U.N. investigation delves into Islamic State's crimes against Yazidis

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 23:42 GMT

An Yazidi girl attends a commemoration of the third anniversary of the Yazidi genocide in Sinjar region, in the village of Nea Apollonia where more than 400 Yazidis live in a UNHCR-sponsored housing scheme, near Thessaloniki, Greece, August 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

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The investigation aims to collect evidence of acts by Islamic State that may be war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON, Dec 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A U.N. investigation into atrocities committed against Yazidis and others in Iraq will do more than simply gather information that will moulder in an archive, the probe's leader said on Wednesday, it will help bring perpetrators to justice.

The team, led by British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan began its work in August, a year after it was approved the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking on the sidelines of a London event celebrating Yazidi activist Nadia Murad - who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize - Khan said the investigation will get into full gear in 2019.

"We will be pushing forward with greater capacity next year once we have a budget from the United Nations," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The investigation aims to collect and preserve evidence of acts by Islamic State in Iraq that may be war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

In September 2017 - after a year of talks with Iraq - the U.N. council adopted a resolution asking U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to create the team "to support domestic efforts" to hold the militants accountable.

The evidence gathered is primarily for use by Iraqi authorities.

Whether that evidence will then be shared with international courts, will "be determined in agreement with the Government of Iraq on a case-by-case basis," according to the resolution.

"This mandate was not created to create simply an archive that would gather dust," said Khan.

"Our bid is ... to ensure that the best possible evidence is presented, is preserved, is collected. The necessary investigations are committed so that those who committed these horrendous acts are subjected to the vigour of the law."

U.N. experts warned in June 2016 that Islamic State was committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, destroying the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.

Supporters of the Yazidi cause have expressed irritation at delays the probe has faced.

"Four years have passed since the crimes of genocide committed against Yazidis but we have seen no justice as yet for the victims and survivors," Karwan Tahir, the Kurdish regional government's representative in Britain told the London event.

About 7,000 women and girls were captured in northwest Iraq in August 2014 and held by Islamic State in Mosul where they were tortured and raped.

Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul in 2014, and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney have long pushed Iraq to allow U.N. investigators to help.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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