Yazidi survivors, Yazda and Amal Clooney welcome UN report of ISIL genocide against the Yazidis

Joint statement - Yazidi survivors, Yazda and Amal Clooney welcome UN report of ISIL genocide against the Yazidis

11 May 2021

Yesterday, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) presented its sixth report to the UN Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC, through UN Resolution 2379 (2017) established UNITAD to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq to deliver evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. UNITAD was set up following a joint advocacy effort of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, Human Rights Lawyer Amal Clooney, and Yazidi global NGO, Yazda.

The Special Advisor and Head of UNITAD, Karim Khan addressing the UNSC stated:

“The crimes against the Yazidis were horrific, they shocked the conscience of humanity, they spurred the honorable members of this Council to action, to demand accountability, to demand justice and to ensure that impunity and the violent extremism, that was the signature of Da’esh, would not go un-investigated and unpunished.

The [UNITAD] team has established a detailed account of the atrocities committed against the Yazidis. Thousands of statements have been taken by the Team, obtained from the Iraqi authorities or from the KRG, or from NGOs. We combined that with analysis of computers, phone records, forensic analysis, facial recognition and I am able to announce, that based upon independent and impartial investigations, complained with international standards and UN best practice, there is clear and convincing evidence, that the crimes against the Yazidi people, clearly constituted genocide [...]. The intent of ISIL to destroy the Yazidis, physically and biologically, was manifested in the ultimatum that was repeated in so many different villages in Iraq, ‘to convert or to die. Thousands of men, women, and children were killed pursuant to this ultimatum [...].

A full scope of criminality displayed in the awful criminality of Da’esh against the Yazidi community, executions, slavery, sexual slavery, crimes against children that are horrific, and really chilled one’s soul, but how on earth was such things allowed to happen? Yet they did.”

UNITAD’s report confirmed and significantly expanded the findings of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which found in 2016 that ISIL has committed the crime of genocide as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis in Syria.

The Yazidi community in Iraq and globally welcome the outcome of UNITAD’s investigation. Members of Yazda’s Yazidi Survivors Network (YSN), a group of Yazidi survivors and Human Rights activists responded to the public briefing:

“This genocide recognition by UNITAD is very important for all Yazidis. We have been waiting for a prompt response to our demand, that the horrific crimes committed against us by ISIL be considered genocide crimes. We have endured a lot of suffering and it is now time to get the justice we deserve. For us, the genocide qualification of the crimes is very important since it is the only way to prevent other genocides against the Yazidis and other minorities from happening again in the future. This recognition will bring again attention to our case and make people aware of what happened to us in this century, the displacement, sexual violence, torture, and mass executions we were subjected to. It is very important for us that everyone understands what happened to the Yazidis. This report can make justice possible, and justice should be possible for Yazidis and all oppressed minorities around the world.”

Yazda’s documentation efforts have supported UNITAD’s work and findings and Yazda has been in a formal partnership with UNITAD since it started to operate in Iraq. Commenting on this collaboration, Natia Navrouzov, Legal Advocacy Director at Yazda commented:

“This report embodies Yazda’s mandate: the recognition of the Yazidi genocide and the prevention of future crimes against the Yazidis and other minorities. To achieve its mandate, Yazda has collected numerous accounts of Yazidis survivors of genocide. Over 100 victim and witness statements have been shared and presented with consent of the survivors to UNITAD. Yazda commends UNITAD for its findings. We stand committed to persistently supporting survivors to achieve justice”.

In addition to today’s briefing, UNITAD is hosting on the 12th of May a special UNITAD event entitled “The Crimes of ISIL in Iraq: Delivering Accountability through Innovation and Partnership” with the participation of Nadia Murad and Amal Clooney, who is representing Yazidi survivors in ongoing national court proceedings. Following the 10th of May event, Ms. Clooney stated:

“Thanks to extensive investigations, the UN has today confirmed that ISIL committed genocide against the Yazidis in Iraq and presented the evidence for this. This recognition is a milestone for survivors. And the evidence should now be used to put perpetrators on trial -- for the sake of survivors and our common humanity.” This genocide recognition by UNITAD is also timely as it comes two weeks after a statement from KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on the approval of a draft legislation to establish a special court in the Kurdistan Region to prosecute ISIL suspects for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. A first reading of the draft already took place at the KRG Parliament and it is understood that a similar law is also being considered in Baghdad.

Commenting on this, the survivors of the YSN stated:

“We strongly support international involvement in all trials against ISIL members in Iraq. We have concerns that, without external oversight, corruption and arbitrary interference of political parties might flaw the judicial system and consequently our chances for justice. We don’t want our cases to become a political battlefield of opposing religious and political groups. An international presence in the courtroom would ensure that the process is objective and fair and that we obtain the justice we are looking for, and most importantly, the justice we can trust.”

Natia Navrouzov added:

“The Yazidi victims and the Yazidi community as a whole want international involvement if an ISIL court is set up in Erbil or in Baghdad, simply because after being subjected to genocide in their own country, they have lost trust in the institutions. International participation through international legal experts, judges, prosecutors and the application of international law will benefit all parties: it will allow the slow rebuilding of trust and ensure that due process is applied in these trials. We need a clear cut from how the trials against ISIL suspects are currently conducted in Iraq, without transparency, and without victim’s participation.

Moreover, the Yazidi community needs to be involved fully throughout the whole process of this draft law, with consultations facilitated at each step. We need to avoid the mistakes that have occurred in the past when affected communities have been excluded from such a process. We must not repeat these mistakes again but must be consulted fully on any draft law related to ISIL crimes.”

In November 2019, Yazda with the participation of experts of the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) had organized a workshop entitled “Designing an Internationalized Justice Mechanism in Iraq”. Over 40 participants had attended the workshop including Yazidi survivors, Yazidi NGOs, and representatives of other minorities (Shabak, Christian, Kaka'ï, and Turkmen). During the discussions, the participants had agreed on two main points: that an accountability mechanism set up in Iraq needed to have international involvement and that victims and civil society organization needed to be involved. This workshop was organized when discussions to set up a special court in Baghdad started. Since then, a draft law to establish an ISIL court in Baghdad was presented to the Iraqi Parliament but the status of the adoption process remains unclear, and victims’ groups are again not involved in the discussions.

Haider Elias, President at Yazda, commented:

“Many of the Yazidi families who are victimized by this genocide have put their hope on the work of UNITAD for achieving justice. For seven years now, the Yazidi community is at a crossroads: either stay in their ancestral homeland and remain hopeful, or they lose hope and leave everything behind to migrate and seek a safe haven. What will be done with the evidence collected through this investigation will resonate and affect people’s immediate decision for their future, the least we can do is to consult them. Therefore we call upon the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to involve and consult affected communities of ISIL crimes in the decision-making process on accountability in Iraq and KRG, to seek sufficient and appropriate international involvement to ensure the affected community trust the process and to ensure that future trials are conducted in line with due process and international standards.”

For Inquires about this statement contact Saad Balbir: media@Yazda.org

For the Arabic Version Click here