March 10, 2017 / 10:45 PM / 2 years ago

Iraq unsure if U.N. help needed to probe Islamic State crimes

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iraq is assessing what help it might need to collect and preserve evidence of Islamic State crimes, but has not yet decided whether it needs United Nations assistance, the country’s U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said on Friday.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney arrives with Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad (R) to meet with United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres (not pictured), at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Britain is drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a U.N. investigation to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecution, but would like Iraq to approve such a move by sending a letter formally requesting council action.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul, pushed Iraq on Thursday to allow a U.N. inquiry.

“We don’t want people to tell us what we need, we will tell them what we need and that’s really the bottom line,” Alhakim told reporters, acknowledging that Iraq does need technical forensic support.

“Let’s get it from the EU (European Union), let’s get it from the UK, let’s get it from the U.S.,” he said. “Technical assistance you can get from anywhere, you don’t need a Security Council resolution to get technical assistance.”

Alhakim said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would decide whether to ask for United Nations help.

“We want the government of Iraq to send (the letter) as soon as possible,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Friday. “The best route would be with the full consent and at the request of the government of Iraq.

“There are other ways of doing this if that route does not prove to be possible,” he added.

The Security Council could establish an inquiry without Iraq’s consent. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly could establish a special team to preserve evidence and prepare cases - as it did for Syria in December - or the Security Council could refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

Murad and Clooney, who represents Murad and other Yazidi victims of Islamic State, on Friday met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, U.N. experts said last June.

“Nadia knows where her mother is buried. There are mass graves whose locations are known and for all of this time, they’re just laying there unprotected and evidence is being damaged,” Clooney told Reuters on Thursday.

“If we don’t act now, we may lose the opportunity to have trials anywhere, ever,” she said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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