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Statement to side-event on “The Fight Against Impunity – Bringing Da’esh to Justice”

High Commissioner for Human Rights
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

New York 19 September 2016

Colleagues and friends,

I would like to begin by thanking the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for sponsoring this panel together with the Foreign Ministers of Belgium and Iraq. I am honoured to be on this panel with Nadia Murad and Amal Clooney.

This event, The Fight Against Impunity – Bringing Da’esh to Justice, rightly highlights the gross violations and horrific abuses of human rights committed in Iraq.

Last month, my Office and UNAMI issued a report entitled: “A Call for Accountability and Protection: Yezidi Survivors of Atrocities Committed by ISIL”. It documented systematic and widespread, sickening abuses  - committed by ISIL based exclusively on ethnic, religious or sectarian identity -  including killings, abductions, the most repugnant kind of slavery, torture, sexual and physical abuse, and the deliberate siege and starvation of entire communities. Thousands of Yezidi women, children and men remain captive, or are still missing or displaced. These may well amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity; and also very likely genocide – given, notably, the statements repeatedly made by Da'esh that it seeks to annihilate the Yezidi, either by forcing their conversion or by putting them to death.

These and other allegations of human rights abuses, violations, and crimes committed in Iraq must be promptly, independently, impartially and thoroughly investigated.  The perpetrators responsible for these atrocities must know one day they will be brought to account.

The Government of Iraq has the primary responsibility to deliver justice to its people. If, as emphasised by Foreign Minister Al-Jafari, the Government faces impossible challenges in this task, it should seek the help of the International Criminal Court, under the complementarity principle. I have repeatedly advised Iraq to accede to the Rome Statute and, in the meantime, to accept its jurisdiction with retroactive effect. Another possibility would be for the Security Council to refer these allegations to the ICC.

There are also very compelling reasons to support the creation by the Security Council of a UN Commission as proposed by the United Kingdom and Amal Clooney.  We back this proposal.  My Office will also continue to collect evidence of all serious violations of human rights in Iraq, no matter by whom they are committed, or where they occur.  It is important all of this works together.  Ultimately, it is only the victims like Nadia who have the final say over the destiny of a country.  It is they who matter - should matter - the most to us, always.

I thank you.