UN: ISIS used chemical and biological weapons against Iraqis

Findings of UN report may present 'unprecedented moment for accountability' for the terror group

Mourners carry remains of people from the minority Yazidi sect, who were killed by ISIS militants, after they were exhumed from a mass grave, to bury them in Kojo, Iraq. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
Mourners carry remains of people from the minority Yazidi sect, who were killed by ISIS militants, after they were exhumed from a mass grave, to bury them in Kojo, Iraq. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

ISIS used chemical weapons against Iraqis between 2014 and 2016, a report by the UN investigation body for ISIS crimes said this week, urging authorities to seek justice.

The insurgents, which took over large areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014, declared a so-called caliphate and imposed a reign of terror over northern Iraq that included public beheadings and the sexual enslavement of Yazidi women.

“A new investigation opened with respect to the development and use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIS in Iraq has developed rapidly,” said a report by the UN investigative body, known as Unitad.

The agency was created to bring ISIS suspects to justice.

Weaponised vesicants, nerve agents and toxic industrial compounds are suspected to have been used

“Through the collection of a diverse range of evidence, the team has confirmed the repeated deployment of chemical weapons by ISIS against civilian populations in Iraq between 2014 and 2016, as well as the testing of biological agents on prisoners,” said the report.

Under pressure from human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Yazidi survivors, the UN Security Council in 2017 created Unitad to help Iraq collect and preserve evidence for future prosecution.

“Weaponised vesicants, nerve agents and toxic industrial compounds are suspected to have been used,” said the report.

The report's findings that portrayed ISIS's use of "indigenous chemical weapons capability" may present an "unprecedented moment for accountability in modern conflict with respect to non-state actors."

Unitad has finalized an initial case-brief addressing the legal characterization of the crimes committed against the Yazidis community. It will propose that ISIS crimes against the minority group amounts to war crimes and genocide.

The briefing will "identify those most responsible, and detailing modes of liability pursuant to which the identified perpetrators could be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide," said the report.

A US-led military coalition along with Iraqi military declared victory over ISIS in December 2017.

Since then, Iraqi authorities have prosecuted tens of thousands of detained former fighters, but Human Rights Watch and Yazidi activists say the trials are often flawed.

The report also found 875 ISIS victims, which were identified in 11 mass graves, in addition to the identification of four execution sites following the attack on Badoush prison in Nineveh.

ISIS fighters killed the inmates at the prison when they overran the site in 2014 after the terror group captured Mosul in June of that same year.

The militants used the prison to hold their own captives including thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority, but blew it up some time before Iraqi forces drew near.

Iraqi authorities have voiced concerns of an ISIS comeback in recent weeks following sporadic attacks across the country.

At least 18 members of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces were killed recently across the country this week, according to military and security officials, prompting calls from Iraq's president, Barham Saleh, for vigilance against the threat of a resurgence.

Updated: May 6, 2021 08:09 PM

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