Mass graves of thousands of ISIL victims found, UN reports

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Friday, November 9, 2018

In a report issued on Tuesday, the United Nations announced the discovery of more than 200 mass graves in territory previously under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The sites were located in northwestern Iraq, in Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, and Anbar provinces. They were found by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and contained from as few as eight, up to many thousands of sets of human remains.

According to the report, "These graves contain the remains of those mercilessly killed for not conforming to ISIL's twisted ideology and rule, including ethnic and religious minorities [...] Their families have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. Truth, justice and reparations are critical to ensuring a full reckoning for the atrocities committed by ISIL."

In remarks to CNN, UNAMI director Suki Nagra said, "For us, the biggest issue is that the truth comes out of what actually happened — for the victims — and that the evidence from the results of the exhumations from these mass graves is actually used for criminal prosecutions".

The report identified 202 grave sites, containing an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people, including those of children, the elderly, and the disabled. As many as 4,000 people may be buried in a single grave, one of the largest, a sinkhole south of Mosul.

The report proposes creation of a national registry for the recovered remains and gives recommendations on the use of evidence from the graves to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The report also requested cooperation from the international community in exhuming and identifying victims. The report said the Mass Graves Directorate had, to that date, exhumed 1,258 victims.

From 2014 to 2017, ISIL controlled large portions of Iraq, often killing its opposition and harassing the public on accusations such as as political affiliation and sexual orientation in what the report describes as "a campaign of widespread violence and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law." Most of the organization in Iraq was defeated by a United States-led coalition allied with the Iraqi government, but pockets of activity remain.