Significant Progress Made Gathering Evidence on ISIL/Da’esh Crimes in Iraq, but Domestic Laws Needed, Investigating Head Tells Security Council
Highlighting notable investigative progress into international crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, and cooperation of Iraqi authorities, the head of the United Nations team probing those transgressions called for the adoption of adequate domestic legislation to ensure accountability and enable prosecution of core international crimes, during his semi-annual briefing to the Security Council today.
Christian Ritscher, Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), briefing the Council on the Team’s ninth report (document S/2022/836), said that UNITAD has continued its investigations into international crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh against all communities of Iraq. All this investigative work would not be possible without close cooperation with Iraq’s national authorities, he emphasized, noting that various lines of enquiry have developed.
Highlighting completion of the case assessment focused on crimes committed against the Christian community in Iraq, he said the Team identified several ISIL/Da’esh leaders and members that participated in acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Team’s investigations into the development and use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL/Da’esh have also progressed. UNITAD has also begun its investigations into the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq by ISIL/Da’esh, he said, adding that several fighters responsible for those crimes have already been identified.
Detailing UNITAD’s continued work in capacity-enhancement, excavation of ISIL/Da’esh-related mass graves in Iraq, preservation of evidence, and repatriation of Iraqi nationals from camps in neighbouring countries, he stressed that: “One of our key goals is to support Iraq in playing a leading role in holding ISIL/Da’esh members accountable for international crimes.”
He encouraged the Iraqi Council of Representatives to consider adopting adequate domestic legislation on core international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. “UNITAD will not stop to ensure that justice is delivered for the thousands of victims and survivors who have been impatiently waiting to see their day in court,” he said, affirming the Team’s continued engagement with Member States and civil society.
In the ensuing debate, Council members welcomed progress across all lines of investigation and commended related cooperation between UNITAD and Iraq. Underscoring the importance of holding perpetrators to account, several speakers joined the Special Adviser in calling for domestic legislation for the prosecution of crimes by ISIL/Da’esh, while others pointed out that Iraq’s domestic laws do not relate to and should not be linked to UNITAD’s mandate.
India’s representative, Council President for December, speaking in her national capacity, joined other delegations in welcoming ongoing cooperation between the Iraqi authorities and UNITAD, highlighting her country’s political and financial support to the Team. While case-building and information-sharing are important, the timely sharing of evidence with Iraqi authorities for national prosecutions is key to advancing full accountability, she emphasized, encouraging UNITAD to work closely with the Government.
Ireland’s representative was among several speakers who underscored that the key to holding ISIL/Da’esh perpetrators to account is adoption of national legislation enabling the domestic prosecution of war crimes. He called on the Iraqi authorities to progress that initiative as a matter of priority, stressing that such legislation must preclude application of the death penalty.
Norway’s representative, in a similar vein, emphasized that adoption of domestic legislation to establish a legal basis for prosecuting ISIL/Da’esh’s atrocities in Iraq as international crimes, as well as adoption of a moratorium on the use of capital punishment, will allow UNITAD to share its collected evidence with Iraqi authorities.
The representatives of China and the Russian Federation pointed out that collecting and accumulating information are not ends in themselves. China’s representative said that Iraq’s domestic laws and legislative process “have nothing to do” with the Team’s mandate and should not be linked to the issue of evidence transfer. When sharing information collected in Iraq with other Member States, UNITAD should first obtain Iraq’s consent and adhere to the principles of transparency and non-discrimination, he said.
The Russian Federation’s representative also emphasized that the Investigative Team’s objective is to support national efforts of law enforcement and judiciary bodies of Iraq. Voicing hope that evidence collected will be expeditiously transferred to Iraq, he highlighted that ISIL/Da’esh used their advances in chemical and biological weapons in other countries, including neighbouring Syria.
The representative of the United States, on that note, said the terrorist group has continued to use violence in Syria and Iraq, and has sought to refill its ranks by breaking out captive fighters from detention centres. Noting the continued presence of thousands of ISIL/Da’esh fighters and their families in displacement camps in Iraq and Syria, he underscored the urgency for all States to repatriate and prosecute, as appropriate, their nationals who have committed crimes as foreign fighters.
Iraq’s representative commended UNITAD’s substantial investigative progress, as well as its efforts to ensure accountability in cooperation with Iraqi authorities. The most important challenge ahead is ensuring that justice is done, and evidence communicated as quickly as possible to the Iraqi Government, so that it can be used in Iraqi courts. Emphasizing that the evidence is there, and perpetrators identified, he asked: “Why is it then that these individuals are not brought to justice?”
