UN team unearths 12 mass graves of Ezidis in Iraq

Workers start the exhumation process of the a mass grave in Iraq's northwestern region of Sinjar, on Friday, March 15, 2019. FARID ABDULWAHED/AP

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SULAIMANI — A United Nations team investigating the massacre of Ezidis and other atrocities has unearthed 12 mass graves in Iraq, AFP reported on Tuesday (May 21).

British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan said in a UN report sent to the Security Council said efforts were focused on three initial investigations: the 2014 massacre of Ezidis, crimes committed in Mosul from 2014 to 2016, and the mass killing of Iraqi military recruits in the Tikrit area in June 2014, according to AFP.

The UN Security Council agreed in 2017 to establish the UN probe to ensure Islamic State (ISIS) faces justice for war crimes in Iraq and Syria.  

The team began work in October with the first mass grave containing ISIS victims uncovered in March and April the village of Kocho in Sinjar. Kocho is located 20 kilometers from Sinjar and many of its residents were killed or abducted when ISIS militants attacked.

The British lawyer said “progress had been slower than hoped” in the investigation and stressed the need to establish “clear and effective channels” to use the evidence in Iraqi proceedings.

As well as excavations of mass graves, the 48-member team has “engaged first-hand with survivors and witnesses” and has put in place a witness protection program, said the report sent to the council on Friday.

The team is negotiating agreements with Iraqi authorities to hand over evidence and is ready to provide material to other courts to hold ISIS members accountable for their crimes, it said.

The United Nations has described the massacre of the Ezidis by ISIS militants as a possible genocide.

The Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs in the Kurdistan Region has said there were 217 Ezidi mass graves in Sinjar.

More than 3,000 Ezidis remain missing out of the more than 6,000 who were abducted.

(NRT Digital Media/AFP)