August 3 marks the third anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide in Iraq, human rights activists are stressing that not a single Islamic State member has been brought to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“What we’ve seen — not only in the U.S. but also in Europe — we are lacking to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes that are committed in Syria or Iraq,” said Pari Ibrahim, the founder and executive director of the Free Yazidi Foundation, which works to bring aid to the Yazidi victims of ISIS and gain recognition of the genocide and justice against the perpetrators.
“This is, for me as a Yazidi, very frustrating because we have the laws in place but we — we choose the easy way out and that is indictment for terrorism.”
Her remarks came at a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute on Wednesday on the challenges facing not only Yazidis, but Iraq’s other minority communities in seeing Islamic State perpetrators brought to justice.
It’s unclear how many suspected ISIS fighters are in custody of the Iraqi intelligence services. Human rights organizations and journalists have documented extrajudicial killings of suspected ISIS fighters in Mosul.
In March, Human Rights Watch counted 1,269 detainees between three prisons in the Nineveh province. They described the prison conditions as “deplorable,” and with at least 80 detainees under the age of 18, the youngest 13.
One estimate at the end of July puts the number of detained suspected ISIS members in Nineveh at 5,000 — with two to three dying per day because of inhuman conditions in the detention centers, according to an article in the Telegraph quoting an investigative judge in the city of Qaraqosh. The presiding judge questions the detainees and evaluates the evidence brought before him to decide if the suspect should be transferred to Baghdad to face terrorism charges.
Ms. Pari believes that just because the perpetrators are moving through the system faster doesn’t mean it is an accurate exercise in justice.
“[We are] talking with governments and it’s always — every time we’re hearing, terrorism: we can get them immediately behind bars. Yes, you can get them behind bars, but I think war crimes, rather than terrorism crimes, are very different and we have to all realize that,” she said.
Ms. Pari continued that her organization’s efforts to bring information to the International Criminal Court has yet to yield any meaningful results, “which led actually to nothing,” she said, but that European governments must do more to prosecute their own citizens who traveled to fight with ISIS.
Approximately 5,000 Europeans went to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS and as the terrorist group is choked from its last strongholds in both countries, European perpetrators of crimes against humanity are fleeing back to their home countries without retribution.
A citizen of the Netherlands, Ms. Pari highlighted that even in Holland, former ISIS fighters are finding refuge in the country because law enforcement don’t have evidence to bring charges against them.
“Actually in Holland… the perpetrators are actually just getting away with the crimes that they’ve committed because at the moment they can’t prove what the perpetrators have done.”
What is lacking is an international effort to bring about a decent investigation documenting ISIS’s crimes, said Naomi Kikoler, the deputy director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She added that a resolution presented to the United Nations Security Council calls for an independent investigation to document atrocities committed against Iraqis by ISIS but that political stalling on the part of the Iraqi government has held up the vote.
“The general sense is that this resolution could pass through the security council but it rests on the consent of Baghdad,” Ms. Kikoler said. “The political will seems to be lacking to actually sign the document to allow the investigation, to allow the security council to move forward.”
Yazidis are an ethno-religious minority mostly concentrated in northern Iraq. They are monotheistic and draw their religious traditions from Zoroastrianism but also Judaism, Christianity and Islamic Sufism, as defined by the Free Yazidi Foundation.
On August 3, 2014, ISIS launched a pre-meditated attack on Sinjar — with a population of thousands of Yazidis — with the purpose to murder and enslave the that population.
In the first days of the assault, over 1,000 people were killed. More than 6,000 Yazidis were taken to Raqqa and Mosul, mostly women who were traded as sex slaves and young boys who were brainwashed and trained to be ISIS fighters and suicide bombers.
ISIS also launched an assault on the area of Nineveh, east of Mosul, and one of Iraq’s most culturally diverse areas, home to a large population of Christians but also Shabak, Turkemen and Kaka’i.
• Laura Kelly can be reached at email@example.com.
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