Noting that extension of UNITAD’s mandate under Council resolution 2651 (2022) was difficult for his Government, he underscored the need to develop a plan of cooperation with the Iraqi Government. This plan will determine specific goals, including the timely provision of evidence to competent Iraqi authorities for the holding of independent and fair criminal proceedings and ensure that implementation of the mandate respects Iraq’s sovereignty, he said.
Also speaking were representatives of United Kingdom, Albania, France, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Gabon, Mexico, Brazil and Kenya.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:38 a.m.
CHRISTIAN RITSCHER, Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), briefing the Council on the Team’s ninth report (document S/2022/836), said that, over the last reporting period, UNITAD continued to advance its investigations into international crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, against all communities of Iraq. The Team continuously engages in constructive and supportive dialogue with Iraqi counterparts, notably with the judiciary as well as with Iraqi political authorities, he said, noting that various lines of investigations have developed, from purely researching endeavours to dynamic case-building strategies. All this investigative work would not be possible without close cooperation with national authorities of Iraq, including in the Kurdish Region, he emphasized.
Highlighting progress made, he said a key outcome has been completion of the case assessment focused on crimes committed against the Christian community in Iraq. Evidence collected and analysis conducted thus far substantiate preliminary findings from his last report that ISIL/Da’esh commissioned acts, such as seizing of properties, looting and destruction of churches, and commission of sexual violence against as well as enslavement and forcible religious conversions of members of the Christian community. These acts constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, he emphasized, noting that they include forcible transfer, persecution, pillage, sexual violence and slavery and other inhumane acts, such as forced conversion as well as intentional destruction of cultural heritage and religious sites protected under international humanitarian law. The Team identified several ISIL/Da’esh leaders and members originating from areas nearby, but also from foreign countries, that participated in those attacks, he added.
The Team’s investigations into the development and use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL/Da’esh have notably progressed, he continued. Evidence collected continues to suggest that ISIL/Dae’sh manufactured and produced chemical rockets and mortars, ammunition, warheads and improvised explosive devices, in addition to the development, testing, weaponization and deployment of a range of chemical agents highlighted in the last report. The Team met with affected communities and Iraqi authorities at several incident sites and has focused on the 8 March 2016 attack against Taza Khurmatu, which has generated significant volumes of battlefield evidence. Importantly, UNITAD started to advance with its investigations into the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq by ISIL/Da’esh, he said, underscoring that those investigations represent a breakthrough in the landscape of core international investigations. So far, evidence obtained shows that religious and cultural sites were either intentionally destroyed by ISIL/Da’esh, or taken over and occupied, sometimes for military purposes, resulting in severe damage or destruction to those sites. Several ISIL/Da’esh fighters responsible for those crimes have already been identified, he said, noting that in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ongoing work will provide the basis for a case assessment report.
Alongside its investigations, his Team continued to support capacity-enhancement initiatives directly serving its Iraqi counterparts, he continued, pointing to an intensive one-week training a few days ago for 19 judges from across Iraq on international humanitarian and criminal law and a pilot training course in October on international crimes case-building with 11 judges and prosecutors from the Kurdish Region. Moreover, UNITAD continued to support excavation of several ISIL/Da’esh-related mass graves in Iraq, according to the annual road map agreed to with the Government of Iraq and international partners. Implementation of this road map was made possible through close cooperation with the Mass Graves Directorate of the Martyrs Foundation and the Medico-Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Health, as well as field-based assistance from Kurdish authorities, he said, adding that UNITAD has agreed with the German federal authorities to collect data and DNA reference samples from the Yazidi community residing in Germany.
Efforts to preserve evidence of ISIL/Da’esh-related crimes also continued during the reporting period, he said, noting that the Team has so far converted 5.5 million physical pages of documentary evidence into usable digital formats, and currently supports digitization activities at six different sites in Iraq, with a throughput of approximately 100,000 pages per week. As well, UNITAD has been working as part of United Nations system-wide efforts to address the issue of repatriation of Iraqi nationals from camps in neighbouring countries, he said, noting its participation last month in the meeting of the Technical Working Group for the Implementation of the Global Framework for Iraqi Returnees from Syria. This work is done jointly between concerned United Nations offices, including the United Nations Office on Counter-Terrorism, and Iraqi national authorities, he said.
