Yazda was pleased to host on 26 February 2019 a meeting involving state authorities, international organizations as well as representatives of Yazidi civil society.
The meeting started with a brief introduction of all the invited stakeholders and was followed by a presentation by the Mass Graves Directorate of the Martyrs Foundation, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the United Nations investigative team to promote accountability for Da’esh / ISIL crimes (UNITAD) of their respective mandates. It is worth to underline that this is the first public gathering between these three agencies and that future collaboration has been guaranteed.
The Mass Graves Directorate is the national entity in charge of the issue of missing persons and mass graves. It is charged with overseeing the preservation, protection and documentation of mass graves. It collects samples of DNA from family members of missing persons and matches these samples with the remains recovered during the excavation process. This work is facilitated by a database which contains locations on mass grave sites and gathers information on victims. The representatives of the Mass Graves Directorate, Mr. Amer Jabbar Zghair announced that a specific database dedicated to the mass graves in Sinjar was under construction and urged family members of missing persons to collaborate by registering missing persons and providing DNA samples for the matching process.
The ICMP representative continued by explaining that ICMP is the only international organization having a mandate focusing exclusively on the issue of missing persons and mass graves. It is an internationally well-known organization which supports and assists state authorities. The representative of ICMP, Ms. Carrie Comer, assured that ICMP will support the Mass Graves Directorate in its difficult task and that collaboration between both entities goes back to ten years. ICMP concluded that solving the issue of missing persons and mass graves in Iraq will take years but that it will make sure that families and representatives of civil society will be involved in each step.
The UNITAD representative finally explained that UNITAD’s mandate consists of collecting, analysing, preserving and storing evidence of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq. It was established to support the Iraqi government in its efforts to bring ISIS fighters to justice in fair and independent procedures but also to support criminal procedures in third states, especially in order to deal with the issue of foreign ISIS fighters. UNITAD’s representative, Sareta Ashraph explained the importance of the mass graves issue for the UN investigation team which are seen and analysed as evidence of crime under international law. She stated that UNITAD will ensure that when mass graves are excavated, it is done according to international standards in order to preserve the evidence and make the evidence admissible in future court procedures. She also concluded by underlying the importance of preserving the dignity of the families and the remains during the process.
The presentations was followed by an open discussion which allowed the representatives of Yazidi civil society and family members to ask various questions.
Yazda strongly encourages the Mass Graves Directorate, ICMP and UNITAD to work together on the Yazidi case and especially on the missing persons and mass graves issue. Over 3,000 Yazidis are still missing and Sinjar contains to date more than 60 mass graves and kill sites and, at the moment, little or nothing has been done about it. Yazda hopes that this meeting is a good first sign of a collaboration that will become stronger over time.
Yazidi NGOs and representatives present:
2. Yezidi Organization for Documentation
3. Free Yazidi Foundation
4. Dak Organization
5. Nabu organization
6. Yezidi Progress Organization
7. Dawid Khatari, a Yazidi researcher
8. Youth Bridge Organization
9. Sarab Alyas, a Yazidi lawyer
Hasan Ismail, focal point for the families from Kojo