U.N. investigators eye 160 Islamic State militants over Yazidi massacres
United Nations investigators have so far identified 160 Islamic State militants accused of massacres of Yazidis in northern Iraq in 2014 and are building legal cases against them, the head of the team told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
The U.N. investigative team, created by the U.N. Security Council, started work a year ago to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecution of acts by Islamic State in Iraq that may be war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.
"In relation to the Yazidi community alone, the crimes that targeted them, we have identified over 160 perpetrators of massacres against the Yazidis ... and we're focusing our work to build solid cases hopefully in relation to each of those that may be presented to domestic courts," said Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, head of the U.N. team.
U.N. experts warned in June 2016 that Islamic State was committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.
Between fear and annihilation: Yazidi refugees in Iraq
Thousands of Yazidis were trapped on Mount Sinjar after being forced to flee their homes by Islamic State terrorist militias. Many have fled to Syria; others have remained in Iraq. The US has provided food and water, although Washington no longer sees the need for a rescue mission. Their situation is desperate.
In search of protection: thousands of members of the Yazidi minority have fled an onslaught by the brutal fighters of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militias. Those who managed to find shelter in a refugee camp in northern Iraq can count themselves lucky. Supplying refugees on Mount Sinjar with food and water is an extremely difficult task. Demands for more assistance from the West are increasing.
Mass exodus: the Yazidis have been almost completely driven out of the areas controlled by the IS jihadists, often with brutal force. Thousands fled to Syria, although some have since returned to Iraq, like here in Fishkhabour on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Robbed, humiliated and traumatised: all too often, IS militiamen have robbed refugees of their money, valuables and passports. Many have nothing left but the clothes they are wearing. A great number of children have been traumatised by what they have experienced, and at least 500 Yazidis have been killed in the conflict.
Lack of basic necessities: tumult ensued as bottles of water were distributed to families of Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq. The provision of supplies to the refugees in the autonomous Kurdish regions is a massive logistical challenge.
The Red Crescent in action: members of the Kurdish Red Crescent are helping refugees near Mount Sinjar. Many refugees have been injured or are weak from the long journey, which many of them undertook on foot.
The conditions awaiting the Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq are in some cases appalling. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a total of one million people all over Iraq have now fled their homes, including Yazidis and many Christians.
A little comfort in a frightening situation: the UN refugee agency UNHCR has set up provisional refugee camps across northern Iraq, including one near the city of Erbil. The refugees are pleased to have at least some fabric walls to call their own and happy to have been able to save a few personal belongings from their homes.
Supplies by helicopter: the US Air Force has been delivering food and water to the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. The refugees urgently rely on these deliveries as they are otherwise completely cut off from the outside world. Pictured here: US soldiers prepare pallets of water for a humanitarian air drop
A crowd of refugees waited as an Iraqi helicopter came into land on 13 August. A planned large-scale rescue operation by the US army in the region was called off because the Pentagon concluded that there were considerably fewer refugees there than originally feared.
Hunger, thirst and fear for their lives: the UN estimates that some 1,000 people are still stranded on the mountain range. They are suffering from the heat and from a lack of water. There are also unconfirmed reports that IS jihadists have kidnapped around 100 Yazidi women and children from Mount Sinjar.
Women, children and the injured first: aid workers are trying to fly out the injured and the very weak, as well as women and children. Recently, a helicopter crashed during a rescue operation because it was carrying too many passengers.
Criticism of the West for its inaction: across Europe, members of the Yazidi community – including those pictured here in Hanover – are demonstrating for more support from the West. They are calling for more humanitarian aid and for weapons for the Kurds of northern Iraq to help them stop the advance of IS jihadists.
Nadia Murad, who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney played a key role in pushing for the U.N. investigative team. Murad is a Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in 2014.
Islamic State overran the Yazidi faith's heartland of Sinjar in northern Iraq in 2014, forcing young women into servitude as "wives" for its fighters and massacring men and older women.
Yazidi survivor Kachi, whose full name was withheld to protect him, addressed the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
"After shooting at us, ISIL members left to another place. I found myself under a pile of dead bodies," he told the council. "When I opened my eyes I saw three of my brothers. They were next to me. They were dead. So were my nephews and my cousins."
He said his wife and daughters were kidnapped and sold as slaves and that he had lost some 75 members of his family.
"Five years have passed and I can still hear my wife and my daughters screaming when the members of ISIL kidnapped them. I can also hear the voice of my daughter Lara, who was three months old when she passed away in captivity because of thirst and hunger," Kachi said.
He said the Yazidis now want justice.