The fifth report on the activities of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2544 (2020).
During the reporting period, the Investigative Team has continued to adopt an innovative approach to the implementation of its mandate so as to address the significant challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The strengthening of cooperation with Iraqi judicial authorities has been central to the progress made. In a significant development, the Team has commenced the provision of training and support to Iraqi investigative judges in building cas e files for the prosecution of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh) members for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Team is also working intensively with both judicial and executive organs to ensure widespread digitization and archiving of documentary materials that will be vital to marshalling evidence in support of criminal cases against ISIL members.
Those capacity-building initiatives have been taken forward while progress has been made in Iraq towards the adoption of draft legislation currently before the Iraqi Council of Representatives that would provide the domestic legal basis for the prosecution of ISIL members for international crimes.
The investigative activities of the Team have also accelerated, despite the substantial impediments posed by COVID-19. A wide range of internal ISIL administrative documents has been obtained from various Iraqi authorities that, when analysed and processed in a single repository, assist in providing a comprehensive view of those most responsible for specific crimes committed by ISIL. Interviews of witnesses and survivors have continued in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, including through the use of videoconference technology. The Team has also developed Shuhud, a digital platform allowing witnesses and survivors to submit information remotely, securely, and confidentially in relation to crimes committed by ISIL.
The Team has also continued its support for the excavation of mass grave sites in Iraq, with work recommencing at two additional sites in October following the suspension of activities earlier in the year owing to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. That area of activity has further benefited from the establishment of a common mass grave excavations strategy with the Government of Iraq. In parallel, the Team has expanded its provision of assistance to Iraqi authorities with respect to witness protection and support, with a particular focus on psychosocial care for survivors and family members during excavation activities.
Through its work with Iraqi religious leaders in line with the document entitled “Interfaith statement on the victims of Da’esh”, as well as the establishment of the UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum, the Team has sought to ensure that the expertise and community networks of non-governmental organizations and religious authorities are fully harnessed in the implementation of its mandate. Significantly, generous financial contributions from Member States have allowed the Team to further expand its lines of investigation so as to reflect the full breadth of communities affected by the crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq.
Progress made in the collection of evidence has allowed the Team to enhance its strategic approach, focusing on the delivery of three mutually supportive outputs: thematic case briefs; case files supporting individual prosecutions; and the provision of rapid and targeted support to ongoing national proceedings. Collectively, those pillars now provide the Team with an enhanced framework to support domestic accountability efforts through to the completion of its mandate.