Human Rights Watch: ISIS fighters should be prosecuted for war crimes against Yezidis

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Yezidis demonstrate in Germany in condemnation of crimes against their community in northern Iraq. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

ERBIL – The Iraqi government and Kurdish government should prosecute ISIS fighters for war crimes against the Yezidi minority, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

“Yezidi victims of human rights abuses have a right to justice, not just government declarations with no consequences,” said Skye Wheeler, a researcher for HRW’s Women’s Rights Division.

According to HRW, the Iraqi central government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), hundreds of Yezidis have sought safety, and several ISIS fighters are in custody.

But Human Rights Watch says so far no criminal justice authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan or the rest of Iraq are investigating or prosecuting ISIS members for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

According to HRW, letting grave crimes against Yezidis go unpunished is a stain on the Iraqi government, and countries that vowed to protect groups like the Yezidis against threats of extermination and that have committed themselves to supporting justice for grave abuses whenever and wherever they occur.

A report released on June 16, by the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic, crimes by ISIS against Yezidis after they overrun Sinjar in August 2014 amount to genocide.

Also the Dutch NGO PAX in a report released last week on the situation of Sinjar [Shingal district] after ISIS, called on the Iraqi government to increase the transparency on screening processes, criminal investigations and (military) trials of individuals suspected of ISIS related crimes.

“Multiple crimes, of many different natures, were committed in Sinjar, and must all be addressed through appropriate justice frameworks,” PAX said.

In August 2014, ISIS radicals took over the Yezidi region of Shingal (Sinjar) in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Yezidis remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape cases, according to local and military sources. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves. 

On November 13, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, backed by an air cover from the US-led coalition forces, announced the liberation of the entire Yezidi district of Shingal in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh after fierce battles with ISIS extremists. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis. Yet, thousands of Yezidi women remain in ISIS captivity after being sold as sex slaves across the group’s territory in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS burned Yezidi girls to death

Extremist jihadis of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Thursday 3 June, 2016, executed 19 Yezidi girls by burning them to death, activists and eyewitnesses reported.

The victims, who had been taken by ISIS jihadis as sex slaves, were placed in iron cages in central Mosul and burned to death in front of hundreds of people.

“They were punished for refusing to have sex with ISIS militants,” local media activist Abdullah al-Malla told ARA News. 

“The 19 girls were burned to death, while hundreds of people were watching. Nobody could do anything to save them from the brutal punishment,” an eyewitness told ARA News in Mosul.

The United Nations has cited allegations, based on Yezidi officials’ estimates, that as many as 3,500 people remained in ISIS captivity as of October 2015. 

“Many of the abuses, including torture, sexual slavery, and arbitrary detention, would be war crimes if committed in the context of the armed conflict, or crimes against humanity if they were part of ISIS policy during a systematic or widespread attack on the civilian population,” the HRW said. “The abuses against Yezidi women and girls documented by Human Rights Watch, including the practice of abducting women and girls and forcibly converting them to Islam and/or forcibly marrying them to ISIS members, may be part of a genocide against Yezidis.” 

Reporting by: Ali Issa and Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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