Kurdistan PM describes bill establishing new court to prosecute crimes of ISIS

Mourners gather during a mass funeral for Yezidi (Ezidi) victims of ISIS in the disputed Iraqi district of Sinjar (Shingal), Feb. 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Zaid al-Obeidi)
Mourners gather during a mass funeral for Yezidi (Ezidi) victims of ISIS in the disputed Iraqi district of Sinjar (Shingal), Feb. 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Zaid al-Obeidi)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, issued a statement on Wednesday explaining his cabinet's approval of a bill to create a new court to try those accused of a wide range of offenses committed on behalf of ISIS.

"Today, we approved draft legislation to establish a criminal court in the Kurdistan Region to hold ISIS accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," the prime minister wrote.

"Once voted on and passed into law, this legislation will create the necessary legal framework to prosecute ISIS terrorists for their crimes against our peoples and humanity at large, through a national court in Erbil," Barzani continued, adding, "I know this legislation will not heal the deep wounds of victims, particularly the Yezidi [Ezidi] people and other groups. But it will be a pathway towards accountability, closure and above all, justice."

The emergence of ISIS and its violent 2014 assault on the Yezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal), located in one of Iraq's disputed territories near the Syrian border, led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the minority community. Most fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries in the region or Western states.

Others were not as lucky and remained stranded in the war zone, where they experienced atrocities and mass executions at the hands of the extremist group for years. Militants subjected 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, actions now widely recognized as genocide.

"The KRG, Iraq, and the international community have a solemn duty to hold ISIS terrorists accountable," Barzani continued. "Today sets us on a path toward fulfilling our shared responsibility. For the Iraqi people and victims the world over, justice is overdue. But it will be delivered."

"We will continue to collect and share information with the UNITAD mission to promote accountability. I call on UNITAD and the international community to increase judicial support and training in preparation for the first public trial," wrote the leader.

UNITAD was established by the UN Security Council in 2017 "to support domestic efforts to hold [ISIS] accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed by the terrorist group."

Read More: UNITAD head praises KRG coordination, support for ISIS investigation

"I urge the Kurdistan Parliament to see this legislation as a priority and lose no time passing it," Barzani concluded, vowing, "We fought and defeated ISIS on the ground, and we will keep up this fight in all forms until we uphold justice and bring redress to the many victims."

At their weekly session, ministers also approved four additional bills to be sent to the autonomous region's parliament where they will face a final vote by lawmakers before becoming law.

Read More: Kurdistan Region cabinet approves 5 draft laws, including bill to create anti-ISIS court

Editing by John J. Catherine