The Hague (AFP) – Iraq’s Yazidi minority — the target of brutal attacks by the Islamic State group — on Thursday urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the militants for allegations of genocide and sexual slavery.
Two Yazidi groups handed the court a new report and documents which show “that ISIS has systematically committed atrocities amounting to genocide and that these crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC,” said Murad Ismael of the Yazidi rights organisation Yazda.
Earlier this year, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the IS group, which is sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL, had committed crimes of “unspeakable cruelty” including mass executions, rape and torture.
But she said she could not investigate as neither Iraq nor Syria are signatories to the court and her “jurisdictional basis… is too narrow.”
The report, however, specifically names some 20 foreign fighters from countries who have signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute.
A Kurdish-speaking minority mostly based around Sinjar mountain in northern Iraq, the Yazidis are neither Arabs nor Muslims and have a unique faith which Islamic State militants consider to be heretical and polytheistic.
In August 2014, the jihadists made an unexpected push into areas of northern Iraq that had been under Kurdish control and were home to many of the country’s minorities.
Worst-hit were the Yazidis, who were massacred and abducted in large numbers when IS entered the Sinjar area.
Tens of thousands scrambled up Mount Sinjar in a panic and remained stranded there for days with no food nor water.
– ‘Despicable crimes’ –
“It is abhorrent that such despicable crimes should be inflicted upon innocent civilians anywhere on Earth,” said Ismael in a statement.
“The Yazidi community has been shattered by the sick crimes of ISIS terrorists who sought to annihilate the Yazidis on the basis of their religious distinctiveness,” he said.
According to Yazda, it is believed that some 3,000 people, including children and the elderly were killed although the figures remain unclear.
The organisation said 12 mass graves have already been found around the Mount Sinjar area.
Yazda also estimates that more than 5,200 people were taken captive during the August 2014 attacks, from which about 1,900 managed to escape. The rest are still being held.
Eighty percent of the Yazidi population is now displaced and living in camps, Ismael added.
“ISIL sought to annihilate the religious identity, traditions and the very existence of the Yazidis,” Yazda and the Free Yazidi Foundation said in their report to the ICC.
Speaking to AFP, the prosecutor’s office confirmed the “receipt of information” submitted by the two groups, but would not comment further.
Ismael, who travelled from Houston, Texas to present the report to the court in The Hague, told AFP he was “confident that once the court reads through the details” it will decide it has jurisdiction over the case.