(Beirut) – A massive car bombing claimed by the Islamic State that killed at least 63 people in Baghdad on May 11, 2016, fits a pattern of crimes against humanity by the armed group also known as ISIS.

A woman reacts at the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City, Iraq on May 11, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

The ISIS attack, according to media reports, ripped through an outdoor market area in Baghdad’s Sadr City, a crowded, predominantly Shia neighborhood full of civilians, killing at least 63 people and wounding many more. Witnesses said that either a pickup truck or an SUV exploded in the vicinity of a beauty salon. Many victims were women, including several preparing for their weddings. An ISIS statement claimed the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and targeted Shia militiamen.

“Once again ISIS has carried out a devastating attack designed to inflict maximum death and suffering on ordinary Iraqis,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The presence of some militia – even if true – cannot possibly justify this latest ISIS atrocity.”

An explosion later the same day in Baghdad killed another 15 and wounded 33 at the entrance to the mostly Shia Kadhimiya neighborhood, media and the United Nations reported. A third attack, on a road in a predominantly Sunni part of western Baghdad, killed seven and wounded 20. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any claims of responsibility for those attacks.

Once again ISIS has carried out a devastating attack designed to inflict maximum death and suffering on ordinary Iraqis. The presence of some militia – even if true – cannot possibly justify this latest ISIS atrocity.

Joe Stork

Deputy Middle East director

ISIS has claimed other recent attacks that appeared to deliberately target and murder Iraqi civilians. On May 9, a bomber blew up a minivan near a restaurant and bakery in the Shia neighborhood of Shifta in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, killing at least 13. On April 30, a truck bombing claimed by ISIS killed at least 21 and wounded twice that many in an open-air vegetable market in Nahrawan, near Baghdad. On March 25, a suicide bomber killed at least 41, including children, in an attack at the end of an amateur football match in Iskanderiyya, 30 miles south of Baghdad. ISIS later claimed responsibility. On February 28, ISIS claimed a pair of suicide bombings in Baghdad’s Sadr City that killed at least 70.

Widespread or systematic murder carried out by a state or organized group as part of an “attack against a civilian population” – as part of a policy to commit murder – constitutes a crime against humanity, whether in the context of armed conflict, political unrest, or peace. Crimes against humanity are covered in the International Criminal Court statute. But the court’s jurisdiction only applies to crimes committed in the territory of or by the nationals of countries that are parties to the Rome Statute, which created the court, or to situations referred to the court by the UN Security Council. Iraq has not yet ratified the Rome Statute.