UN sets up probe of Daesh atrocities

Amal Clooney arrives for a security council meeting at U.N. headquarters during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2017

UN sets up probe of Daesh atrocities

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously decided to set up a team to collect evidence on the massacres of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and other atrocities committed by Daesh in Iraq.
Britain drafted the resolution to help bring perpetrators of Daesh war crimes to justice — a cause championed by international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who was present for the vote. The Lebanese-British lawyer represents Yazidi women who were taken hostage and used as sex slaves by Daesh as it swept into Iraq’s Sinjar region in August 2014.
Clooney, sat next to Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of Daesh enslavement, as the council voted on the measure.
The United Nations has described the massacres of the Yazidis as genocide and Clooney has over the past month made high-profile appearances before the world body to demand action.
“Why is it that nothing has been done?” Clooney told a UN event in March.
“Mass graves lie unprotected and unexhumed. Witnesses are fleeing and not one ISIS militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world,” she said.
After months of pressure Iraq in August agreed to the investigation, which will “support domestic efforts to hold” IS jihadists accountable by “collecting, preserving and storing evidence” in Iraq, the resolution said.
Under the measure, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will within 60 days present to the council details on the mandate of the investigative panel that will work with their Iraqi counterparts.
The investigators will gather evidence on “war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide” for use in Iraqi courts, according to the resolution.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley described the resolution as “a major first step toward addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq — crimes that include genocide.”
IS fighters have been on the run in Iraq since the recapture of Mosul, Iraq’s second city in July, which had been under IS rule since 2014.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled the August 2014 massacre in Sinjar, and UN rights investigations have documented horrific accounts of abuse suffered by women and girls.
Around 3,000 women are believed to remain in IS captivity.
Human Rights Watch criticized the resolution as a missed opportunity by the council to address atrocities committed by Iraqi and other forces.
“No one denies the importance of tackling the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi and international forces is not only flawed, it’s shortsighted,” said HRW’s justice expert Balkees Jarrah.
The Iraqi government worked with Britain to draft the measure.


UN rights chief ‘troubled’ by new Sri Lanka army chief

Updated 48 min 36 sec ago

UN rights chief ‘troubled’ by new Sri Lanka army chief

  • Shavendra Silva, 55, was promoted by President Maithripala Sirisena to commander of the Sri Lankan army
  • A UN report said Silva played a major role in orchestrating war crimes.

GENEVA: UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Monday she is “deeply troubled” by Sri Lanka’s appointment of an accused war criminal as army chief, as global concern mounts over the nomination.
Major General Shavendra Silva, 55, was elevated to the army’s second-highest position of chief of staff in January before his latest promotion by President Maithripala Sirisena to commander of the Sri Lankan army.
“The promotion of Lt. General General Silva severely compromises Sri Lanka’s commitment to promote justice and accountability,” Bachelet said in a statement.
Silva, who commanded an army division in the long-running civil war with Tamil separatists, has been accused by the United Nations of war crimes during the conflict’s final stages.
“I am deeply troubled by the appointment ... despite the serious allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against him and his troops during the war,” Bachelet said.
The US embassy in Colombo, along with civil society groups, have also criticized the appointment as a move likely to undermine reconciliation efforts.
Sri Lanka’s armed forces crushed the separatist rebels in 2009 in a no-holds barred offensive that ended a 37-year war which killed 100,000 people.
There were mass atrocities against civilians in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil north toward the end of the conflict, with rights groups saying some 40,000 ethnic Tamils were killed by government forces.
A UN report said Silva played a major role in orchestrating war crimes.