Statement by Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Baghdad 2 August 2018

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, I would like to extend my profoundest condolences to the victims of the appalling and disgusting crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), and to express my sympathy to the families of those who were killed or remain missing.

As we all know, on 3 August 2014, Sinjar District of Ninewa governorate was overrun by Da’esh terrorists, causing terrible death and destruction and leading to a mass exodus of the Yezidi community and many others from their homes in search of safety. Of the estimated 310,000 residents of Sinjar District, at least 200,000 fled, some to Sinjar mountain, others to neighboring villages, and others to Dohuk governorate in the Kurdistan region.

Many of you have had the courage to tell the United Nations and the world what happened. You testified to the terrible conditions you endured when you fled your homes and the horrors you witnessed trying to reach safety. Thousands were killed or kidnapped; others were subjected to forced labour and ill-treatment; others were trafficked abroad. Young girls and women were forced into sexual slavery and marriage. Young boys were forcibly recruited to fight.

Da’esh continued its campaign of terror, attacking civilians who tried to escape from Sinjar mountain and forcing those who remained behind to endure terrible conditions, without water, food, shelter or health services in harsh temperatures. Many died from exposure or lack of medical treatment.

While Da’esh targeted civilians from all ethnic and religious groups, it is clear that the Yezidi community was particularly persecuted. Among us here today are those who lost many family members during Da’esh’s campaign of terror. It is estimated that at least 5,500 people from the Yezidi community were killed by Da’esh, and more than 6,400 were abducted, of whom 3,106 remain missing. The United Nations, which carefully monitored Da’esh activities throughout this period, believes that the crimes committed by Da’esh may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

Today, four years later, Da’esh has been defeated in Iraq. The Yezidi people have survived - a testament to your strength as a community, your resilience and your defiance in the face of barbaric tyranny. What happened to you will not be forgotten. The United Nations remains deeply concerned about your situation, the fate of your missing loved ones, and the safety of those who remain in Da’esh captivity and continue to suffer atrocities at the hands of the terrorist group. Returning the missing to their families in safety is the top priority for everyone and no effort should be spared in achieving that.

The focus of the Government of Iraq, political, religious and tribal leaders, civil society and the international community must now shift to fighting the Da’esh ideology; promoting post-conflict community and national reconciliation; support for sexual violence survivors and their children; rehabilitation and recovery. And the delivery of justice for those who suffered under Da’esh, by holding accountable those who committed these monstrous crimes against the Yezidi people and other communities across Iraq.

The United Nations is committed to holding perpetrators of serious international crimes to account. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2379, adopted in consultation with the Government of Iraq, has established an independent Investigative Team to support Iraq’s own domestic efforts to hold Da’esh accountable for acts that may amount to international crimes. Last month, Mr. Karim Khan was appointed head of this Investigative Team, which is now starting its work. It will be fully supported by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. I hope that all those with information and evidence to share on Da’esh crimes will come forward to engage with the Investigative Team.

At the same time, I urge the Government of Iraq to adopt reforms to national legislation to enable prosecution of these international crimes, and to consider establishing a specialised court to try perpetrators, in conformity with international criminal law principles.

I also urge the government to continue to prioritise promoting national reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. The United Nations remains committed to supporting Iraq’s state institutions in their efforts to develop an inclusive political dialogue that respects and celebrates all Iraq’s diverse communities.

Thank you.

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