The Iraqi Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is investigating allegations that orphaned children from Ninawa were sold to the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) during the group's control of the province.
The investigation comes after the ministry "received complaints and reports on this matter from local residents and a number of Iraqi MPs", ministry spokesman Ammar Munim told Diyaruna Monday (January 8th).
A four-member high commission of inquiry was immediately set up, he said, adding that it was headed by the ministry's Inspector General and under the direct supervision of Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Sudani.
Accusations have been swirling around the director of the special needs department in Ninawa, Munim said, without naming him, noting that official statements have been obtained from him and other accused individuals.
"The official denied the charges, claiming that he handed over the orphaned children in orphanages in the province to their families after ISIS’s invasion of Mosul in 2014 out of concern for their safety," he said.
The residents, for their part, say they are conducting their own investigations in search of the missing children who they say are buried in unidentified graves, he added.
Investigation 'soon to be completed'
"The case is very serious, and the investigation is being carried out in extreme confidentiality," Munim said.
He did not provide further information on the number of complaints received by his ministry or the number of children who had been placed in Ninawa orphanages before ISIS's invasion.
The ministry launched the investigation in November 2017 but had kept it under wraps till now, Munim said.
The investigation was recently made public in order to "reassure the families that [the ministry] is continuing to examine all suspicions in order to reach the truth", he said.
"The issue is one of public opinion," he added.
"Once we have fully verified the credibility of the accusations and the available information, we will refer the case to a court of law so justice can be served," Munim said.
"The investigation is about to be completed and we will soon be announcing [the results]," he said.