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IS group committing genocide against Yazidis, UN says

Safin Hamed, AFP | Yazidi women protest outside UN offices in the Iraqi city of Erbil in August 2015.

The Islamic State (IS) group is committing the crime of genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, seeking to destroy the ethno-religious group through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, UN investigators said on Thursday.

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Their report, based on interviews with dozens of survivors, said that the Islamist militants had been systematically capturing Yazidis in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, seeking to "erase their identity" in a campaign that met the definition of the crime as defined under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

"The genocide of the Yazidis is ongoing," it said.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) for Syria, told a news briefing: "The crime of genocide must trigger much more assertive action at the political level, including at the Security Council."

Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn said it had "detailed information on places, violations and names of the perpetrators", and had begun sharing information with some national authorities, who were prosecuting foreign fighters.

The four independent commissioners urged major powers to rescue at least 3,200 women and children still held by the IS group [also known as ISIS] and to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

"ISIS made no secret of its intent to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, and that is one of the elements that allowed us to conclude their actions amount to genocide," said another
investigator, Carla del Ponte.

"Of course, we regard that as a road map for prosecution, for future prosecution."

The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.

The IS group, which aims to set up a theocratic caliphate in Syria and Iraq based on a radical interpretation of Sunni Islam, systematically killed, captured or enslaved thousands of Yazidis when it overran the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq in August 2014. Several mass graves have been uncovered.

Cutting off children from their religious community

The militant group tried to erase the Yazidis' identity by forcing men to choose between conversion to Islam and death, raping girls as young as nine, selling women at slave markets, and drafting boys to fight, the report said.

"No other religious group present in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq has been subjected to the destruction that the Yazidis have suffered," the report added. 

"The scale of atrocities committed, their general nature, and the fact of deliberately and systematically targeting victims on account of their membership in a particular group,
while excluding members of other groups, were other factors from which the Commission was able to infer genocidal intent."

The UN warned last year that the group appeared to be committing genocide against the Yazidis, but Thursday's COI's report, "They came to destroy: ISIS Crimes against the Yazidis" was more conclusive.

The group was holding Yazidis in conditions "that bring about a slow death", and was transferring Yazidi children from their families to live with IS fighters, "cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community", the report said.

It showed that men and boys over 12 were separated from their families, and those who refused to convert to Islam were killed, while thousands of women and girls, some as young as nine, were sold in slave markets.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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