March 15, 2017. Duhok, Kurdistan Region of Iraq – Today, the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF) and Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) announce a new effort to pursue justice for Yezidi survivors of genocide. In August 2014, Daesh attacked the Sinjar region of Iraq, enslaving and killing thousands of Yezidis. Today, more than 3,000 Yezidi women and children remain enslaved. The survivors face the immense trauma of ongoing genocide, decimated families, and shattered lives.

“FYF believes that survivors need to heal, and that healing requires justice,” said Pari Ibrahim, Executive Director of FYF. “Bearing witness and seeking justice gives survivors a way to make themselves and their communities whole again. At the same time, FYF believes that the pursuit of justice must prioritize the human rights, needs, and welfare of survivors at all times.”

FYF has therefore chosen to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Center of Justice and Accountability (CJA), a human rights nongovernmental organization dedicated to empowering victims of mass atrocities to bring perpetrators to justice in courts around the world. “The talent, ethos, and genuine concern for survivors displayed by the CJA team will serve our constituents well,” said Ibrahim.

Under international human rights law, the entire Yezidi community and each individual survivor has the absolute right to demand justice and accountability. So far perpetrators have only been prosecuted for joining or supporting Daesh. FYF and CJA’s justice project will work to ensure that Daesh perpetrators are also prosecuted for their specific crimes of genocide, rape, murder, and enslavement. The project will put victims in the driver’s seat, making them active agents in the pursuit of justice.

“The international community should investigate and prosecute the horrific crimes committed under Daesh’s black banner,” said Ibrahim. “Merely charging someone with membership in Daesh risks making a martyr out of the accused. Instead, convicting someone as a child rapist and murderer would send a stronger signal. By documenting the true nature of the crimes, such trials would expose Daesh for what it is: a criminal organization, not a caliphate.”

FYF and CJA are working to make such trials possible in domestic jurisdictions. Together, we will gather evidence of atrocity crimes, support prosecutions, and help survivors seek redress in court.

FYF calls on all countries committed to human rights and the rule of law to take Yezidis’ call for justice seriously.