Families Bid Solemn Farewell to Identified Yazidi Victims of ISIL Genocide in Sinjar
25 January 2024
Sinjar, Iraq – 24 January 2024: In a momentous ceremony held in Sinjar today, the Iraqi authorities organized the return of remains of 41 identified Yazidi victims, recovered from mass grave sites in Sinjar.
The First Lady of Iraq Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed took part in the ceremony, alongside dignitaries from the Iraqi Federal Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Yazidi community representatives, local authorities, and Special Adviser Christian Ritscher, the Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIL (UNITAD).
The remains of the Yazidi victims of ISIL were returned to their next of kin in Sinjar in a religious and official ceremony. This will allow families to bury their loved ones in accordance with their traditions. The victims were mourned by the Yazidi community, and a number of family members who journeyed from abroad, to participate in this solemn ceremony.
In his remarks, Special Adviser Ritscher extended heartfelt condolences to Yazidi survivors and families of the victims, commending the resilience of the Yazidi community, especially the courageous women, who have been adamant in their calls for justice, and have been brave in coming forward with their witness accounts of ISIL horrors.
Special Adviser Ritscher also commended the collaborative efforts of competent national authorities and the joint work that has been done with UNITAD’s support to identify those victims, and ensure the return of their remains for dignified burial. He highlighted the Team’s partnership with Iraqi authorities including in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as well as the leadership of competent Iraqi counterparts, mainly the Mass Graves Directorate (MGD) and Medico-Legal Directorate (MLD).
The return of remains ceremony in Sinjar was preceded by an official ceremony in Baghdad on 22 January. Leading up to the return, the remains were meticulously examined and identified by MLD through advanced methods and supported by state-of-the-art equipment and technology. UNITAD has continuously supported the efforts of MGD and MLD in this regard, providing equipment and technical expertise where essentially needed.
“Supporting excavation of mass graves is a crucial pursuit for UNITAD’s work, and our joint quest for accountability and justice. These operations provide the opportunity to determine the fate of thousands of victims, but as importantly, they supplement the holdings of forensic evidence on ISIL’s crimes.” stressed Special Adviser Ritscher.
To address the anticipated emotional and psychological toll on families and survivors, psychosocial support was provided on-site by numerous competent national and international organizations including UNITAD’s leading psychologists that operate under the Team’s rigorous trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches.
While these ceremonies offer a glimpse of solace to the families, they also provide a reminder of the important task that lays ahead on the path of accountability. Towards this end, Special Adviser Ritscher underlined: “Today we stand in testing times, when the whole world must join in ensuring safe havens are closed off to all perpetrators of ISIL heinous crimes, and ensuring justice and accountability are realized as such to make it clear that impunity has no place in our world. It is our chance to show the world how Iraq can be the cradle of healing from divides and extremism through accountability processes and victim participation in proceedings that conform with international standards.”
For Special Adviser Christian Ritscher's full remarks click here.