In his last briefing to the ambassadors, Karim Khan, special adviser and head of the team known as UNITAD, reported that the investigators had reached a “milestone” in their work.
They have completed initial case reports on two main priorities: the attacks against the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq and the mass murder of unarmed cadets and military personnel at the Tikrit Air Academy in June 2014.
“I can say that there is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes against the Yazidi people are clearly genocidal, based on independent and impartial investigations that meet international standards and United Nations best practices,” he said.
“Convert or Die”
Mr. Khan recalled that the crimes committed by ISIL, also known as Daesh, “shocked the conscience of mankind,” which was manifested in the group’s ultimatum to convert or die.
“Daesh’s horrific crime against the Yazidi community shows a full level of crime,” he said. “Executions, slavery, sexual slavery. Crimes against children who are terrible and who really make the soul cold, how on earth such things can happen. But they did. ”
UNITAD has supported the return of the remains of more than 100 Yazidis recovered from nine mass graves in Kojo village.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, kidnapped by ISIL, told ambassadors that her people had witnessed the worst atrocities known to mankind.
“I will never forget the sorrow in my mother’s eyes when she realized that her sons had been executed – without knowing that she would face the same fate,” said Ms. Murad.
“I can still feel my niece’s hands being torn out of mine as we were separated and loaded onto buses like cattle. And I can still calculate what my body was worth to those who bought and sold it. ”
Chemical weapons capacity
The brutality of ISIL affected all communities in Iraq, as the incident at the Tikrit Air Academy has also shown. The cadets, mostly Shiite Muslims, were taken away and many were massacred. An ISIL propaganda video of her murder was clear evidence of the crime of direct and public incitement to genocide, according to Khan.
“You don’t even have to look at the content of the video, even though we did and we had language experts to analyze it,” he explained. “But it’s the title of the video Daesh sent: Kill them wherever you can find them.”
Research has also shown that ISIL has “proven ability” to manufacture and use chemical and biological weapons, which is focused on the group’s takeover of Mosul University in Iraq’s second largest city they occupied by the end of 2017.
ISIL attracted combatants from the region and abroad. Drawing on the expertise of scientists and medical professionals within their ranks, the group began “arming” chlorine from water treatment plants, testing biological agents on prisoners and firing 40 mustard gas rockets at the Shiite Turkmen city of Taza Khurmatu.
Crimes must be prosecuted
Mr. Khan is about to leave UNITAD and will take over as prosecutor at the International Criminal Court next month.
UN teams in Iraq gathered a “mountain” of information, including testimonials, forensic evidence from mass graves and digital data extracted from ISIL hard drives. Investigators have also prepared an initial case report identifying individuals and companies that have provided ISIL financial services.
In the meantime, efforts will continue to ensure that “no victim, no child of humanity is left behind,” said Khan, pointing to progress in crimes against Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and other communities.
However, he stressed that it was not enough to just document the crimes of ISIL, and UNITAD continued to support developments towards legislation that would enable ISIL members to be prosecuted.
“Of course, legislation is needed to ensure Iraq has the legal architecture to track this bleeding of the human soul: not as common crimes of terrorism, though heinous, but as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes . ” he said.