Canada supporting efforts to bring Daesh to justice

A Yazidi woman wipes away tears as she courageously shares her story about atrocities committed by Daesh. Once a captive, she knows the physical and emotional trauma that other women in Iraq and Syria are enduring at the hands of their Daesh captors.

“Every day or two, men would come in and make us take off our headscarves,” she says, “so they could choose who they wanted.”

She talks about women being dragged from the house where they were held, taken to be raped, some never to return. “We don’t know what became of them.” she says. 

Targeting Yazidis in northern Iraq

Hers is a familiar story in Iraq and Syria, where Daesh has targeted and killed those believed to be against the organization or not adhering to its strict religious beliefs.

Among the most targeted by Daesh are Yazidis, who have lived in Iraq for centuries. In 2014 nearly 5,000 Yazidi men were massacred by Daesh members in the foothills of Mount Sinjar. At the same time, more than 300,000 people fled.

Daesh was executing its plan to establish a system of capture, detention, transfer and enslavement of Yazidi women and children. Once detained, they were sent to various distribution points in northern Iraq and categorized according to age, marital status and their openness to converting to Islam when threatened.

Women thought to be too old or unfit for slavery were executed. Those who were spared were transferred to slave-distribution points where they could be bought, sold, traded and/or gifted. 

Sexual violence at the hands of Daesh

During the Mount Sinjar attack, more than 7,000 girls and women were kidnapped as sex slaves.

They were, and in some cases still are, subjected to an array of abuses: rape, forced virginity testing, forced use of contraception and abortions, violent beatings and threats of death. They are exposed to harsh living conditions and deprived of adequate food, clean water and shelter. 

Despite Daesh’s recent territorial losses, millions of people still live under its authority. It governs through fear by killing, terrorizing and displacing civilians as it seeks to embed itself further into all aspects of their daily life. Yazidi women and girls remain particularly vulnerable, and continue to face sexual violence on a widespread and systematic basis.

Canada’s focus on protecting the human rights of people living in armed conflict

Canada is especially concerned about the physical, psychological and sexual victimization of Yazidis. We have provided resources to help those seeking justice for them.

In 2015, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) received $1.6 million from Canada’s to investigate the the crimes committed by Daesh. Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOPs)  works to prevent and respond to conflicts and crises abroad.

PSOPs puts a greater focus on protecting civilians in armed conflict, particularly women and girls. It promotes values and interests such as human rights and inclusion, and supports collective efforts to prevent atrocities.

Canada is contributing an additional $1.5 million to the Commission to increase access to justice and accountability for Iraqis affected by the conflict. This support will help improve the understanding of who is committing violations of international law and human rights, and strengthen international responses to Daesh atrocities.

Holding Daesh accountable

CIJA has worked with officials from the Kurdish Regional Government to collect sufficient evidence to facilitate the criminal prosecutions of several dozen high-level Daesh perpetrators.

CIJA-gathered evidence indicates clearly the Daesh policy to enslave Yazidi women and children as the spoils of war. This intelligence is gathered through  first-hand accounts taken from a number of former adult female captives, and Daesh-generated documents, publications, videos and online chatter.

To hold individuals accountable for these atrocities, Canada has requested that the UN Security Council establish a mechanism to investigate reports of Daesh violations of international humanitarian law in Iraq and Syria. This would help determine whether these acts constitute genocide or other serious international crimes, identify the perpetrators and ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. It could include making referrals to the International Criminal Court.

For Canada, seeking justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Syria and Iraq is an important priority.

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