UN Seeks Prosecution of ISIS Militants for Crimes Against Iraqi Christians

UN Seeks Prosecution of ISIS Militants for Crimes Against Iraqi Christians

A United Nations team involving leaders from the United States and several European countries is working to identify and bring to justice ISIS militants responsible for the enslavement, genocide and displacement of Iraqi Christians over the last decade.

A conference of the United Nations Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) met Sept. 1 in Erbil, Iraq, to cast a spotlight on the ongoing effort to identify the ISIS militants responsible for perpetrating the crimes, largely against Christians, in Iraq.

Simultaneous to ISIS’ reign of terror in Iraq after most U.S. troops left in 2011, the Christian population, now estimated at between 160,000 and 250,000, largely fled as refugees to the mountainous Kurdish regions of northern Iraq to escape deadly persecution. Two decades ago, the Iraqi Christian population was estimated to be 1.5 million.

Christian Ritscher, a U.N. special adviser and head of UNITAD, commended the Christian community leaders who also gathered at the conference, saying, “Your togetherness and your resilience are inspirational, not just to the Christian community in Iraq, but also to us at UNITAD.

“ISIL’s [also known as IS or ISIS] ideology thrived on violence, sparing neither the people of Iraq nor their diverse cultures and beliefs. … As we work in pursuit of justice for all victims and survivors, those who suffered from ISIL’s atrocities, we keep in heart and mind one of UNITAD’s core principles: there is no hierarchy in victims.”

Noting that the terrorists targeted churches, monasteries, cemeteries, Christian symbols and ancient archaeological sites in “barbaric attacks, rooted in hate and inhumanity,” Ritscher said individual case files are being built against those responsible.

“The identities of these ISIL members are corroborated by testimonial evidence, ISIL internal documents and case files provided by the Iraqi judiciary,” he told the group.

Safeen Dizayee, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Department of Foreign Relations, told the conference, “Christians are the indigenous people of this land and must continue their lives with dignity and security,” according to International Christian Concern. He emphasized how his region has been a safe haven for Iraqi’s remaining Christians.

Meanwhile, for the U.S. military, rooting out ISIS terrorists is an ongoing priority. In 2022, U.S Central Command reported the deaths of 886 ISIS operatives during anti-terrorism operations in Iraq and Syria, and another 374 suspected terrorists detained by U.S. troops.

In November 2022, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, told a group at a global economic summit that Christianity in Iraq was at the “very edge of extinction.”

“Should an ancient, peaceful people be allowed to simply perish without comment, without objection?” Warda asked. “It seems an almost absurd question to ask in these modern times, does it not? Well then, we object. We object that one faith should have the right to kill another. We object.”

According to Open Doors, Christians should pray three things for their fellow Iraqi believers: For peace and stability to come to Iraq so Christians can return home; for an increase in understanding and cooperation between Christian denominations there; and for courage, as well as God’s protection, for new believers from Muslim backgrounds, whose lives are in danger if discovered.

Photo: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

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