The investigation was requested by the Iraqi government back in August 2017.

United Nations General Assembly Hall.

United Nations General Assembly Hall. Photo Credit: Basil D Soufi

At the order of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, an investigation will be opened to inquire into potential war crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq. Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, a British barrister, has been appointed the lead investigator and will act as a special advisor as well as the head of the investigation’s team.

The Iraqi central government requested such an investigation back in August of 2017. In a statement, the Secretary General’s office asserted that “Mr. Khan has extensive experience in acting as prosecutor, victim counsel and defense lawyer in domestic and international criminal tribunals. Mr. Khan has studied and lectured on Islamic law and has published extensively in the area of international criminal justice and human rights.”

The Iraqi government sent official requests to the office of the Secretary-General, requesting UN resources in the effort to collect evidence of war crimes carried out by ISIS. Should such evidence be successfully collected, the Iraqi government could pursue international prosecution of war crimes for ISIS terrorists. The investigation opened by the Secretary General’s office will provide the Iraqi government with resources obtained through the office’s funding and promises to respect the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Iraq’s security personnel.

One specific focus of the investigation is likely to be the genocide of the Kurdish-speaking indigenous Yazidi people. The genocide is officially recognized by the United Nations, with ISIS as the perpetrators. Collecting enough evidence to bring to trial individuals from within ISIS is expected to be a difficult task. The genocide, which has resulted in the massacre of thousands of civilians and the abduction of thousands of Yazidi women, was a pivotal factor in initiating the involvement of the American-led coalition in Iraq. Yazidi advocacy group Yazda has stated that it welcomes the investigation and hopes that it remains clear of politics in its pursuit of justice.

Among the war crimes ISIS carried out in its genocide of the Yazidis are sex slavery and human trafficking. ISIS terrorists kidnapped thousands of Yazidi women and sold them as sex slaves across Iraq and Syria. A UN report in 2014 stated that somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 Yazidi women were sold into enslavement by the murderous terrorist group. Many in the Yazidi community hope that the investigation will lead to the capture and prosecution of the ISIS members responsible for the atrocities.