Voicing gratitude to the Team’s Iraqi counterparts, he noted that, in October, he met with the new President and Prime Minister as well as the National Security Adviser of Iraq, and continues to meet with many other counterparts, including the President of the Supreme Judicial Council. Affirming UNITAD’s commitment to improving information-sharing modalities with its Iraqi counterparts, he said the Team has expanded and further operationalized arrangements with members of the Iraqi judiciary to allow information to be shared on financial crimes committed in connection with ISIL/Da’esh activities in Iraq. “One of our key goals is to support Iraq in playing a leading role in holding ISIL/Da’esh members accountable for international crimes,” he said, encouraging the Iraqi Council of Representatives to consider adopting adequate domestic legislation on core international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Sharing evidence with the Iraqi judiciary for criminal proceedings can only take place once the respective legal requirements and standards are met, in terms of substantive and procedural law as well as human rights and fair trial. To promote accountability for international crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh in Iraq means to deliver tailored assistance in accordance with the needs of the respective investigative court or judge, he emphasized. UNITAD has been providing support not only to Iraqi authorities, but also to Member States in various parts of the world for their ongoing investigations and prosecutions. So far, 17 Member States have requested assistance from UNITAD to support their national prosecutions. The ability of the Team to collect testimonial evidence from witnesses in direct response to these requests, combined with its capacity to identify corroborating internal ISIL documentation from battlefield evidence, has been of significant assistance in supporting investigations by national jurisdictions within these Member States. Furthermore, the Team continues to assist the Joint Investigation Team, currently consisting of the national prosecutorial authorities of Sweden, France, and Belgium, which aims to adjudicate core international crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh members against the Yazidi community in 2015. This work is key in ensuring that those perpetrators are held accountable before competent courts, wherever they are. His Team consistently engages with a wide range of stakeholders, including national authorities, religious actors, survivor groups and non-governmental organizations to promote accountability for crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh, both in Iraq and globally, he said, detailing its efforts in that regard.
UNITAD has reached the next level on the path of holding ISIL/Da’esh perpetrators accountable for core international crimes they committed, he pointed out. While maintaining the same dedication to its investigative lines and capacity-enhancement activities, UNITAD will also shift towards a stronger and systematic support of individual accountability proceedings of alleged members of ISIL/Da’esh for international crimes before competent courts. To promote accountability means to raise awareness amongst all Member States of the United Nations for the work of UNITAD, and to be in regular contact to exchange with all competent authorities in Iraq and abroad, he emphasized. Within the coming months, the Team will further improve its capabilities to cooperate with investigative and judicial authorities in this regard. “UNITAD will not stop to ensure that justice is delivered for the thousands of victims and survivors who have been impatiently waiting to see their day in court,” he said.
FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) commended the breadth of cooperation between the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and Iraq in areas such as information sharing, technical assistance in relation to the excavation of several mass grave sites, and capacity-building of the Iraqi judiciary and prosecutors. He further commended UNITAD’s assistance to Iraq on United Nations sanctions, including its plans to share information, which could help in designating ISIL/Da’esh members under the 1267 United Nations sanctions regime. He looked forward to the conclusion of the relevant memorandum of understanding with the Government of Iraq. The outreach that UNITAD has rightly prioritized with affected communities in Iraq has built trust and enabled the collection of testimonies that have been used in the prosecution of Da’esh members around the world, drawing on support and provision of assistance by UNITAD. The knowledge and experience of all affected groups remains essential for accountability to be established, he said.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) commended the United Nations investigative team on ISIL/Da’esh for prioritizing case-building capacities focused on individual perpetrators, and the inclusive engagement of all affected communities. The excavation of mass grave crimes and collection of evidence on a case-by-case basis must continue, as it is the only way to bring justice for atrocities committed by ISIL/Da’esh against all communities, be they Christian, Yazidi or Sunni. Welcoming significant progress across all lines of investigation, including the first case assessment of crimes against the Christian community in Iraq, he further cited the particular importance of evidence on the manufacture and use of chemical weapons. He stressed a fundamental change - the heinous crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh are no longer nameless and faceless, bringing the work of UNITAD to another level. Although much has been done in a complex environment, he noted much more needs to be done, calling for coordination between UNITAD and Iraqi authorities, all affected communities, civil society, and especially victims and their families. Despite ongoing efforts in countering ISIL/Da’esh and its affiliates, they still represent an imminent threat in different regions, with the spread into Africa being of particular concern. He reiterated the call on Iraqi authorities to adopt adequate core international crimes legislation for prosecution of crimes, as ending impunity will remind all perpetrators that they will be held accountable.
