War crimes investigation identifies ISIS members accused of Yazidi atrocities in Iraq

UN says information is 'incontrovertible' evidence for prosecutions

FILE - In this July 4, 2017 file photo, fleeing Iraqi civilians walk past the heavily damaged al-Nuri mosque as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Islamic State militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq. A new United Nations report published Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017,  has found that the Islamic State group committed serious "international crimes" such as using civilians as human shields during the Iraqi military's nine-month campaign to liberate the city of Mosul. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
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A war crimes probe has identified 160 ISIS members who could eventually face prosecution for atrocities carried out against the Yazidi community in northern Iraq, the UN Security Council was told on Tuesday.

The UN team known as Unitad, set up a year ago to make ISIS accountable for its crimes, says its information gathering has increased significantly in the past six months.

Criminal case files are being prepared and the inquiry's geographical scope was recently broadened.

Karim Khan, a UN special adviser and head of the team, said members met tribal leaders, victims' relatives and survivors in Arbil, Tal Afar, Mosul, Anbar Province, Diyala Province, Nineveh and other parts of Iraq.

“Despite suffering abduction, enslavement and unspeakable treatment, they were willing to re-engage with these memories to assist in holding their abusers to account,” Mr Khan said.

He was referring to meetings he had with ISIS victims in Dohuk, northern Iraq, last week.

Mosul, Sinjar and Camp Speicher in Tikrit are prime areas being looked at the 107-member UN team, more than half of whom are women.

More than 50 per cent of its senior management positions are also held by women, Mr Khan said.

Laser scanning of crime scenes in Sinjar, where most of the Yazidis lived, has enabled 3D models to be built.

ISIS fighters killed men, abducted children, and raped and enslaved women and girls.

With ballistics data, accounts from survivors and DNA from the remains of victims excavated from mass graves, evidence is also mounting against the killers of judges, religious figures, journalists and health workers.

“In the context of our investigation in relation to the attacks committed against the Yazidi community in Sinjar, we have identified over 160 perpetrators, and have now focused our work to build case files that may be presented to appropriate courts,” Mr Khan told the council.

Iraq's government is assisting the UN team but despite “purposeful steps being taken”, there is still no legislation to try acts committed by ISIS as war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, he said.

“The government of Iraq also facilitated the transfer of an ISIS detainee to Unitad premises to provide testimony,” said Mr Khan, stressing that prosecutions would one day be possible.