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KRG seeks assistance from international bodies to uncover ISIS mass graves

By Rudaw 11/5/2017
Relatives inspect a mass grave of Yezidi civilians, found last November, murdered by ISIS militants near the town of Shingal.
Relatives inspect a mass grave of Yezidi civilians, found last November, murdered by ISIS militants near the town of Shingal.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has stepped up its investigations of alleged ISIS mass graves across southern and western parts of the country, seeking expert support form international organisations including the United Nations. 

The Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs says at least two international groups have so far offered assistance in unearthing around 40 suspected ISIS mass graves. 

“We have already a level of cooperation with the he UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (UNCED) which has helped us in our ongoing investigations and at the same time we are in talks with other world bodies for their assistance,” Fuad Osman, the spokesperson of the ministry told Rudaw. 

According to Osman, around 10 mass graves have so far been uncovered which have contained the remains of about 120 people. 

“We know that there are many more mass graves especially in areas still held by the militants such as the Kojo village where we fear there are multiple mass graves,” he added. 

Kojo, a Yezidi village near the war-torn city of Shingal was, according to many eyewitnesses, one the most devastated Yezidi areas in the opening days of ISIS onslaught in the region with entire families killed or taken hostage including many women and children. 

The renowned Yezidi activist Nadiya Murad was in Kojo with her family when she was abducted by ISIS militants in August 2014.

Osman said most of the mass graves are reported to be in the Yezidi and Garmian areas where ISIS ruled for long periods since 2014.

KRG has said it will work for an international recognition of the mass killings of its Yezidi population by the jihadist militants in the aftermath of ISIS offensive.

But the process has been slow since Iraq is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has held several war crime tribunals in the past, among others for mass crimes committed during the civil wars in former Yugoslavia and Sudan.

According to official government reports nearly 6000 Yezidi men, women and children were abducted in the first days of ISIS attack on Shingal in August 2014. 

Kurdish authorities have selected 25 Yezidi mass graves in Iraq for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to examine and possibly recognize the ISIS onslaught against the religious minority as genocide.

The Kurdish Minister of Social Affairs Muhammad Hawdinai has said the graves had largely been left undisturbed for ICC specialists to analyze and collect proof for a case to identify the mass murder as genocide. 

The evidence include the Solage mass grave, east of Shingal where remains of more than 70 people were discovered in November 2015 many of them believed to be old men and women who according to survivors were separated from their younger family members before being executed behind a city college.

The ICC, an intergovernmental organization and an international court in the Hauge, the Netherlands, has the authority to indict individuals and groups for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The United Nations Security Council or individual states can refer investigations to the ICC for international prosecutions.

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