Islamic State has sanctioned the harvesting of human organs in a previously undisclosed ruling by the group's Islamic scholars, raising concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts.
The ruling, contained in a January 31, 2015 document reviewed by Reuters, says taking organs from a living captive to save a Muslim's life, even if it is fatal for the captive, is permissible.
For a U.S. government translation of the document, click here here
Reuters couldn't independently confirm the authenticity of the document. U.S. officials say it was among a trove of data and other information obtained by U.S. special forces in a raid in eastern Syria in May.
"The apostate's life and organs don't have to be respected and may be taken with impunity," says the document, which is in the form of a fatwa, or religious ruling, from the Islamic State's Research and Fatwa Committee.
"Organs that end the captive's life if removed: The removal of that type is also not prohibited," Fatwa Number 68 says, according to a U.S. government translation.
ISIS beheading incidents and hostages
Exclusive: Islamic State sanctioned organ harvesting in document taken in US raid
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded.
GlobalPost Journalist James Foley talks about being held by the Libyan Government. Foley was later abducted in Syria and a video by Islamic State militants was released in 2014 that purported to show his killing by the militant group.
(Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Lebaneses carry the funeral of Lebanese soldier Ali al-Sayyed (28) who kidnapped by Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front members and killed by Islamic State members, in Akkar, Lebanon on 3 September, 2014.
(Photo by Mahmud Saleh/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Execution of Steven Sotloff by Jihadi John of ISIS. In August 2013, Sotloff was kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria, and held captive by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi, born August 1988) a British man who is thought to be the person seen in several videos produced by the Islamic extremist group ISIL showing the beheadings of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015.
(Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The mother (C) of Lebanese soldier Abbas Medlej, who was beheaded by Islamic State militants in Arsal, mourns in his hometown in Ansar, south Baalbak September 7, 2014. Islamic State militants have beheaded the captive Lebanese soldier, images published on social media showed on Saturday, the second Lebanese soldier to be killed in captivity by the group since it raided a Lebanese border town last month.
A masked, black-clad militant, who has been identified by the Washington Post newspaper as a Briton named Mohammed Emwazi, stands next to a man purported to be David Haines in this still image from a video obtained from SITE Intel Group website February 26, 2015. The "Jihadi John" killer who has featured in several Islamic State beheading videos is Emwazi, a Briton from a middle class family who grew up in London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming, the Washington Post newspaper said. In videos released by Islamic State (IS), the masked, black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent appears to have carried out the beheadings of hostages including Americans and Britons. The Washington Post said Emwazi, who used the videos to threaten the West and taunt leaders such as President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, was believed to have travelled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined IS. British government sources and the police refused to confirm or deny the report, citing a live anti-terrorism investigation, a position mirrored by a spokeswoman for Cameron.
(REUTERS/SITE Intel Group via Reuters TV)
A man makes the victory sign behind a picture of Herve Gourdel, the hiker beheaded by Algerian militants linked to the Islamic State group during a demonstration in support of Kurdish forces fighting against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria on October 2, 2014 in Marseille, southern France.
(BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Screen shot from an Internet video released Friday that purports to show an ISIS militant beheading British aid worker Alan Henning, who had been taken hostage by the extremist group.
The order of service for the memorial service for murdered British aid worker Alan Henning at Eccles Parish Church on November 22, 2014 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The 47-year-old taxi driver was captured in December while delivering food and supplies to Syrian refugees and was murdered by Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.
(Photo by Andy Kelvin - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Yellow ribbons for murdered British hostage Alan Henning, are attached to trees in the town centre of Eccles, north west England on October 4, 2014. Britain reacted with horror on Saturday to the beheading of hostage Alan Henning, who many had dared to hope might be spared after a cross-community appeal for his release. Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes to the 47-year-old taxi driver who went to the region as a volunteer to deliver aid and whose death was announced by Islamic State jihadists in a video released late Friday.
(OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past screens displaying a television news programme showing an image of Kenji Goto, one of two Japanese citizens taken captive by Islamic State militants, on a street in Tokyo January 25, 2015. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday called the apparent killing of Japanese captive Haruna Yukawa by Islamic State militants "outrageous and impermissible," and again called for the group to release Goto, the second Japanese national they are holding. The words on the screen read "Japanese hostage incident" (top L) and "a still image posted on YouTube" (top R).
