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Rudaw

Iraq

Yezidis cautiously welcome Iraq court tasked with prosecuting ISIS

By Rudaw 12/6/2017
Vian Dakhil, Yezidi member of the Iraqi parliament. Photo: Rudaw video
Vian Dakhil, Yezidi member of the Iraqi parliament. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Yezidis are cautiously welcoming news that Iraq will open a special court to try alleged ISIS members accused of committing crimes against the Yezidi population when the extremist group carried out genocide against the minority community. A Yezidi member of the Iraqi parliament said that they have concerns, however. 

Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council announced on Monday they will open a “special judicial body to investigate the terrorist crimes committed against Yezidis.”

The decision was made “to document the crimes committed against this component and make sure the suspects do not escape justice,” said Abdul Sattar al-Birqadar, spokesperson for the Council. 

The court will be located in Baaj in Nineveh province, a town about 30km southwest of Shingal that was retaken by Hashd al-Shaabi last week.

This move came as a surprise to Vian Dakhil, the only female Yezidi representative in the Iraqi parliament. She is particularly concerned about the proposed location. “We all know that many people in Baaj were with ISIS,” she told Rudaw. 

Another potential problem is reaching the court. Many Yezidis reside in the Shingal area and the Kurdistan Region. Baaj, to the south, is currently under the control of the Hashd forces. 

“A Yezidi individual cannot go from here in the displaced camps from Shingal to Baaj to file their complaint against an ISIS member,” she said. 

Dakhil has spoken with the Supreme Judicial Council and authorities in Baghdad to convey these concerns and asked for the court to be transferred to the Snune sub-district, on the north side of Shingal mountain and under Kurdish control. 

She welcomed, however, the decision to establish the court in Iraqi territory as many alleged ISIS members live in territories controlled by the Iraqi state and an Iraqi court can bring them to justice. 

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) hopes to also establish a special tribunal to prosecute alleged ISIS militants. It is in talks with international experts and the United Nations on this matter. 
 
A commission established by the KRG has been collecting evidence of ISIS crimes, including victim testimony, since September 2014. 

Dakhil would like to see the Iraqi court and the Kurdistan Region work together “to establish a court with international characteristics. That is to say an Iraqi court, in cooperation with the Kurdistan Region since all the testimonies of our abducted girls are with us, and to have several international judges, so that we can indeed make it an international case.”

The ultimate goal is to take the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Dakhil said.

International experts point out, however, that the ICC does not have jurisdiction in Iraq. Both Baghdad and Erbil are likely to resist inviting the ICC into the country since it will not limit its work to ISIS, but will be able to investigate Iraqi forces and Peshmerga as well. 

“It’s a question of, is the polity across Iraq ready for that?” asked Bill Wiley, executive director of the non-profit Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA). “My guess would be that it may not be.”

CIJA is investigating ISIS in Iraq and Syria and is advising the KRG. Wiley’s recommendation is to establish a special tribunal here, where the victims are and where the crimes were committed. 

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