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Sweden and France launch joint team to prosecute IS fighters over crimes against Yazidis

The Yazidi minority were subjected to mass murder, torture and slavery after the Islamic State group swept through their ancestral homeland in northern Iraq and Syria
Mourners carry the coffins of Yazidis whose remains were found in a mass grave in the Iraqi village of Kojo in Sinjar district on 9 December, 2021 (AFP)
By in
New York

Sweden and Fance have launched a joint team to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes carried out by foreign fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group against the Yazidi minority.

The two countries' ongoing investigations are coordinated by the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust). The new task force aims to streamline their efforts and enable information and evidence to be shared more swiftly.

"The main aim of the JIT will be to identify FTFs [foreign terrorist fighters] who were involved in core international crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, primarily perpetrated against members of the Yazidi minority during the armed conflict in Syria and Iraq," read a statement released by Eurojust on Friday.

The new team will reduce the need for multiple interviews of the same victims who have experienced traumatic events at the hands of IS.

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The Yazidis are an ethnic group whose ancestral homeland stretches through northern Iraq and parts of Syria.

The minority group were specifically targeted and oppressed by IS when the armed group invaded Iraq's Sinjar region.

Girls were forced into slavery and human trafficking rings, boys were forced to fight for the group, while men were executed if they didn't convert to Islam - or often executed in any case.

In May 2021 a UN investigations team ruled, "there is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes" perpetrated by IS "against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide".

The plight of the Yazidis has garnered international attention, but nearly seven years after IS launched its assault on the Sinjar Valley they continue to face difficulties in the region. Up to 200,000 Yazidis are still displaced with a majority living in camps for internally displaced persons in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Eurojust said the establishment of a joint French and Swedish team would be of "added value" to other EU member states or third countries, "who want to end the impunity of FTFs involved in core international crimes such as slavery or sexual violence against members of the Yazidi community".

In a Germany, a landmark case was held in November in which an Iraqi man was sentenced to life in prison - becoming the first member of IS to be convicted of genocide against the Yazidis.