Jordanian youth gather for a candle light vigil to condemn the killing of the two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, in a gesture showing solidairity with Japanese people, in front of the Japanese embassy on February 2, 2015 in Amman, Jordan.
(Photo by Jordan Pix/Getty Images)
Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State (IS) kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on February 15, 2015. Islamic State released the video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. In the video, militants in black marched the captives to a beach that the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by Islamic State were dead.
(REUTERS/Social media via Reuters TV)
A woman cries as she prays for Tomislav Salopek in a local church in Vrpolje village, Croatia, August 12, 2015. An Egyptian group allied to Islamic State has published a photograph it says showed the beheaded body of a Croatian hostage it threatened to kill last week, the SITE monitoring service said on Wednesday. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the picture, which carried a caption that said: "killing of the Croatian hostage, due to his country's participation in the war against Islamic State, after the deadline expired." Last week, an online video purportedly from Sinai Province showed a man who identified himself as Tomislav Salopek and said the group would kill him in 48 hours unless Muslim women in Egyptian jails were freed.
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
The document does not offer any proof that Islamic State actually engages in organ harvesting or organ trafficking. But it does provide religious sanction for doing so under the group's harsh interpretation of Islam - which is rejected by most Muslims. Previously, Iraq has accused Islamic State of harvesting human organs and trafficking them for profit.
The document does not define "apostate," though the Islamic State has killed or imprisoned non-Muslims, such as Christians, and Shiite Muslims, as well as Sunni Muslims who don't follow its extremist views.
DOCUMENTS SHARED WITH ALLIES
U.S. officials say the records that were seized have given the U.S. government a deep look into how Islamic State organizes, raises funds and codifies laws for its followers.
Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told Reuters the documents should be examined by the U.N. Security Council as evidence that Islamic State could be trafficking in organs to raise cash.
The May raid in Syria, which resulted in the death of Islamic State top financial official Abu Sayyaf and the capture of his wife, netted seven terabytes of data in the form of computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers, said Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama's Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, in an interview. Abu Sayyaf was a Tunisian militant whose real name was Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi.
U.S. officials have previously described the Abu Sayyaf raid and some of the documentation seized. But until now, none of the actual documents have been released - aside from materials illustrating Islamic State's trafficking in antiquities, made public at an event at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in September.
The U.S. government has shared some of the documents from the Abu Sayyaf raid with allied governments in an effort to increase their understanding of Islamic State in recent weeks as Washington works to shore up support for countering the group.
The group of documents reviewed by entitled "Lessons Learned From the Abu Sayyaf Raid" - show how the Islamic State has provided a legal justification to its followers for a range of practices.
For instance, "Fatwa Number 64" dated January 29, 2015, provides detailed rules for rape, prescribing when Islamic State men can and cannot have sexual intercourse with female slaves.
The fatwa sanctioning organ harvesting justifies the practice in part by drawing an analogy to cannibalism in extreme circumstances, a practice it says earlier Islamic scholars had allowed. "A group of Islamic scholars have permitted, if necessary, one to kill the apostate in order to eat his flesh, which is part of benefiting from his body," it says.
McGurk said Islamic State's Research and Fatwa Committee reports directly to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
ORGANS OF 'INFIDELS'
The ruling on organ harvesting cites Islamic texts, principles and laws that it says support what it calls "the notion that transplanting healthy organs into a Muslim person's body in order to save the latter's life or replace a damaged organ with it is permissible."
Senior U.S. officials, including McGurk, said they have not been able to ascertain whether the Islamic State had followed through on the fatwa on organ harvesting.
The document provides "a religious justification for harnessing the organs of what they call infidels," he said.
William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar who is author of the book "The ISIS Apocalypse," said the group's ruling on slavery and human organs don't represent modern Islamic interpretations.
In February, Alhakim, had urged the U.N. Security Council to investigate the deaths of 12 doctors in the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. Alhakim said the doctors were killed after refusing to remove organs.
The U.N. special envoy for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said at the time that he could not confirm the claim, but it would be investigated. The U.N. has not provided an update on that investigation, which Alhakim said he would ask the Security Council to revisit.