Iraqi Officials and UNITAD Announce a New Ceremony for the Return of Yazidi Remains, Call on Families to Provide DNA Samples to Increase Victim Identifications
26 November 2021
Dohuk, 26 November 2021 – Iraqi representatives and members from the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) met with Yazidi community and civil society members to announce that the second return of identified remains will take place in Kojo on December 9, 2021.
“This second return of remains to Kojo helps to bring us one step closer to providing some closure to families of victims of ISIL international crimes. UNITAD remains committed to investigate these crimes to support holding ISIL perpetrators accountable”, underlined Gerald Casey, UNITAD Chief of Staff.
Sagvan Murad Jundi, general director in the Iraqi presidency said that President Barham Saleh stands ready to support the Yazidi community, recalling his tribute to the first group of identified victims who were returned to Kojo in February 2021. He also stressed the president’s active role in the Parliament’s adoption of the Yazidi Female Survivors law in March of the same year, adding that the law is we be implemented through the formation of a general directorate for it.
NCC representative and Kurdistan Regional Governmental (KRG) coordinator for international advocacy Dr. Dindar Zebari thanked UNITAD for organizing the outreach event and reiterated that the KRG will continue to provide utmost support to the process of identifying victims. He added that the upcoming return of remains ceremony will hopefully be a closure to the families of the victims, adding that all efforts should be intensified to support the rapid identification of more victims.
The outreach event, which was facilitated by UNITAD, aimed to engage with the community on the planning for the return of identified Yazidis to Kojo. UNITAD appreciated the opportunity to hear directly and learn from affected community members their concerns and needs. Family members unable to attend in person were able to join the event remotely and pose their questions to officials who took part in the event.
The process of mass graves excavations and identifying and returning the remains of the victims is crucial for the communities that suffered from ISIL crimes, who stand at the heart of the work of Iraqi officials and UNITAD.
Director of MLD, Dr. Zeid Abbas announced that a five-day ante mortem campaign will follow the second return of remains ceremony and will run from 10 – 15 December in Kojo. He called on Yazidi families attending the ceremony to “make use of this opportunity while in Kojo to give their DNA samples, as collecting larger number of DNA samples is critical to increasing the number of identifications.”
Lead Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nenna Ndukwe, who was present at the event, emphasized the trauma-informed approach to all of UNITAD’s activities in support of the return of the remains, which is likely to carry a heavy emotional toll on affected families. Psychosocial support will therefore be provided on-site at the ceremony through a coordinated response with relevant NGOs.
Director of Mass Graves Directorate Mr. Dhiya Al-Saiidi added “the process of returning the remains to their families is one of the most important goals referred to in the Mass Graves Law No. 5 of 2006 and is a major step towards determining the fate of the missing victims and helping to end the suffering of their families.”
The process of returning identified human remains to the next of kin constitutes an important step towards granting families of victims some form of closure with the chance to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified manner. A parallel track also exists where the DNA-based identification of the human remains of persons, whose fate was previously unknown, provides robust forensic evidence that can be used in building cases to hold members of ISIL accountable for their crimes.