DIARRA DIME LABILLE (France) underscored the important support of UNITAD in exhumation of mass graves at the sites of mass crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh, and spotlighted the work of the United Nations investigating team in digitizing related evidence. The contact with civil society made it possible to gather testimony to shed light on the scope and seriousness of crimes. Underscoring that combatting impunity requires effective cooperation between UNITAD and the Government of Iraq, she encouraged Iraqi authorities to continue their dialogue with the investigating team in this regard. She called on all States to support the work of UNITAD through increased cooperation and pointed out that France provides its support through voluntary contributions. Reiterating her country’s commitment to fight terrorism and impunity, she noted that, in 2023, France would continue to participate in rebuilding Sinjar region. Among other support, France is building a hospital in partnership with Nadia Murad Foundation.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) paid tribute to the efforts of UNITAD in conducting investigations and collecting evidence of ISIL/Da’esh crimes against Iraqi people, including those constituting crimes against humanity. He welcomed progress made in investigations related to crimes committed against the Christian community, as well as those relating to the use of chemical and biological weapons. Iraq, as a sovereign State, has the primary responsibility to investigate crimes committed on its territory and hold perpetrators accountable, as reflected in resolution 2379 (2017). There is a need for continued communications between members of the investigating team and Iraqi officials on all levels and cooperation with Iraqi judicial authorities through information sharing, training and capacity-building. He supported investigations into ISIL/Da’esh's destruction of cultural and religious heritage sites in Iraq, which includes cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
LIANG HENGZHU (China) welcomed positive progress achieved by UNITAD, whose efforts have uncovered ISIL/Da’esh’s crimes against individuals, destruction of cultural heritage, use of chemical weapons and terrorist financing. He also welcomed the Investigating Team’s continued, close cooperation with the Iraqi Government in promoting digitalization, archiving evidence and building national judicial capacity. Stressing, however, that gathering evidence is not an end in itself, he said the international community expects the large amounts of evidence gathered by UNITAD to be translated into practical results to hold terrorists accountable. He went on to point out that Iraq’s domestic laws and legislative process “have nothing to do” with the Team’s mandate and should not be linked to the issue of evidence transfer. Further, when sharing information collected in Iraq with other Member States, UNITAD should first obtain Iraq’s consent and adhere to the principles of transparency and non-discrimination. He also emphasized that UNITAD is a temporary, transitional arrangement established by the United Nations to support Iraq’s accountability work and, therefore, should not become a permanent body. On that point, he added that UNITAD should consult with Iraq to further define its performance indicators and timetable.
CAROLYN OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) welcomed UNITAD’s progress across all investigative lines of inquiry, particularly completion of a first case assessment focused on crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh against the Christian community in Iraq. UNITAD’s commitment to enhanced cooperation and improved information-sharing with the Government of Iraq remains vital to implementation of its mandate, she underscored, commending the United Nations Investigative Team for its continued cooperation with Iraqi authorities, including through capacity-building efforts for the Iraqi judiciary, and collaboration in areas of digitization of evidence, DNA forensics and mass grave excavations.. Any comprehensive attempt to establish global accountability for crimes perpetrated in Iraq must continue to include UNITAD's cooperation with other Member States, she emphasized, urging the Team to continue to improve its support for domestic processes around the world. The Council must keep up efforts to mobilize the international community in sustaining the pursuit of accountability, which includes providing essential assistance to UNITAD, she said.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) commended UNITAD for its continued progress in key investigative tracks. She welcomed evolving efforts, ranging from structural case assessments to specific briefs supporting the prosecution of individual perpetrators - “a crucial step towards accountability”. She further welcomed reported progress in other investigations, including ISIL/Da’esh’s crimes against Iraq’s Christian population, sexual and gender-based crimes, and crimes against children. She also applauded UNITAD for consistently employing an age and gender sensitive approach in its work. Results in accordance with the Team’s mandate depend largely on the close partnership of UNITAD with national authorities, she said. She expressed regret that domestic legislation to establish a legal basis for prosecuting ISIL/Da’esh’s atrocities in Iraq as international crimes is still pending and that the Government of Iraq has not adopted a moratorium on the use of capital punishment, which would allow UNITAD to share its collected evidence with Iraqi authorities.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation), welcomed finalization of the case assessment report on investigation of crimes against the Christian community and the Investigative Team’s intent to closely investigate cases where terrorists destroyed cultural and religious objects. Recognizing UNITAD’s success in investigating the development and use by terrorists of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, he said the Russian Federation has no doubt that ISIL/Da’esh used their advances in these weapons in other countries, including in neighbouring Syria. He welcomed efforts made to provide information on crimes committed to the evidentiary bases of UNITAD, but noted that collecting and accumulating information is not a goal in itself. Recalling that the aim of the Investigative Team is to support national efforts of law enforcement and judiciary bodies of Iraq, he expressed hope that evidence collected will be expeditiously transferred to Iraq.
ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon) voiced support for the Security Council’s strategy to prevent proliferation and use of chemical weapons by State and non-State actors as well as terrorist organizations. Accountability mechanisms in Iraq help promote the fight against impunity and promote access to justice for local communities for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated by ISIL/Da’esh against the Yazidi people. She noted progress in advancing investigations and strengthening local jurisdiction capacity, including that of Kurdish entities. Welcoming the special emphasis on strengthening cooperation with Iraqi judicial authorities, in particular concerning crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh against Christian communities, she further cited the importance of investigating the presumed use of chemical and biological weapons, which represents a great step forward. Digital evidence is essential, as it clarifies the impact of the use of such weapons by ISIL/Da’esh, while the discovery of clear evidence of an ISIL/Da’esh operational centre and financial assistance provided by such organizations as Bayt Al-Mal and Diwan Al-Jund confirm the importance of investigations. She noted the crucial involvement of civil society, particularly in helping the victims of sexual violence and child soldiers.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) stated that the crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh, including those directed against Christian communities, deserve the full attention of the Team. He reiterated the enormous importance of the cooperation between UNITAD and the Iraqi authorities, in particular with the judiciary and the entities responsible for the administration of justice. He also recognized the value of working closely with the Kurdish authorities and with various actors in the Iraqi society, such as religious leaders, survivor groups and non-governmental organizations, in order to promote national and regional reconciliation. Further, he applauded the Team's intention to move forward in the prosecution phase and its willingness to prioritize capacity-building in Iraq. The Iraqi authorities ought to make the necessary changes in their legislation to be able to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide through trials with full due process, he added.
RICHARD M. MILLS JR. (United States) pointed out that ISIL/Da’esh remains a critical threat both in Iraq and globally, noting that the terrorist group has continued to use violence in Syria and Iraq and has sought to refill its ranks by breaking out captive fighters from detention centres. He welcomed UNITAD’s work to gather, digitize, analyse and catalogue evidence of ISIL/Da’esh’s crimes, as these efforts are laying the foundation for future prosecutions based on comprehensive evidence, including battlefield evidence. The increasing capacity to develop case files against individual perpetrators demonstrates that the Team’s groundwork is paying off. He also welcomed cooperation between UNITAD and Iraqi courts and other national authorities requesting information for prosecutions and encouraged the new Government to expand on the relationship established by its predecessor. Further, he encouraged the Government to adopt legislation concerning international crimes, particularly genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Stressing that the continued presence of thousands of ISIL/Da’esh fighters and their families in displacement camps in Iraq and Syria must be addressed, he underscored the urgency for all States to repatriate and prosecute, as appropriate, their nationals who have committed crimes as foreign fighters. He also urged such States to take advantage of the valuable assistance UNITAD can provide in prosecuting these individuals.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Ireland) welcomed the fact that UNITAD placed cooperation with victims, survivors and civil society at the heart of all its investigative work. Underscoring that the key to holding ISIL/Da’esh perpetrators to account is the adoption of national legislation enabling the domestic prosecution of war crimes, he expressed regret about the delay in enacting such legislation. Calling on the Iraqi authorities to progress this initiative as a matter of priority, he stressed that such legislation must preclude the application of the death penalty. Recognizing that sanctions are an indispensable component of the Council’s toolbox in holding ISIL/Da’esh accountable, he also commended the ongoing efforts of UNITAD and the Iraqi authorities to cooperate on the sanctions’ listings. Highlighting the wide-ranging technical assistance and support provided by UNITAD to the Iraqi authorities, he urged the continuation of such important work.
