraq mission will do all it can to support the Iraq government in alleviating the “unspeakable suffering” of Amerli’s inhabitants.

Almost three dozen nearby villages are already under ISIS control, according to Ali Alibayati of the Turkmen Saving Foundation. The 17,400 residents of the village are surrounded on all sides, making attempts to bring aid extremely difficult. In the past 10 days, only one flight has delivered food.

Monday morning, the U.N. announced its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been unable to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid due to the blockages, though it would continue to try to find a way of accessing the village.

The reports of the desperate situation come only days after the U.N. announced it had effectively launched a massive aid push for more than 500,000 displaced Iraqis elsewhere in the region.

The secretary general was following closely the situation, a spokesman said.

Delia M. Arias De Leon writes for WND at the United Nations in New York City. For breaking news about the U.N. follow her on twitter @deliaADL