Statement by Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General At the Commemoration of Attacks against Yezidi
Baghdad, 3 August 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Three years ago, on 3 August 2014, the Takfiri terrorist group ISIL swept into Sinjar, directly targeting civilians, killing and enslaving them, and triggering a massive displacement of civilians. From 4 to 8 August 2014, nearly 200,000 people fled to safe areas. Tens of thousands of others took refuge on Sinjar Mountain where they were besieged by ISIL in dire situation of critical shortage of water, food, shelter, and health services. Information at the time indicated that casualties included many children who may have died on the Mountain as a result of exposure and lack of medical treatment.
Testimonies told by survivors depict a graphic picture that clearly demonstrates the widespread and systematic manner in which the Takfiri terrorist group ISIL has committed atrocities against the Yezidi and other ethnic and religious communities of Iraq.
The United Nations established through its constant monitoring that crimes committed by ISIL constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and may possibly amount to genocide. This remains to be subject to the determination of an independent and competent court.
On behalf of the United Nations Assistance Mission of Iraq, I would like to expresses my profound sympathy to the families of the victims, missing persons and the survivors of the tragic violence and atrocities that followed ISIL onslaught. On the humanitarian level, challenges faced are tremendous, and needs will remain high.
When remembering the horrible events three years ago, and the mass exodus they unleashed, I would like to express deep gratitude to the Kurdistan Government and the host communities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for generously hosting -throughout the three-year conflict - and continuing to host, massive numbers of displaced persons, alleviating their plights and creating a safe and conducive environment for survivors and victims. This noble sacrifice will never be forgotten.
The extreme brutality waged by ISIL against the diverse ethnic and religious communities of Iraq, particularly the Yezidi community, but also the Christian, Turkmen, Shabak and other Iraqi minorities after its seizure of Sinjar on 3 August 2014 represents a very dark moment in Iraq’s history and must never be forgotten.
Yezidis were particularly targeted and ISIL demonstrated its intent to destroy them, in whole or in part. Sources estimated that between 2,000 and 5,500 persons from the Yezidi community have been killed by ISIL since 3 August 2014. Between 3 August 2014 and 2 July 2017, approximately 6,417 persons from the Yezidi community were abducted by ISIL. Some 3,369 individuals remain in ISIL captivity, including 1636 woman and girls and 1733 men and boys.
Women and girls under the control of ISIL, in particular women from the Yezidi and other minority communities, have been especially vulnerable to violations and abuses of international human rights law and violation of international humanitarian law.
QUOTE - I recall a Yezidi survivor’s words with much agony [I lived with my four kids in hell for a year and eight months, I was kept by ‘monsters’ underground in sewage water in Mosul for five months with no direct light, very limited food and no drinkable water. They took away my 12 years old daughter. I remember her screaming when they separated us, I remember her eyes. I wish I could see her again. They raped me constantly in front of my children, all between four and six years old. I need to believe that this will not happen again].
This survivor is the voice of every victim who lived ISIL captivity.
The United Nations remains deeply concerned about Yezidis, their situation, the fate of their missing beloved ones and the safety of thousands of those who remain in ISIL’s captivity and continue to suffer untold atrocities at the hands of the terrorist group every day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recovering Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city from terrorist control is an event of huge significance for Iraq and the region as it signals the irreversible defeat of ISIL terrorism. This rare moment of national unity should be secured through a long-term process that improves governance, provides better services, restores security and installs appropriate security arrangements for all communities, ensures justice and accountability, and promotes reconciliation. As part of efforts to break the cycle of violence, all IDPs should be allowed to return to their places of origin voluntarily and in dignity. No effort must be spared to provide assistance and much-needed services to the survivors of ISIL’s violence, their families and their communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Iraq is facing a very challenging period ahead. Violence does not end when territories have been re-taken.
The Government of Iraq must restore the civilian administration of justice and support law enforcement and judicial authorities to properly investigate, document and -where possible- prosecute perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations and abuse according to law. As part of this vital process, evidence, including some 70 mass graves discovered to date, must be preserved along with appropriate care and measures to excavate such sites and exhume and identify the mortal remains.
The Government of Iraq must also ensure that its courts have the requisite jurisdiction to try individuals for international crimes that have been committed on its territory and against its people. UNAMI is currently advising on a draft law that would complement the Iraqi criminal legal framework with a view to establishing a specialized court that would try perpetrators of most serious crimes on the domestic level, but under international criminal standards.
While this is pursued, we also urge the Government of Iraq to become a party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court or to refer the current situation in Iraq to the ICC by accepting the jurisdiction of the Court under article 12(3) of its Statute.
Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have to use all available tools to address root causes of violence to avoid sparking further human rights violations and civilian suffering.
We have to stand united in fighting impunity and say in one voice loud and clear that we will uphold and defend human rights and leave no room for barbaric practices, atrocities, hatred, extremism, and religious and cultural intolerance.
The tragedy of the Yezidi people is a stark reminder to the people of Iraq, the region and the whole world that ideologies of hatred left unchallenged may unleash unimaginable violence and barbarity upon the weak and unprotected, the most vulnerable among them being the minorities. When we remember the victims today, let us all pledge together that neither the Yezidis, nor other defenseless minority communities will be left to the mercy of the forces of darkness and barbarism that lurk waiting for an opportunity. A reconciled, democratic Iraq based on the rule of law provides the ultimate guarantee for this.