The Iraq Independent Investigative Team & Prospects for Justice for the Yazidi Genocide

34 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2018 Last revised: 31 Jan 2018

Date Written: January 10, 2018


This paper explores the the origins, reach and prospects of the Independent Iraqi Investigative Team (IIIT), created by the UN Security Council in 2017 to investigate the crimes of the Islamic State in Iraq. Although mandated to investigate all atrocity crimes, the commission of what many experts consider to be a genocide against the Yazidi people emerged as one of the central motivations for the IIIT’s formation. This paper explores the potential of the IIIT to achieve a measure of justice for the Yazidi people.

Although the Yezidi people are not monolithic when it comes to their preferences for justice, glaring limitations in the Iraqi legal framework (particularly with respect to international crimes and crimes of sexual violence), may not produce results that are acceptable to Yazidi victims’ groups. This outcome, however, is not inevitable if local authorities are amenable to proposals for legal reform that the IIIT experts will inevitably propose as part of their capacity-building mandate. Moreover, the IIIT is ultimately only an investigative body; it has no prosecutorial powers or formal ability to influence the imposition of charges or criminal justice process writ large. As a result, it will be obliged to work with local, regional, and national authorities to ensure that potential evidence is fully exploited and that appropriate charges are brought. Although there may be a temptation among victims’ groups for swift justice resulting in the ultimate penalty, the IIIT should also protect against local prosecutions going the way of the Iraqi High Tribunal, which were perceived as deeply flawed and never earned the respect of the international community.

Much of the IIIT’s efficacy will thus depend on who ends up staffing it, with many urging the appointment of individuals with solid experience investigating and prosecuting international criminal law violations (as opposed to career diplomats or human rights advocates) who also possess the diplomatic acumen to navigate the region’s roiling political waters and the sensitivity to work with the most vulnerable of victims.

Keywords: Genocide, Iraq, Security Council, Yezidi, Yazidi, Rape, Trafficking, Hussein, ISIL, Terrorism

JEL Classification: K14, K33, K36, K42, N40, N45, F52, F53, F55

Suggested Citation

Van Schaack, Beth, The Iraq Independent Investigative Team & Prospects for Justice for the Yazidi Genocide (January 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Beth Van Schaack (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650 303 6832 (Phone)

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