Thursday, 14 March 2019 15:13

UNITAD working with Government of Iraq to commence exhumation of mass grave site at Kojo, Sinjar Region

14th March 2019, Baghdad, Iraq - Tomorrow, UNITAD (United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL) will support the work of the Government of Iraq in conducting exhumations related to victims of Da’esh/ISIL crimes. This will be the first exhumation in the Sinjar region and will take place in the village of Kojo.

Evidence suggests that hundreds of villagers from Kojo - men, adolescent boys, and women perceived to be past child-bearing age - were murdered by ISIL fighters in August 2014, while more than 700 women and children were abducted. Women and girls over the age of 9 are understood to have been forced into sexual slavery, where they suffered a wide range of violations; boys over the age of 7 are said to have been forcibly recruited and made to fight as part of ISIL.

The Mass Graves Directorate within the Martyr’s Foundation and the Medical Legal Directorate under the Iraqi Ministry of Health will lead the exhumation and the retrieval of forensic evidence. This process will be conducted with the guidance and support of UNITAD. Those exhumed and any other evidence recovered will be removed from the site for forensic analysis. This effort constitutes part of the investigation of Da’esh/ISIL crimes in order to identify those most responsible. It will also serve the very important function of identifying the victims so that their remains can be returned to their families for burial in accordance with their wishes, and with full respect for their religious or cultural practices.

Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team Karim A. A. Khan QC stated:
“Friday 15 March 2019 constitutes an important moment: The first of many grave sites in Sinjar which contain the remains of Da’esh/ISIL victims will be exhumed. UNITAD recognises the patience and resilience of the survivors and their families, who have waited so long for this process to begin. The road towards accountability is a long one, and many challenges lay ahead. Notwithstanding this, the spirit of cooperation between the survivor community and the Government of Iraq is to be applauded. UNITAD’s priority throughout this process will be the collection of evidence in a manner that meets international standards with full regard to the rights and interests of survivors and the families of victims.”

The exhumation will commence with a memorial ceremony led by Yazidi religious leaders, followed by speeches from senior Government figures and representatives of the Yazidi community.

UNITAD takes this opportunity to commend the efforts of the Government of Iraq for the support and cooperation it has extended to UNITAD throughout this process.

Editor’s Note:
UNITAD was established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2379 (2017) to support domestic efforts in holding ISIL members accountable for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, through the collection, preservation and storage of evidence in Iraq in line with international standards. The Council further mandated the Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team to promote throughout the world, accountability for acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed by ISIL (Da’esh).

Contact: Will De’Athe Morris, UNITAD Public Information Office - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Agency: UNAMI

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