The UN Security Council should take action to stop the genocide against Iraq's Yezidi minority and prosecute Islamic State fighters for enslaving, raping and torturing its people, UN human rights investigators urged Thursday.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria concluded in a new report that Islamic State extremists are committing genocide against thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority who have been brought from Iraq to Syria.
More than 3,200 Yazidi women and children are held mostly in Syria by the extremist fighters who keep them as sexual slaves, the investigators found.
They also found evidence of planned killings, deportations, slave labour, and efforts to prevent Yazidis from having children, amounting to active efforts to eradicate this ancient minority group.
"Genocide has occurred and is ongoing," commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro said in Geneva.
The commission said it prepared evidence that could form the basis of indictments if the UN Security Council launches proceedings before the International Criminal Court in The Hague or if it sets up an special ad-hoc tribunal.
"We expect that, having done our job, that this will be a piece to convince the Security Council to act," Pinheiro said about the new report.
The commission criticized that there are no efforts by the governments of Iraq and Syria or the international community to rescue Yazidis from the hands of their captors.
The Security Council should also consider additional steps such as listing groups under sanctions or seizing extremists' assets, the commission said.
According to the UN report, Islamic State militants exterminated Yazidis in mass killings when fighters based in Iraq and Syria attacked Iraq's Sinjar region in August 2014.
But the report stressed that sexual slavery, slave labour, torture and forced conversions to Islam - not killings - are the main methods used in the current Yazidi genocide.
"Girls as young as nine were raped, as were pregnant women," said the report, which was based on interviews with survivors, activists, medical personnel and other sources.
"Most of those interviewed reported violent daily rapes by their fighter-owners," the commission said.
Islamic State, also known by the acronymns IS and ISIS, was also actively preventing births among Yazidis, by separating women and men, and by sexually traumatizing females, it charged.
In addition, young Yazidi boys are being placed with Islamic State fighters, who indoctrinate and train them as fighters.
"ISIS has 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 commission member Carla Del Ponte, a former UN war crimes prosecutor.
The commission has collected names of suspects and has started sharing evidence with the home countries of these fighters.
Sources told the UN experts that men from Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Kazakhstan had sold and bought Yazidi women as slaves.
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