The UN has accused the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of carrying out a "staggering array" of "human rights abuses" in northern Iraq that may amount to war crimes.

In a report released on Thursday, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) listed a litany of abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups between July 6 and September 10, "with an apparent systematic and widespread character."

"These include attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms," the 29-page report said. 

Women have been treated particularly harshly, the report said: "ISIL (has) attacked and killed female doctors, lawyers, among other professionals."

In August, it said, ISIL took 450-500 women and girls to the Tal Afar citadel in Iraq's Nineveh region where "150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves".

Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the array of violations and abuses was "staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity".

The report also detailed rights violations committed by the Iraqi security forces and affiliated armed groups during the same period.

Based on nearly 500 interviews, it said air strikes by the Iraqi government against ISIL had caused "significant civilian deaths", by hitting villages, a school and hospitals in violation of international law.

The report said at least 24,015 civilians had been killed or injured in Iraq during the first eight months of 2014. Of these, at least 8,493 were civilians.

Source: Agencies