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UN probe has gathered 'significant' evidence against IS fighters who enslaved Yazidis

Evidence includes two million phone records and a trove of video and photographic evidence that will aid Iraqi prosecutors during trial
Iraqi Yazidi women and children rescued from the Islamic State (IS) group waiting to board buses bound for Sinjar in Iraq's Yazidi heartland on 13 April 2019 (AFP/File photo)

A UN investigator team says it has made "significant progress" in helping Iraq collect evidence against suspected Islamic State (IS) fighters who will stand trial over the enslavement and attempted genocide of the Yazidi people.

In a report submitted to the UN Security Council on Monday, investigators said they had gathered two million phone records and a trove of video and photographic evidence that will aid Iraqi prosecutors.

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"In the coming six months, the team will continue its work with the government of Iraq in order to capitalise on this opportunity, with a view to securing the commencement of domestic proceedings based on evidence collected by the team," the report said, according to AP.

In August 2014, IS overran the ancestral homeland of the Yazidis, killing thousands of men in Sinjar and enslaving thousands of women and children in what the United Nations would later call a genocide. At the time, IS controlled about a third of both Iraq and Syria.

Roughly 2,800 Yazidis are still missing, according to the Yazidi Rescue Bureau in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government.

UN investigators said their probe, in partnership with the Iraqi judiciary, security services and Directorate of Military Intelligence, has now reached a "pivotal moment" set to bring IS fighters to justice and fill information gaps in ongoing proceedings. 

'A paradigm shift'

Included in the evidence are phone records that link the timing and location of specific IS fighters to the incidents they are being accused of. Investigators have also helped to preserve data storage units, images, videos and IS documents that would also be relevant for future prosecution, according to AP.

The data trove has "the potential to represent a paradigm shift in the prosecution of ISIL members," investigators said, using a different acronym for the IS group.

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The team said it has set up another two field investigation units that will look into crimes committed by IS against Christian, Kakai, Shabak, Sunni and Turkmen Shia communities in Iraq.

In September 2017, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to help Iraq preserve evidence for what "may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide" committed by IS in Iraq and Syria.

IS fighters are also on trial in Germany for crimes committed against the Yazidi people, including attempted genocide and the murder of a Yazidi child.

In February, Kurdish forces in Syria said they planned to hold trials for 1,000 foreigners in their custody who are suspected of having fought with IS.