Sixth report of the Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (S/2021/419) [EN/AR]

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The sixth 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 Team maintained momentum in investigative activities by adopting innovative solutions to the continued challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Through this approach, the Team reached a significant milestone, with initial case briefs now completed in relation to two core investigative priorities: (a) the attacks against the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region; and (b) the mass killing of unarmed cadets and military personnel at Tikrit Air Academy in June 2014.

Substantiating its findings through a synthesis of testimonial, documentary and forensic evidence, the Team sought to address the fundamental challenges faced by national authorities in the prosecution of those responsible for crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh).

This progress has been achieved by rapidly expanding the Team’s evidence holdings, combined with a strengthened analytical capacity drawing on artificial intelligence, machine learning and other advanced technological tools. The detailed analysis of internal ISIL documentation collected by the Team has enhanced its understanding of ISIL administrative and decision-making structures and supported the construction of comprehensive timelines of activity of priority persons of interest.

Drawing on extrabudgetary resources, the Team has opened a key additional line of investigation focusing on crimes committed against the Sunni community in Iraq, while furthering its investigations addressing Christian, Kaka’i, Shia Turkmen and Shabak communities.

A new investigation into the development and use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL in Iraq has developed rapidly. Through the collection of a diverse range of evidence, the Team has confirmed the repeated deployment of chemical weapons by ISIL against civilian populations in Iraq between 2014 and 2016, as well as the testing of biological agents on prisoners.

In a significant and solemn moment, the Team supported the return of the remains of 103 Yazidis recovered from nine mass grave sites in the village of Kojo.

Working closely with victims’ families, community leaders and Iraqi authorities, the Team ensured that this event and associated commemorative ceremonies reflected the wishes and traditions of the Yazidi community. In collaboration with Iraqi authorities, work has started at a number of additional mass grave sites, with excavation activities to commence in May at a site connected with the killing of up to 600 predominantly Shia inmates at Badush prison in June 2014.

Cooperation with the Government of Iraq has continued to be indispensable for progress, drawing in particular on strengthened engagement with the committee designated by the Government to coordinate with the Team and facilitate its work.

Partnership with the Iraqi judiciary has also continued to be critical for all Team activities. This has included close collaboration with individual courts and investigative judges in order to strengthen national capacity with respect to the storage and preservation of evidence and the development of case files as a basis for the future prosecution of ISIL members for international crimes. The provision of training to Iraqi authorities has also expanded in key areas, including the collection and analysis of forensic evidence, digital reconstruction of crime scenes and witness protection.

Drawing on frameworks for action established in connection with the document entitled “Interfaith statement on the victims of Da’esh” and the UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum, the Team has continued to ensure that its work is informed by close engagement with religious and community leaders, non-governmental organizations and survivor groups. In March 2021, the Special Adviser announced the launch of the Interfaith Dialogue Series aimed at addressing barriers faced by members of religious communities seeking to engage in accountability processes.

In May 2021, pursuant to the mandate of the Special Adviser to promote accountability globally for crimes committed by ISIL, the Team will launch two publications aimed at promoting innovative practices with respect to the engagement of witnesses suffering from trauma and the harnessing of advanced technology as part of criminal investigations.

Reflecting on the progress made since it began its activities in July 2018, the Team considers pathways towards the full realization of its mandate and the delivery of meaningful accountability for the victims and survivors of ISIL crimes.