Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

UN team unearths 12 mass graves in Iraq probe of ISIS crimes

The team team is negotiating with Iraqi authorities to hand over evidence to Iraqi courts to hold the insurgents accountable

 An Iraqi man inspects, the remains of members of the Yazidi minority killed by ISIS after Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave near the village of Sinuni, in the northwestern Sinjar area on February 03, 2015. AFP 
 An Iraqi man inspects, the remains of members of the Yazidi minority killed by ISIS after Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave near the village of Sinuni, in the northwestern Sinjar area on February 03, 2015. AFP 

A UN team investigating the massacre of Iraq's Yazidi minority and other atrocities has excavated 12 mass graves and is collecting witness accounts that could be used in Iraqi and other national courts, according to a UN report.

The Security Council agreed in 2017 to establish the UN probe to ensure that ISIS faces justice for war crimes in Iraq and Syria, a cause championed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

In the report sent to the council, the head of the team, British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, said efforts were focused on three initial investigations, the 2014 massacre of Yazidis, crimes committed in Mosul from 2014 to 2016, and the mass killing of Iraqi military recruits in the Tikrit area in June 2014.

The team began work in October, with the first mass grave containing ISIS victims unearthed in March and April in Ms Murad's home village of Kojo in Sinjar in northwest Iraq.

Mr Khan said "progress had been slower than hoped" in the investigation and stressed the need to establish "clear and effective channels" to use the evidence in Iraqi proceedings.

The Iraqi government had resisted calls for the UN probe despite evidence of more than 200 mass graves in Iraq containing victims of ISIS, who swept across northern Iraq in 2014.

Ms Murad is among thousands of Yazidi women who were taken hostage and held as sex slaves, while hundreds of men and women are believed to have been executed by the insurgents.

The United Nations has described the massacre of the Yazidis by ISIS as a possible genocide.

As well as excavations of mass graves, the 48-member team has "engaged first-hand with survivors and witnesses" and has put in place a witness protection program, said the report sent to the council on Friday.

"In Mosul, Tikrit, Dohuk, and elsewhere in Iraq, victims have told harrowing accounts of their suffering, of entire communities erased and of women and girls taken as slaves," it said.

The team is negotiating agreements with Iraqi authorities to hand over evidence and is ready to provide material to other courts to hold ISIS members accountable for their crimes, it said.

Updated: May 21, 2019 07:13 PM

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