Speech by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering on the sixth anniversary of the start of the genocide campaign against the Yezidis in Iraq

03.08.2020 - Speech

“The social fabric of an entire society has been torn”. Nadia, when you briefed the Security Council during the German Presidency in April 2019, these were your words. You delivered a chilling account of the horrible crimes that were committed against the Yazidis in Iraq. Your words are etched in our memories.

Nadia, we had an opportunity to meet in person in New York in October last year, when we discussed violence against women in conflicts. Since then, the world has changed profoundly.

But while the world’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflicts continue. And sexual crimes – or rather sexual terror – are constantly being used as a tool to cripple societies.

We are confronted with stark realities on this day in particular: six years after the mass persecution by Da’esh, the Yazidis are still suffering the consequences.

The threat of Da’esh still lurks in the shadows. It has yet to be overcome.

And the challenges for the Yazidi community are manifold. It’s up to us not to let them down, but to help them to build a better future.

I’m therefore very grateful for today’s virtual event as it turns the spotlight on a situation that shouldn’t be forgotten by the world!

Thousands of Yazidis were murdered or driven out of their homes. Women, girls and boys were enslaved and subjected to sexual and gender-based violence on a massive scale.

It was, once again, women and children who were and are the most vulnerable.

Almost 3000 people are still missing. Missed by their families, their parents, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters, who don’t even know what has become of their beloved ones.

Six years on, we’re here to take stock of what the international community has done – and what remains to be done to end the Yazidis’ suffering and give the survivors prospects for the future.

And let me be clear when I say that the first prerequisite for this is to bring the perpetrators, the terror regime installed by Da’esh, to justice. Impunity constitutes brutal injustice.

We have to put an end to this. We have to achieve accountability.

Justice and accountability shouldn’t be abstract concepts that may or may not be realised, depending on the political will.

The survivors have a right to justice and accountability. Today, we are calling for results.

Therefore, we are calling for investigations, fair trials, timely sentences and their full enforcement.

UNITAD is collecting evidence across Iraq to provide the basis for delivering accountability for the unspeakable crimes committed against the Yazidis – crimes that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Germany fully supports the remarkable work done by UNITAD.

German law recognises universal jurisdiction for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide under international law.

German prosecutors have been investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Da’esh in Iraq and Syria on this basis since 2014.

The investigations have resulted in several trials. The focus of these trials is on crimes committed against Yazidi women and girls.

These trials demonstrate that survivors can seek justice even thousands of miles away from where the crimes have been committed.

While these efforts are no substitute for a strategy for comprehensive justice for the victims of Da’esh, we will support the fight against impunity in this way, and I call on all states to use all legal means at their disposal to end impunity.

My country remains deeply committed to the Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. Many Yazidi families have found asylum and new homes in Germany.

Sinjar – where over 76 mass graves were discovered – is one of the priority regions for Germany’s stabilisation and reconstruction projects in Iraq.

We know that we cannot undo the suffering, but I believe that the international community is able to help mitigate the trauma that many of the Yazidi community still experience.

We can give them prospects for their future by empowering and involving them. We need a survivor-centred approach. This is, Nadia, at the heart of your initiative.

We have to take action on the ground in order to enable the voluntary return of the displaced population in safety and dignity.

So we are cooperating closely with UN agencies, removing explosive devices and rebuilding schools, for example, supporting micro-entrepreneurs and strengthening community policing.

Furthermore, promoting women’s rights is one of Germany’s top priorities.

And this is also a key focus of Nadia’s initiative. I’m glad that we’re making a key contribution to treating survivors suffering from trauma. In particular, we are training women and girls in IDP camps as trauma counsellors.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We owe this to victims. We won’t forget them. Nadia Murad has given them a voice and a face. Reconciliation and healing is needed, including justice for the survivors.

Nadia, I’m honoured to hear you speak once again today. It’s so good to see you continuing your work, having built a network for peace and empowerment.

We’re living in times in which civil society has to take action. Civil society is the lifeblood of democracy. Minister Heiko Maas sends his best regards, and I’m looking forward to hearing from everyone else as well.

Thank you very much!


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