British lawyer Karim Khan (L) is pictured on his way to visit Sistani in the central Iraqi city of Najaf on January 23, 2019. Haidar HAMDANI / AFP
Baghdad – Fadel Al-Nashmi
Iraq’s top Shiite Cleric Ali al-Sistani stressed on Wednesday the need to reconstruct the areas decimated by battles against ISIS militants between 2014 and 2017.
He said most of these areas fall in the provinces of Nineveh, Anbar, Salahuddin and large parts of Diyala and Kirkuk.
He made his remarks during a meeting with the UN Special Adviser of the Investigative Team on ISIS acts in Iraq, British lawyer Karim Khan, and Nicole el Khoury, the Legal Officer at Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee.
Sistani emphasized the importance of documenting ISIS crimes in the country and punishing perpetrators.
He demanded the UN team to also document the crimes committed against minorities in Iraq such as Yazidis in Sinjar, Christians in the city of Mosul and Turkmens in Talafar, especially the rape and slavery of women.
Sistani stressed the importance of normalizing the situation in war-torn areas and help the displaced return to their villages after reconstruction.
Although he acknowledged that this was the responsibility of the Iraqi government, Sistani said the international community should also play a role.
“The meeting aimed at clarifying the work of our team, and it was positive,” Khan told a news conference after his talks with the cleric.
“Sistani requested treating ISIS detainees in accordance with Islamic Sharia and the law,” Khan said, pointing out that his team has formed a “specialized team in crimes against women and will respect women’s privacy and the confidentiality of their case.”
In September 2017, the UN Security Council set up a team to investigate and document ISIS crimes. It began its work in Iraq about a year after its formation by collecting and keeping evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and possible genocide.
Member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights Ali al-Bayati welcomed the meeting between Khan and Sistani, saying it was important to receive the cleric’s support. The UN investigation team’s task will not be easy and needs the backing of all Iraqi factions, he said.
The Commission is fully ready to cooperate with the UN team, which has extensive powers to collect and document evidence, Bayati told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Only after documenting their crimes comes the process of prosecuting ISIS militants, he said.