Threats to international peace and security - Security Council, 9059th Meeting

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08-Jun-2022 01:33:48
Significant progress being made in evidence collection of ISIL/Da’esh’s crimes in Iraq, investigating team head tells Security Council.

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Criminal Accountability Long Overdue, Country Representative Says, Calling for All Evidence to Be Submitted, National Justice Efforts Supported

Significant investigative progress in the collection of evidence has been made into the financing, use of chemical weapons and crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, the head of the United Nations team investigating that group’s crimes told the Security Council today, as speakers welcomed the Team’s use of technology to facilitate prosecution and stressed the need to address the group’s continuing proliferation across other regions.

Christian Ritscher, Special Advisor and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD), briefed the Council on that body’s eighth report (document S/2022/434) and the progress made over the past six months. Its evidence collection has surged as working modalities have returned to normal, including the Team’s preservation and conversion of over 4.5 million hard-copy pages of documentary evidence from courts across Iraq into digital format. That undertaking – done in close cooperation with the Iraqi judiciary and Government – will enable efficient legal proceedings and preserve the historical record of the crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh.

Investigation into Bayt al Mal – ISIL/Da’esh’s so-called “House of Money” – has progressed significantly, along with investigations into the group’s development and use of chemical and biological weapons, he reported. Further, UNITAD’s investigations have helped produce dedicated case files and identify those responsible for crimes, including those targeting the Yazidi community and the personnel of Tikrit Air Academy. He noted that the Team also ensures that sexual and gender-based crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh form part of each investigation, and that UNITAD’s victim- and survivor-centric approach means that each and every affected person matters.

While UNITAD’s pursuit of justice and accountability is slow and painstaking — akin to the restoration of cultural heritage sites — the Team is committed to its work, he stressed. Extrabudgetary contributions from Member States to the UNITAD Trust Fund have proven vital to its operations, such as the Team’s support for ongoing domestic proceedings within several Member States in consultation with the Government of Iraq. The most notable case was the 2021 conviction of the ISIL/Da’esh member Taha Al-J in Germany for the crime of genocide. In addition, UNITAD also supported the Swedish Prosecutorial Authority during its trial of a woman convicted of war crimes for having enlisted her child as an ISIL/Da’esh soldier.

In the ensuing debate, many Council members welcomed the close cooperation between UNITAD and the Iraqi authorities. Some speakers also highlighted Iraq’s primary responsibility for ensuring accountability for crimes committed within its territory and called on UNITAD to ensure that the Team’s support is complementary in nature.

The representative of China pointed out that UNITAD is an interim, transitional arrangement to support Iraq’s efforts towards ensuring accountability in accordance with domestic law. Therefore, it should not become a permanent body. He urged UNITAD to assist the Government with digitization measures, noting that the application of new technologies in counter-terrorism efforts can provide an important point of reference for the use of technology in other fields.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, also underlining UNITAD’s provision of expertise and technical support, highlighted technology’s important role in maintaining international peace and security. Because supporting victims includes rebuilding of Iraq’s deeply rooted cultural heritage destroyed by ISIL/Da’esh in an attempt to erase the identity and history of Iraqi communities, his country, along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was involved with restoring several religious sites.

Similarly, Albania’s representative, Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, commending authorities for their work in rebuilding the cultural heritage damaged or destroyed by ISIL/Da’esh. However, he stressed that — while “the caliphate no longer exists” — dormant cells and affiliate groups still pose an imminent, global threat in different regions, with the spread of ISIL/Da’esh in Africa of utmost concern.

Kenya’s representative detailed that threat, spotlighting affiliates in Somalia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, West Africa and the Sahel. Further, in East Africa, Al-Shabaab — an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group — is the premier peace and security threat, drawing much influence from foreign terrorist fighters joining the group from ISIL/Da’esh and its affiliates. Against that backdrop, he called for the full application of counter-terrorism sanctions regimes on all terrorist groups in equal measure.

The representative of Iraq, commending UNITAD’s progress, stressed that criminal accountability “is long overdue in Iraq”. The major challenge facing the Team now is to submit all its evidence to the Iraqi Government and support national efforts to deliver justice, he said, stressing that the Team’s mission is not complete if it stops at merely gathering and storing evidence. Noting that the Team’s sixth report contemplated holding trials by the end of 2021 or 2022, he urged the international community to adopt swift measures to submit evidence to the Iraqi Government, particularly in light of “mounting pressure from the Iraqi people”.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Gabon, Mexico, Russian Federation, United States, Norway, Ghana, Ireland, Brazil, India and France.

The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:36 p.m.

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