UNITAD submits biannual report to the UN Security Council; reports substantial progress [EN/AR]

News and Press Release
Originally published


Baghdad, Iraq, 22 May 2019 - The Second Report to the United Nations Security Council on the activities of UNITAD (the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL) was issued today, detailing the progress made by the Investigative Team in the implementation of its mandate in supporting domestic efforts to hold Da’esh/ISIL accountable by collecting evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and possible genocide committed by the group in Iraq. The Special Adviser will present the report in person at the Security Council in early June.

Established pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolution 2379 (2017), UNITAD has informed the Council through its Report that its core staffing, facilities and evidence-collection practices are now in place in Iraq, while initial documentary, digital, testimonial and forensic material is being collected in line with its investigative strategy.

During the reporting period, UNITAD launched its initial forensic evidence-gathering activities in the village of Kojo in the Sinjar region. Commencing on 15 March 2019, this process has involved the exhumation of a series of mass graves in the village, with work conducted in close cooperation with Iraqi national authorities, notably the Mass Graves Directorate within the Martyrs’ Foundation, and the Medico-Legal Directorate within the Ministry of Health. Specialised support and guidance has been provided by UNITAD specialists.

Working closely with local community and survivor advocate groups, the exhumation of 12 of the 16 identified grave sites in Kojo has now been completed. The Investigative Team has also worked to ensure that all evidentiary material collected from these sites is stored in line with international standards.

UNITAD also reports that channels for the effective use of gathered evidence have begun to be identified, including through consultations with several States with respect to the use of evidence collected in ongoing domestic proceedings related to the crimes of ISIL.

The Government of Iraq and regional authorities, including the Kurdistan Regional Government, have expressed and demonstrated their support for UNITAD, headed by Special Adviser Karim A. A. Khan QC. The Special Adviser has met with their excellencies the President, Prime Minister, and Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, as well as the Speaker of Parliament, Chief Justice, and other ministerial figures relevant to UNITAD’s work. The Special Adviser has commended the support and facilitation provided by the Government, which has allowed UNITAD to move forward rapidly with its field-based operations.

This support from authorities has been mirrored by wide support from senior leadership figures from ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, including Sunni, Shi’a, Christian, Yazidi, Kaka’i, Shabak, and Turkmen.

The dynamic implementation of the mandate has also seen diversity and inclusion form a central part of UNITAD’s ethos, where currently 55% of the substantive team are female, along with more than 50% of senior management positions. All geographic regions of the United Nations are represented within the workforce. Moreover, to build a true partnership between the international community and the communities of Iraq for whom UNITAD’s mandate is designed, Iraqi nationals account for more than one third of professional staff members.

On 13 May 2019, the Prime Minister of Iraq and the Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team formally announced the appointment by the Special Adviser of Dr Sallama Hasson Al Khafaji as Chief of National Engagement and Support, the most senior national position within the Investigative Team.

Following this appointment, and in consultation with the Government of Iraq, the Investigative Team is now moving forward with the recruitment of all other positions allocated for national experts, which are currently advertised.

UNITAD continues to grow its team and expand its operations in Iraq, working to promote accountability for crimes committed by Da’esh/ISIL.

Note: Pursuant to Security Council resolution 2379 (2017), UNITAD is mandated to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL (Da’esh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group ISIL (Da’esh) in Iraq. In addition, the Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team is mandated to promote accountability throughout the world for acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed by ISIL (Da’esh). UNITAD also works with survivors, in a manner consistent with relevant national laws, to ensure their interests in achieving accountability for ISIL (Da’esh) are fully recognised.