UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The head of a UN team investigating the atrocities in Iraq announced on Monday that he had found “clear and convincing evidence” that Islamic State extremists had committed genocide against the Yazidi minority in 2014 and said the militant group had successfully developed chemical weapons and used mustard gas.
Karim Khan told the Security Council that the team also found war crimes committed by ISIS against predominantly Shia unarmed cadets and Tikrit Air Academy personnel who had been captured, tortured and subjected to mass executions in June 2014. He said an Islamic State video released in July 2015 showing the killings “constitutes a direct and public incitement to commit genocide against Shia Muslims.”
The Security Council voted unanimously in September 2017 to ask the UN to create an investigative team to help Iraq preserve evidence and promote accountability for what “may constitute war crimes. , crimes against humanity and genocide ”committed by extremists of the Islamic State, both in Iraq and the Levant, which includes Syria.
In his sixth report to the council, Khan said the UN investigative team tasked with promoting accountability for crimes committed by the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh, ISIL and ISIS, quickly had increased the amount of evidence she had over the past six months.
He said “significant developments” in the collection of forensic evidence from mass grave sites, digital data extracted from hard drives belonging to the IS group, the digitization of records and the use of advanced technological tools to processing and researching databases enabled the team “to establish a clear schedule of activities for key ISIL members.” “
Khan called it a “historic moment” that the team, known as UNITAD, had established convincing evidence that Islamic State extremists committed genocide “against the Yazidis as a religious group” in the ‘intention to “destroy the Yazidis physically and biologically”.
This was evident in the ISIS ultimatum applied to all Yazidis “to convert or die” and led to thousands of deaths, “either executed en masse, shot while fleeing, or dying from exposure. on Mount Sinjar as they tried to escape, ”Khan said. . “Thousands more have been enslaved, with women and children taken from their families and subjected to the most brutal abuses, including serial rape and other forms of unbearable sexual violence” which for many years, “often leading to death”.
Khan added that crimes against the Yazidis continue, with thousands of women and children separated from their families or missing and some still with their IS captors or those to whom they were sold.
In 2016, the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria declared that the Islamic State group was committing genocide against the Yazidis, and several non-governmental organizations echoed this conclusion.
But Khan said what UNITAD has done with regard to the Yazidis is more important because the team has been commissioned to review a variety of evidence that may come to court when the onus is on the Yazidis. the accusation – “and not just brushstrokes from a victim survey. “
He said information from electronic devices belonging to IS extremists also led UNITAD to open a new investigation “into the development and successful deployment of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL in Iraq. “.
Evidence gathered by UNITAD details how the militant group has used the laboratories of the University of Mosul “as the epicenter of its chemical weapons program, drawing on the expertise of scientists and medical professionals in the field. ‘Iraq and abroad,’ Khan said.
Initially, he said, ISIS armed with chlorine from water treatment plants captured by its fighters in 2014, then developed “deadly toxic compounds, including thallium and nicotine, which were tested on living prisoners, resulting in death ”.
IS then developed a mustard gas production system, also known as sulfur mustard, “which was deployed in March 2016 by firing 40 rockets at the Shiite Turkmen town of Taza Khurmatu,” Khan said.
Khan, who will become chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court on June 15, said that investigation was progressing rapidly and the first results should be completed within five months. By the end of the year, he said, the team also anticipates the first results “concerning crimes against Christian minority, Kaka’i, Shabak, Shiite Turkmen and Sunni communities in Iraq, as well. as the massacre of predominantly Shiite inmates at Badush Prison. ”
Khan said the next step was to use the information and evidence gathered by UNITAD “to meet the expectations of survivors” and bring it to national courts to prosecute those responsible for these “horrific crimes”.
He expressed hope that Iraqi lawmakers will adopt a legal basis to prosecute ISIS members for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He welcomed the legislation presented to parliament in the Kurdistan region last week to create a competent tribunal for international crimes committed by ISIS.
“We have to make sure that we don’t become this archive, this library,” Khan said of the team’s evidence.
He said every member of the international community should “feel that sense of urgency” for justice as if their own mother, father or child had lost their life or was not taken into account.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, a Yazidi forced into sexual slavery by IS fighters who killed her mother and six brothers, urged the Security Council to return the genocide against her people to the International Criminal Court or to create a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the atrocities.
“I ask you to start a new chapter – legal accountability for ISIS’s crimes would have a dramatic impact on every recovery action in my community,” she said. “It is time for the international community to do more than listen. It’s time to act. If world leaders have the political will to act on the basis of this evidence, then justice is truly within reach. “