The remains of thousands of ISIS victims have been discovered sprawled out over 200 mass graves in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Anbar.
The information was released on Tuesday by a joint report from the United Nations to Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, The New York Times reported.
As many as 12,000 corpses have been recovered so far but more are expected to be found.
More than 200 mass graves holding as many as 12,000 bodies have been found in areas of Iraq that were once controlled by the Islamic State https://t.co/MkHSow33QV
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 6, 2018
Dhia Kareem, head of the Mass Graves Directorate in Iraq said, “I can only say that the number of the victims of the mass graves is much bigger than the numbers in the report.”
The graves were discovered in regions of Iraq that were largely dominated by ISIS for three years.
The remains of 1,258 people have been exhumed from the sites by the Mass Graves Directorate with victims that include women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and members of Iraq’s armed forces and police.
There are some areas where ISIS remains active, it may be difficult to continue with the investigation and extra security might be necessary, according to the report, cited by CNN.
The report asked the international community to offer assistance with the unearthing, identification of victims, and the return of remains to families.
The report also states that key forensic material could be found at the gravesites that would “build an understanding around the scale of abuses and violations that occurred,” identify victims and determine if acts amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) November 6, 2018
Suki Nagra, director of human rights at UNAMI said, “The mass graves should be treated as crime scenes and that any evidence that’s extracted from them should be used in criminal prosecutions in the future in line with international standards. For us, the biggest issue is that the truth comes out of what actually happened — for the victims — and that the evidence from the results of the exhumations from these mass graves is actually used for criminal prosecutions.”
“ISIL’s horrific crimes in Iraq have left the headlines but the trauma of the victims’ families endures, with thousands of women, men and children still unaccounted for. These graves contain the remains of those mercilessly killed for not conforming to ISIL’s twisted ideology and rule, including ethnic and religious minorities,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
Ján Kubiš, special representative for Iraq of the UN Secretary-General said, “The mass grave sites documented in our report are a testament to harrowing human loss, profound suffering and shocking cruelty.”