Displaced Yezidi women and children. File photo
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KOBANE – The US State Department said that militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) should be held accountable for their crimes against the Yezidi people in northern Iraq. But reaffirmed that the first focus of the US-led coalition is to defeat ISIS on the battlefield.
“One is there’s no doubt, obviously, that those responsible for the heinous acts that have been carried out against the Yezidi people should be held accountable for their actions,” US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on the day of the second anniversary of the ISIS genocide against the Yezidi people—in August 2014.
“And there are certainly venues at national and international levels in which accountability could be pursued, and that includes the International Criminal Court in appropriate circumstances,” he added.
However, he said that the Iraqi authorities should also play a role in holding the perpetrators of the crimes against the Yezidis accountable, although the Yezidi people do not trust the local legal system.
“It’s often for these countries, these nations, and these people to decide for themselves how they want accountability to be held,” Toner said.
“I think I would just say that our focus, immediate focus, is on supporting the efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces and authorities to hold the perpetrators of Daesh’s atrocities accountable,” the US spokesperson added.
A report by the Dutch NGO Pax about Sinjar [Shingal] published in June, suggested that Yezidis do not trust the legal system in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, nor the Iraqi courts.
“We don’t trust the Kurdish and Iraqi court systems, because they are based on the Qur’an,” a Yezidi civilian told the NGO.
Toner said the US is helping efforts to ‘document and to analyze and preserve evidence of the atrocities that have been committed there.’
“We’re obviously acutely aware of the Yezidis’ suffering. We’ve been a huge advocate for them, including the gestures that – or the airstrikes that took place to save a large portion of them,” Toner said. “But unfortunately, many of them were systematically killed and wiped out by Daesh, by ISIL [or ISIS],” he stated.
However, the main focus of the US-led coalition is to defeat ISIS on the ground.
“We’ve made tremendous progress, but our focus is still on defeating Daesh on the battlefield. But as we do that, we’re certainly working with Iraqi authorities to collect evidence,” Toner concluded.
In August 2014, ISIS radicals took over the Yezidi region of Shingal 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 Shingal 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.