Yezidis look for evidence of their loved ones in a mass grave in 2015. Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to establish a team to assist Iraq to investigate ISIS crimes and hold the terrorist group accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
A Special Adviser will be appointed by the Secretary-General to head an investigation team of international and Iraqi experts that will initially be given a two year mandate.
In August, Iraq made a formal request to the Security Council to help collect evidence to prosecute ISIS militants for possible war crimes.
“The crimes committed by the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist organization against civilians and destruction of infrastructure and archaeological sites in Iraq are crimes against humanity, which makes it important to bring its perpetrators from Daesh terrorist gangs to justice, in accordance (with) the Iraqi law," Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in August.
"We request assistance of the international community to get benefited from international expertise to criminalize Daesh terrorist entity," Jaafari added.
Amal Clooney, human rights lawyer representing Yezidi victims of ISIS, welcomed the decision as a “key milestone for all those who've been fighting for justice for victims of crimes committed by ISIS. It's been a long time coming."
Speaking in New York after the vote where she was with Nadia Murad, survivor and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Clooney said this is the first time the UN has come together to tell ISIS "you will be put on trial."
"It says to victims that their voices will be heard and they will finally get their day in court,” she said, noting that a lot of work still needs to be done, but victims are "one step closer to justice today."
Nadia Murad said the UN Security Council’s decision means justice for the thousands of victims of ISIS. She expressed her gratitude that the “Iraqi government has stepped up."
The UN’s team will respect the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Iraq as they collect evidence to be used in fair and independent criminal proceedings in Iraqi courts.
The team will be funded by the UN. The Security Council also requested the establishment of a trust fund to collect voluntary contributions.
Britain’s Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt also welcomed the decision, saying “There can never be adequate recompense for those who were forced to endure the wanton brutality of Daesh, and the dead will not be brought back, but this Resolution means that the international community is united in our belief that there should, at least, be accountability for those who perpetrated such wicked acts.”
He announced that the UK will contribute £1 million to establish the UN investigative team.
Last updated at 8:15pm