The campaign against the Yazidis by the "Islamic State" (IS) could constitute attempted genocide, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said on Tuesday.
"The evidence strongly indicates an attempt to commit genocide," Simonovic said after meetings with some 30 people - officials and displaced people in Irbil, Baghdad and Dohuk - during the week-long visit.
Hundreds of Yazidis are believed to have been killed when IS swept across northern and western Iraq in August. Many fled to Kurdish-held parts of northern Iraq, while some 7,000 are believed to have stayed behind and converted to the harsh interpretation of Islam promoted by IS.
Simonovic said it appeared that IS militants - who claim the Yazidis are "devil worshippers" - had the intent of destroying a religious group.
'Bought and sold'
In a recent issue of its Dabiq magazine, IS reportedly boasted that it was selling Yazidi women and children as slaves, saying members of the group were singled out because of their unique customs.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Watch group released a report saying abducted woman were subject to sexual assault and were being bought and sold by IS fighters.
According to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the term genocide represents an intent to destroy - either in whole or in part - a national, ethical, racial or religious group.
The means of doing so, according to the convention, include the killing of members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members, and deliberately inflicting conditions that would bring about the destruction of the group.
They also include preventing births within a given community or the forcible transfer of children from the group to another group.
During the IS onslaught, thousands of Yazidis were trapped on a mountain near to their main hub, the town of Sinjar, for days in August. They were subsequently helped to safety in Kurdish-held areas with the aid of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
rc/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)