U.N.'s Pillay says almost certain of war crimes in Iraq

GENEVA (Reuters) - Forces allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have almost certainly committed war crimes by executing hundreds of non-combatant men in Iraq, the U.N. human rights chief said on Monday.

Corroborated reports showed that soldiers, military conscripts, police and others who had surrendered or been captured had been summarily executed in the past five days, Navi Pillay said in a statement.

"Although the numbers cannot be verified yet, this apparently systematic series of cold-blooded executions, mostly conducted in various locations in the Tikrit area, almost certainly amounts to war crimes," she said.

The Islamist militants have also executed 13 imams in Mosul for refusing to pledge allegiance to ISIL, she said.

"The provocative language used by ISIL, which has been talking about 'liquidating herds of sheep' and inciting sectarian tensions is clearly intended to sow further chaos and bloodshed in the country," she added.

Militants from the ISIL have routed Baghdad's army and seized the north of the country in the past week, threatening to dismember Iraq and unleash all-out sectarian warfare with no regard for national borders.

Earlier on Monday, Pillay told reporters that the situation called for "comprehensive action".

"We want to alert the world to address this immediately," she said.

Asked if she wanted the situation in Iraq to be referred to the International Criminal Court, she declined to comment and said she first wanted to establish the facts.

But she also suggested the Iraqi government may have contributed to the sudden advances made by ISIL, which seeks a caliphate ruled on strict Sunni Muslim precepts in Iraq and Syria.

"I've pointed to many times and condemned the shocking number of executions that the Iraqi government is carrying out," Pillay said, adding she wanted to investigated who was being executed and what grievances the killings caused.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tom Heneghan)