UN finishes first Ezidi mass grave exhumation in Iraq, starts next operation
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations Investigative Team for the Promotion of Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS (UNITAD) on Sunday confirmed ongoing forensic and technical support for Iraqi government teams working on the exhumation of Yezidi (Ezidi) gravesites located in the village of Kojo throughout April.
On March 15, the federal government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and UNITAD marked the beginning of national efforts to unearth the first mass grave of Ezidis killed by the Islamic State in Aug. 2014.
“Performed by the Mass Graves Directorate of the Martyrs’ Foundation headed by Diyaa Karim Tu’ma, and the Medico-Legal Directorate under the Ministry of Health headed by Zaid Ali Abbas, the next set of exhumations will expand the ground-breaking work conducted in the village during March 2019, the site of the massacre of hundreds of Yazidi men and women in August 2014,” UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement.
Mohammed Taher al-Tamimi, General Director of the NGO Directorate and Chairman of the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers Operations Room, acts as the focal point for the government teams across the process, synergizing cooperation and ensuring that best practices are adhered to at all times during the process of exhumation.
“We are proud to say that the first exhumation operation in Kojo was delivered successfully, in line with all legal requirements and international best practices, and in coordination with the specialists from UNITAD,” Tamimi said.
“The efforts of our team were tremendous in managing this process, which is of great concern to all Iraqis. As we move forward with the next phase, we will continue to work with our partners to deliver accountability for our Iraqi brothers and sisters.”
Following the extremist group’s emergence in Iraq in 2014, the Ezidi religious minority suffered heavily at the hands of the jihadist group, including mass executions. The occupation of the town of Sinjar (Shingal) led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ezidis, who the Islamic State considers heretics.
Militants subjected Ezidi women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.
So far, dozens of Ezidi mass graves have been found in the country, 11 of which were discovered in the small village of Kojo.
The UNITAD Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team, Karim A. A. Khan, stated that the next phase of exhumations in Kojo shows that “the national and international communities are united in support of accountability for Iraqis of all faiths, and all communities.”
The UNITAD team will include the head of its forensic unit as well as the senior lawyer responsible for Sinjar (Shingal) investigations.
The next phase of exhumation work will be coordinated with the assistance of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) with which UNITAD has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct further exhumations, in line with recognized international standards.
Editing by Nadia Riva