JOÂO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) commended UNITAD’s constructive cooperation with Iraqi judicial authorities, underlining the key aspect of respect for Iraq's sovereignty as a guiding principle. However, after more than four years of UNITAD’s operation, progress has yet to lead to concrete results, at least in terms of prosecutions by the Iraqi judiciary — the primary intended beneficiary of UNITAD's activities. The sharing with third countries of evidence obtained in Iraq for the purposes of prosecution elsewhere should not be deemed a substitute to — or take precedence over — UNITAD’s mandate to support accountability in Iraq, he said. Endeavours to build and strengthen capacities in Iraq are an important means to support local authorities in delivering justice for Da’esh crimes and to bring UNITAD closer to fulfilling its mandate. Further, he commended UNITAD's efforts to increase the representation of Iraqi nationals in its staff, as well as its aim to achieve a gender balance.
GIDEON KINUTHIA NDUNG'U (Kenya) acknowledged the completion of an additional report strengthening primary findings that ISIL/Da’esh committed crimes against humanity and war crimes against Christians in Iraq. He expressed support for efforts to hold to account the prominent leaders and members identified as having perpetrated atrocious crimes, including the 2014 attacks against three Christian towns in Nineveh Plains, mass killings, forcible transfer, persecution, sexual violence and slavery, among others. While noting UNITAD’s concerns on sharing evidence with the Iraqi Government, he stressed that such practices limit the Government’s capacity to pursue justice and accountability for crimes committed in its territory. It is the primary responsibility of the Iraqi Government to determine how to utilize evidence to prosecute perpetrators. To that end, he urged UNITAD and the international community to support integrating international crimes into Iraq’s legal system. To promote global accountability for terror activities and international crimes committed by members of ISIL/Da’esh, as well as other terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda, their affiliates, and fellow foreign terrorist fighters in Africa and elsewhere, he called on the Council to apply the full force of counterterrorism measures in equal measure, without any distinctions based on political considerations.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity to welcome ongoing cooperation between the Iraqi authorities and UNITAD, stating that UNITAD’s relevance is underscored by the importance of accountability to reconciliation in post-conflict Iraq. In addition to political support for UNITAD’s mandate, India has also extended financial support to the Team to strengthen the pursuit of accountability. On that point, she highlighted her country’s financial contribution to the UNITAD Trust Fund supporting the production of a substantive case assessment report on ISIL/Da’esh’s development and use of chemical and biological weapons. It also contributed to expanding the Team’s investigations into the destruction of cultural and religious sites. While recognizing the importance of case-building and information-sharing in UNITAD’s work, she stressed that the timely sharing of evidence with Iraqi authorities for national prosecutions is key to advancing full accountability. She therefore encouraged UNITAD to work towards this objective in close cooperation with the Government. As the Government and people of Iraq continue their fight against ISIL/Da’esh, it is also critical to fight the impunity of terror globally. “Be it Mumbai or Mosul”, the credibility of the collective fight against terrorism can be strengthened only when accountability can be ensured, she stressed.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), noting that UNITAD’s current mandate expires on 17 November 2023, voiced hope for greater efforts during the upcoming reporting period towards prosecution for crimes of trafficking in fuel or archaeological objects under ISIL/Da’esh control. He commended UNITAD’s substantial investigative progress, as well as its efforts to ensure accountability in cooperation with Iraqi authorities. The most important challenge ahead is ensuring that justice is done, and evidence communicated as quickly as possible to the Iraqi Government, so that it can be used in Iraqi courts, he emphasized. Recalling that UNITAD’s sixth report stated the possibility of holding trials at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, he stressed the need to be fast, effective and efficient in communicating evidence to the Iraqi Government and to hold national criminal proceedings.
Emphasizing that the evidence is there and perpetrators identified, he asked: “Why is it then that these individuals are not brought to justice?” His Government will continue to closely follow UNITAD’s work in that regard. The extension of UNITAD’s mandate under Council resolution 2651 (2022) was not an easy thing for his Government, he pointed out, underscoring the need to develop a plan of cooperation with the Iraqi government. This plan of cooperation will determine specific goals, including timely provision of evidence to competent Iraqi authorities for the holding of independent and fair criminal proceedings, and ensure that implementation of the mandate respects Iraq’s sovereignty. He thanked the Council and friendly countries who have provided help and assistance to his country, and the Special Advisor and his team for progress in its activities and exchange of expertise with his country.